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draw in the reins

1. Literally, to pull in the reins of a bridled animal, especially a horse, to slow it down or bring it to a stop. Mary drew in the reins as she approached town, bringing her horse to a saunter.
2. By extension, to slow something down or bring it to a stop. During the economic boom, our company was making as many risky investments as we could find. Luckily, our CEO had the sense to draw in the reins on such recklessness before the economy crashed.
See also: draw, reins

give rein to (someone or something)

To allow unchecked or unconstrained freedom to something or someone; to completely or freely indulge something or someone. George would make a great businessman if he didn't give rein to his emotions like that. It's a sure sign that this company is failing if they're willing to give rein to the interns like this. You have a nasty habit of giving rein to your drinking.
See also: give, rein

pull in the reins

To begin doing something more carefully or cautiously; to regain or tighten control over someone or something. This thesis you're planning is becoming wildly unfocused—I think you should pull in the reins a bit! I wish those parents would pull in the reins on their kids—the little devils are tearing the place apart!
See also: pull, reins

take the rein(s)

To take or assume control (of something). After the CEO announced that she had been diagnosed with dementia, her daughter gradually began taking the reins of the company. I don't know why people are so utterly terrified of letting the federal government take the rein when it comes to things like healthcare.
See also: take

free rein

Complete freedom to do what one wants or chooses. Can you believe the boss gave me free rein on this project? Finally, I can present a campaign with my own vision!
See also: free, rein

allow (one) free rein

To give one complete freedom to do what one wants or chooses. Can you believe the boss allowed me free rein on this project? Finally, I can present a campaign with my own vision!
See also: allow, free, rein

tighten the reins

To begin doing something more carefully or cautiously; to regain or tighten control of someone or something. This thesis you're planning is becoming unfocused. I think you should tighten the reins a bit. I wish those parents would tighten the rein on their kids, the little devils are tearing the place apart!
See also: reins, tighten

keep a tight rein on (someone or something)

To maintain strict or tight control over someone; to not allow someone very much independence or autonomy. Ever since George nearly lost his life savings in a drunken poker match, his husband has started keeping a tight rein on him. The boss has kept a tight rein on her assistant since she hired her.
See also: keep, on, rein, tight

give (one) free rein

To give one complete freedom to do what one wants or chooses. Can you believe the boss gave me free rein on this project? Finally, I can present a campaign with my own vision!
See also: free, give, rein

rein (someone or something) in

To tighten control over someone or something; to restrain, slow down, or diminish someone or something. You need to rein in your journalists; they can't be writing such inflammatory pieces about the president. I'm trying to rein in my enthusiasm a bit, because I don't want to be disappointed.
See also: rein

*free hand (with someone or something)

Fig. freedom to exercise complete control over something. (*Typically: get ~; have ~; give someone ~.) I didn't get a free hand with the last project. John was in charge then, but he didn't get a free hand either.
See also: free, hand

give free rein to someone

 and give someone free rein
Fig. to allow someone to be completely in charge (of something). (Alludes to loosening the reins of a horse and therefore control.) The boss gave the manager free rein with the new project. The principal gave free rein to Mrs. Brown in her classes.
See also: free, give, rein

keep a tight rein on someone or something

 and keep a close rein on someone or something
Fig. to watch and control someone or something diligently. (Alludes to controlling a horse by a tight grip on the reins.) The office manager kept a tight rein on the staff. Mary keeps a close rein on her children.
See also: keep, on, rein, tight

rein back on someone or something

to control or diminish the intensity of someone or something. The manager was urged to rein back on her assigning overtime. She reined back on expenses and demanded that others do likewise.
See also: back, on, rein

rein someone or something in

to bring someone or something under control; to slow down someone or something. Fred is getting out of hand. The boss undertook to rein him in a bit. The boss is trying to rein in Jane's enthusiasm.
See also: rein

rein something up

to bring something, usually a horse, to a stop. She reined her horse up and stopped for a chat. Rein up your horse and stop for a while.
See also: rein, up

rein up

[for a horse rider] to stop. The equestrian reined up and dismounted. We all reined up and waited for the cars to pass by.
See also: rein, up

draw in the reins

Come to a halt, back down. For example, During a recession, many businesses are forced to draw in the reins on expansion. This expression transfers the means of stopping a horse to other kinds of restraint.
See also: draw, reins

free hand

Also, free rein. Freedom to do or decide as one sees fit. For example, The teacher gave her assistant a free hand with the class, or They gave me free rein to reorganize the department. The first expression dates from the late 1800s, the second from the mid-1900s.
See also: free, hand

give free rein to

see under free hand.
See also: free, give, rein

give rein to

see under free hand.
See also: give, rein

tight rein on, a

Strict control over, as in We told them to keep a tight rein on spending for the next year. This expression alludes to the narrow strap (rein) attached to a bit and used to control a horse's movements. Rein has been used to refer to any kind of restraint since the first half of the 1400s.
See also: rein, tight

give someone free rein

or

give someone a free rein

COMMON If you give someone free rein or give someone a free rein, you give them all the freedom they want or need to do something. Note: The reference in these expressions is to a rider using the reins to control a horse. He was given free rein to manage the project as he wished. Much to her delight, she was given a free rein to decorate the house exactly as she wanted. Note: You can also say that you allow someone free reign. The artists were allowed free rein to produce what they thought fitted the space. Note: You can also say that you have free rein. The children have free rein to choose the subjects that they want to study.
See also: free, give, rein

keep a tight rein on someone/something

or

keep someone/something on a tight rein

COMMON If you keep a tight rein on someone or something or keep them on a tight rein, you control them firmly and carefully. Note: The reference in these expressions is to a rider using the reins to control a horse. It is said that he kept a very tight rein on his daughters, and that he was a very strict father. The recession has forced people to keep a very tight rein on their finances when on holiday. Her parents had kept her on a tight rein.
See also: keep, on, rein, something, tight

(a) free rein

complete freedom of action or expression.
The image here is of loosening grip on the reins of a horse, allowing it to choose its own course and pace, in contrast to the greater control implied by the next idiom.
See also: free, rein

keep a tight rein on

exercise strict control over; allow little freedom to.
See also: keep, on, rein, tight

give/allow somebody/something free/full ˈrein

,

give/allow free/full ˈrein to somebody/something

not restrict, limit or control something: In a novel the author need not keep to the facts, but a textbook is not the place to give free rein to your imagination. OPPOSITE: keep a tight rein on somebody/something
A rein is a long leather band that is fastened around a horse’s neck and used by the rider to control the speed of the horse.

keep a tight ˈrein on somebody/something

(also keep somebody/something on a tight ˈleash) control somebody/something very carefully; give somebody/something very little freedom: The company must keep a tight rein on spending.She keeps her children on a tight leash to make sure they don’t get into trouble. OPPOSITE: give/allow somebody/something free/full rein
A leash is used to hold and control a dog, and a rein is used to control a horse.

rein in

v.
1. To restrain or control something or someone: The coalition tried to rein in its more militant members. I reined my anger in and refused to fight.
2. To make a horse move more slowly or stop by pulling back on reins: Rein in your horse while this truck goes by. The horses wanted to break free, but the rancher reined them in.
See also: rein

draw rein

To stop a horse, for example, by pulling on the reins.
See also: draw, rein

draw in the reins

1. To slow down or stop a horse or other animal by putting pressure on the reins.
2. To restrain or control.
See also: draw, reins
References in classic literature ?
With a look of mingled surprise, chagrin and incredulity the knight reined in his horse, exclaiming as he did so, "Mon Dieu, Edward
It was Joan's voice that had called him, and Sheldon reined in his horse and watched.
There were no houses in the summit of Sonoma Mountain, and, all alone under the azure California sky, he reined in on the southern edge of the peak.
Villa reined in her steed at the crest beyond, and, looking back into the little valley, waited for the colt to receive its lesson.
And casting himself upon his sled, with the most reckless disregard for his ribs, off whizzed Tom after her, and came alongside just as she reined up "General Grant" on the broad path below.
Cummings reined in his horse when he arrived in front of him, gave him a pleasant salutation and invited him to a seat in the vehicle--"if you are going my way," he added.
They reined up with a plunge at the Casino entrance.