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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

*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, 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, 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

give somebody/something (a) free rein

also give (a) free reign to somebody/something
to allow someone or something complete freedom The owners gave the chef free reign to create a new menu. She was afraid to give free rein to her feelings.
See also: free, give, rein

keep a tight rein on somebody/something

to control someone or something carefully Clarke has consistently pointed to the need to keep a tight rein on government finances. He kept a tight rein on his daughter.
See also: keep, rein, tight

rein in somebody/something

also rein somebody/something in
to control someone or something We should rein in our spending, balance our budget, and stop borrowing. Critics say they have run the company as a personal kingdom, pocketing the profits and ignoring anyone who tried to rein them in.
See also: rein

allow/give somebody (a) free rein

to allow someone to do what they want or go where they want to (often + to do sth) The older kids were given free rein to do whatever they wanted. We shut the kitten out of the bedroom but allowed her free rein in the rest of the apartment.
See also: allow, free, rein

allow/give something (a) free rein

if you give ideas or emotions free rein, you allow them to develop and do not try to control them With all these materials available, we can give our creativity free rein.
See also: allow, free, rein

keep a tight rein on somebody/something

  also keep somebody/something on a tight rein
to have a lot of control over someone or something He made ends meet by keeping a tight rein on his budget. Our parents always kept us on a pretty tight rein.
See also: keep, rein, tight

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

rein in

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.