On Your Way Up The Ladder

The National Reining Horse Association recently approved revolutionary show and class formats to welcome riders of all levels to the reining arena. NRHA is making it easier to show, easier to compete at a comfortable level, and easier to develop reining skills. The entry-level competition format will begin in 2010, but the first test event was held this past July in Jackson,Ohio.

The four-tier program provides a fun, educational, and family-oriented ladder of class and show formats. Each rung of the ladder welcomes beginning reiners with an opportunity to compete against others of the same skill level while gaining experience. In addition, an awards programwill recognize riders for their achievements as certain skill levels are reached.

The new program offers reduced entry-level membership fees accompanied by a sampling of NRHA member benefits. The membership gives riders the ability to participate in the rogram and earn points toward a host of awards. An even more appealing facet is that some levels do not require ownership or NRHA competition licenses.

Ask, and You Shall Receive

Over the last few years the NRHA membership has been asking the board of directors to point the spotlight on the entrylevel portal of Reining. Those new to the sport have felt a need for the focus on those interested in learningmore about Reining or just getting started in the horse-show world.

NRHA President RickWeaver, as well as the entire board of directors, heard the call and created a task force to study, develop, and implement an entry-level show strategy that would welcome, encourage, and educate riders about NRHA and showing reining horses. Weaver chose executive committee member Beth Himes to head a task force and explore this new area of competition. Himes and the rest of her committee, comprised of Jennifer Hoyt, Brian Dygert, Julia Cowan, Carlee Mahajan, and NRHA staff members Manager of Shows and Events Melanie Rinehart and Executive Director Dan Wall, were charged with developing a series of entry-level formats/ classes that would meet the following goals:

Fun for the exhibitors in a family-oriented environment.

More economical than regular NRHA competition.

Efficient application within the rules and procedures, therefore more pleasant and accessible.

Can be used as an affiliate-development tool to drive new activity, members, revenue, etc.

With a great deal of experience on her committee, Himes quicklymoved ahead, and the group developed an innovative three-tier program that will help introduce Reining to prospective members and allow these folks to gradually step into the reining arena. With new class formats and membership options, this innovative program will make NRHA and Reining more ?user-friendly? for those just getting into the sport for the first time.

Test Event

Himes debuted the new program at an ?Entry-Level Test Event? following the Ohio Valley Reining Horse Association (OVRHA) Rookie Day in Jackson, Ohio, July 11. ?I didn’t do any lead-in advertising for the event,? Beth said. ?We had 40 riders at Rookie Day, and I invited them to stay over on Sunday to try our new entry-level show. I was excited when almost all of them stayed!

?We had 14 entries in the lowest-level format, which allowed riders to show with two hands in a reduced pattern. We had 15 riders in the next level.? Himes was surprised at how well the program was received. ?Some of these folks were so very excited about small accomplishments, like spinning the correct number of times or getting their lead change.? It was clear that this program has a place in the horse-show world and that NRHA is definitely on the right track. ?I got great feedback from all of the participants and many wanted to know when the next event was. Most of these folks were not current NRHA members and felt that an associate membership would encourage them to participate.?

Class entry fees were $20 each and there were no payouts, just prizes donated by NRHA Professional Shawn Flarida, the sport?s first and only Three Million Dollar Rider and an Ohio resident. Everyone got a prize as a thank you for participating in the test event and sharing their thoughts. The affiliate made close to $600 with little effort or financial outlay and probably attracted some new members.

NRHA board member and judge Rick Ramsey donated his time as the volunteer judge and was equally pleased with the response. ?I really enjoyed helping these folks and I think that this program will do a lot to grow our industry from the bottom.?

Both Himes and Ramsey felt it was very gratifying to see the smiles and to know that they helped some people learn more about the sport of Reining. ?We definitely encouraged them to come back and play again,? she added with a smile.

NRHA Professional Woody Taylor, Hurricane, West Virginia, said he picked up new customers and those new customers found a great friend,mentor, and coach. Taylor is ready to participate again.

The First Rung?Entry-Level Jackpot Show


Developing group for new/small affiliates and useful for established affiliates to attract new members.

Provide a less expensive place to play within the structure of NRHA.

Family-oriented, fun, and educational experience?allow the judges to talk to exhibitors as a learning experience such as ?Ask the Judge? forums or allowing judges to talk to exhibitors at the conclusion of the class.


Pure jackpot format?no added money.

Lower entry fee.

Only open, non pro and youth classes?qualified exhibitors must have less than $250 in NRHA earnings to participate at this level.

Earnings at these shows do not count toward NRHA Top Ten or year-end awards.

Only exhibitors? earnings are tracked.

Reduced patterns are permitted.

One or two hands are permitted.

The permissible list of bits is more relaxed.


$20 NRHA associate membership required.

Non pro declarations are not required.

Competition Licenses are not required.

No ownership requirements?these events will be recorded in a separate category.

The Second Rung?Level 2 Event

Riders at this level must have less than $500 in NRHA Lifetime Earnings. They will be required to complete a full NRHA pattern and show one-handed. However, this level is also open to associate members. This type of event is still designed to welcome people with little or no reining experience and help them move up in the NRHA competition structure.

The Third Rung?Level 3 Event

This is used as a fund-raiser and/orwarm-up for established affiliates. It will continue to be used as a development tool for affiliates and must be hosted by an NRHA affiliate.

This event can be held as a jackpot or have addedmoney up to $500 total. StandardNRHAmemberships, non pro declarations,NRHA competition licenses, and ownership requirements apply.

One of the most exciting parts of this new format is the Affiliate Rewards Program. The affiliate show secretary sends results to NRHA and when certain achievement levels are reached, awards are sent directly to members.

The Fourth Rung?Affiliate Jackpot Event

These events must be hosted by an NRHA affiliate and are no longer required to have $500 in added money. With the new format, these can be strictly jackpot events. Standard NRHA classes will be offered and follow NRHA rules. Show secretaries must be certified or approved by NRHA prior to the show. Standard NRHA memberships, non pro declarations, competition licenses, and ownership requirements apply.

With these newformats approved for the 2010 showseason, look for these events in your area. Or if you don’t know of an event in your area, encourage your local affiliate to host an entry-level show! (There’s a current list of all NRHA affiliates in each issue of the NRHA Reiner. Look under ?Sections? on the Contents page.)


ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP: A reduced membership fee provides the holderwith access to the Online REINER, access to the ?members only? section of the NRHA Web site, nrha.com, but does not offer any voting privileges.

COMPETITION LICENSE: All horses entered in NRHA-approved competition are required to have a competition license. If you have recently purchased a horse, please checkwith the NRHA office. Your horse may already have a competition license and then a transfer must occur (only through the NRHA office prior to competition).

NON PRO DECLARATION: A document sent in alongwith your non pro membership request that states youmeet the requirements of non pro membership as stated in the NRHA Handbook.

The entry-level program encourages more grassroots participation for all levels of riders.

Information from the NRHA.

Karen Shedlauskas, who joined the reining community from the hunter world in 1992, is an activeNRHA non pro competitor. She’s a two-time NRHA intermediate non pro world champion and many times non pro reserve champion at the All American Quarter Horse Congress. She’s the vice-chair of the NRHA youth committee and has served on the NRHA Hall of Fame and marketing committees. She lives in Austintown, Ohio, and is the director of operations for Leonard Truck & Trailer, Inc.