“Reining is communication between horse and rider employing the principles of classical horsemanship to create an art form that is pleasing to watch.”
–Bob Loomis, professional reining horse trainer.
Reining is recognized internationally as an equine sport of great significance that appeals to participants and spectators alike. The combination of speed and power maneuvers with amazing control and finesse makes the sport fascinating to watch. The NRHA judging system allows spectators to closely follow the determination of the winners while being entertained by breathtaking performances.
The Art of Reining
Reining is a judged event designed to show the athletic ability of a ranch type horse in the confines of a show arena. In reining competition, contestants are required to run one of several approved patterns. Each pattern includes small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, rollbacks over the hocks, 360 degree spins done in place, and the exciting sliding stops that are the hallmark of the reining horse.
The National Reining Horse Association has ten approved reining patterns. All NRHA patterns are divided into seven or eight maneuvers. The NRHA Handbook describes the maneuvers required of a reining horse are as follows:
Walk-in: The walk-in brings the horse from the gate to the center of the arena to begin its pattern. The horse should appear relaxed and confident. Any action, which may create the appearance of intimidation including starting and stopping, or checking is a fault which shall be marked down according to severity in the first maneuver score.
Sliding Stops: Sliding Stops are the act of slowing the horse from a lope to a stop position by bringing the hind legs under the horse in a locked position sliding on the hind feet. The horse should enter the stop position by bending the back, bringing the hind legs further under the body while maintaining forward motion, ground contact and cadence with the front legs. Throughout the stop, the horse should continue in a straight line while maintaining ground contact with the hind feet.
Spins: Spins are a series of 360-degree turns, executed over a stationary (inside) hind leg. Propulsion for the spin is supplied by the outside rear leg and front legs, and contact should be maintained with the ground by a front leg. The location of hindquarters should be fixed at the start of the spin and maintained throughout the maneuver.
Rollbacks: Rollbacks are the 180 degree reversal of forward motion completed by running to a sliding stop, rolling (turning) the shoulders back to the opposite direction, over the hocks, and departing in a canter, as one continuous motion.
Circles: Circles are maneuvers at the lope, of designated size and speed, which demonstrate control, the horse’s willingness to be guided, and degree of difficulty in speed and speed changes. Circles must at all times be run in the geographical area of the arena specified in the pattern description and must have a common center point. The differences in size and speed of the circles must be clearly defined according to the designated pattern.
Backups: A backup is a maneuver requiring the horse to be moved in a reverse motion in a straight line for a required distance; at least 10 feet.
Hesitate: To hesitate is the act of demonstrating the horse’s ability to stand in a relaxed manner at a designated time in a pattern. In a hesitation, the horse should remain motionless and relaxed. All NRHA patterns require a hesitation at the end of the pattern to demonstrate to the judges the completion of the pattern.
Lead Changes: Lead changes are the act of changing the leading legs of the front and rear pairs of legs, at a lope. The lead change must be executed at a lope with no change of gait or speed and be performed in the exact position in the arena specified in the pattern description. The change of front and rear leads must take place within the same stride to avoid penalty.
Run Downs and Run-arounds: Run downs are runs through the middle of the arena and runs from the center of the arena to the end. Run-arounds are runs along the side and around the end of the arena. Both the run down and run-arounds should demonstrate control and a gradual increase in speed to the stop.
In scoring, credit is given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority when performing the various maneuvers. Although reining is not a timed event, controlled speed raises the difficulty level and makes the reining horse more exciting to watch.
Discipline Association: National Reining Horse Association
Information provided by the NRHA