Reining...Ride ‘n SLIDE!

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Commanders Golden Oak Commanders Golden Oak
Reining is one of the most popular Western events enjoyed by young and old alike.

Dutch dressage rider Anky Van Grunsven, with three Olympic gold medals, eight World Cup Dressage Championships and two World Equestrian Games gold medals, surprised followers when she took up reining. Her dressage horse, Salinero was injured prior to the 2010 World Equestrian Games, so she withdrew him…and turned to reining, making her debut in 2009. After being nominated as reserve for the Dutch reining team at the 2010 WEG, she ended up competing with her palomino Quarterhorse, Whizashiningwalla, when a team-mate's horse was injured. Van Grunsven is now back doing dressage (including representating The Netherlands in dressage at the London Olympics), but still finds time to regularly practice her reining.

Whizpy Little Step Whizpy Little Step
Reining History

Reining evolved through the vaquero and cowboy, who needed good horses to help them control cattle on the open range. The horses needed to be athletic and agile, able to stop, turn or sprint forwards in a split second, all done on a loose rein and with only subtle aids. Only one hand was used to hold the reins, leaving the other free for roping and opening gates. Good working horses were highly prized and what began as a necessity evolved into the sport of reining.

While a fast stop was necessary when working with cows, the sliding stop became part of competitive reining, and the spin evolved from a 180 degree turn used in cow work, to 360 degree consecutive spins.

The rules were developed and refined and the sport of reining was described as ‘Western dressage’, with emphasis on speed, control, accuracy and style. All work during a competition is done in a slow, relaxed version of the canter, described as a ‘lope’ with horses judged on their ability to perform a set pattern of movements with no apparent resistance.

Like dressage tests, the reining pattern comprises eight to twelve movements which must include the following:

Ruf Lil Renee Ruf Lil Renee

CIRCLES: The horse should perform large, fast and perfectly round circles at a gallop, and small, slow circles at a lope, with a distinct change of speed between the two.

SPINS OR TURNAROUNDS: Spins are real-crowd pleasers but one of the most difficult manoeuvres! Starting from a standstill, the horse spins 360 degrees on the spot, revolving around its inside hind leg, which should remain in the same spot although the horse will pick it up and put it down as it turns. One set of spins in each direction is required.

FLYING CHANGE: As in regular dressage, flying changes should be made during the suspension phase of the lope, and performed without breaking gait or changing speed. A horse that changes unevenly, or takes more than one stride to change legs, is penalized.

RUNDOWN: A Rundown is where the horse gallops…or ‘runs’…down the long side of the arena at least six metres from the fence. A Rundown is required prior to a sliding stop or Rollback.

SLIDING STOP: This is a reining horse’s trademark and a fully trained horse can achieve sliding stops of up to 6-8 metres! A galloping horse suddenly comes to a complete halt, by planting his hind feet and allowing them to slide while the front legs continue to run forwards. The horse’s quarters should come well underneath with his back raised upwards, and finish in a straight line. A good sliding stop will result in dirt flying and dust billowing!

ROLLBACK: After halting from a sliding stop, the horse immediately does a 180 degree turn, then goes forward into a lope. The movement should be continuous with no hesitation from the horse.

Down N Boogie Down N Boogie

Western gear is used in reining…Western saddles must be used and spurs can be worn, but riders cannot carry a whip. Western-style bridles are used without a noseband, while bits can be bosal or hackamore, with strict rules dictating which types are permitted. Riders using a curbed hackamore can only use one hand although both hands can be used if the horse is wearing a snaffle or bosal.

As a lot of exertion is put on the horse’s forelegs, they usually wear shin boots on their front legs, and skid boots on their hind fetlocks. Bell boots can also be worn on either the front feet, or all four feet.

Reining horses are usually fitted with special shoes called slide plates, which are smoother than regular horseshoes and have a wider steel bar. Shoes have a rolled toe with nail heads flush with the shoe so that when a horse performs a sliding stop, resistance and drag is minimal.

Riders are also attired in Western gear comprising jeans with chaps, cowboy boots, a long sleeved shirt and hat. Some riders prefer to wear a safety helmet although this isn’t allowed by many organizations.

Dr House Dr House

Reining horse types

Any horse can be a reining horse however Quarter horses excel due to their powerful quarters. Reining horses need to have good leg confirmation due to the stresses the stops and spins place on the limbs, and a good temperament is a must.

Reining events

Competitions cater for professional and non-professional riders, as well as young riders right down to beginners who can compete in non-Western attire with their horse in a snaffle.

Reining horses are judged individually as they perform a nominated ‘pattern’ in front of one or more judges. Each horse begins with a score of 70 and points up to 1.5 are added or deducted to each pattern manoeuvre with a penciller writing down the judge’s score and comments. A score of 0 denotes a manoeuvre that is correct with no degree of difficulty.

Judges are looking for control, smoothness, agility, attitude, authority and speed of each manoeuvre. The aim is to fully control the horse as any movement a horse makes on his own is considered a lack of control.

Reining is recognized by the FEI and held at the World Equestrian Games which take place every four years in between Olympic Games. There is also the FEI World Reining Finals (previously known as the World Reining Masters).

Anky Van Grunsven and her Reining Quarterhorse, Whizashiningwalla. Anky Van Grunsven and her Reining Quarterhorse, Whizashiningwalla.

For more information about Reining in Australia, including information, shows, clubs, reining clinics, the national show and more, visit the Reining Australia website. You can also contact a reining club near you (Google for details)…you don’t even need a reining horse to get started as friendly club members will be happy to let you have a go in their ‘Green as Grass’ classes for riders who haven’t tried reining before.

Photos © Marg Oakden–Equigraphics

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