Your Guide to Reining Horses

Reining is a western riding competition for horses. In this type of competition, the rider guides the horses through a pattern of circles, spins and stops. The work is done at the lope. This is a slow, relaxed version of the horse gain commonly known as a canter and at a gallop, which is the fastest of horse gates. Reining is considered by many to be like an art form. It is sometimes described as a Western form of dressage riding.

Reining requires the horse to be responsive and in tune with its rider. As the rider aids the horse, it should not be easily seen by judges and spectators and all movements should appear as fluid and natural as possible. Reining judges the horse on its ability to perform this set pattern of movements so a good reining horses should be willingly guides or controlled without apparent resistance. This requires a horse that is well-trained and comfortable with its rider.

The horse and rider relationship is very important in reining. If the horse pins his ears, refuses to go forward, runs sideways, wings his tails or bounces his rear, these are all signs of an overall poor attitude and unwillingness to perform the tasks. This type of behavior and these signs will be judged accordingly during a reining show.

The reining pattern includes about 8 to 12 movements which have to be executed by the horse. These movements may include:

  • Circles
  • Flying change
  • Rundown
  • Sliding stop
  • Back or backup
  • Rollback
  • Spins or turnarounds
  • Pause or hesitate

Scoring is based on each maneuver and the overall behavior of the reining horse during these maneuvers. A score of 70 is considered average. This would be given to a horse that performed no errors but also did not perform anything spectacular. Exceptional ability will get you a higher score and mistakes will of course, garner a lower score. The horse’s overall attitude, comfort with the rider and willingness to perform the maneuvers are all part of the score. Certain misbehaviors can earn the horse penalty points during the performance.

The origins of reining horse can go back to the earliest Spanish settlers in what is now Mexico and parts of the Southwestern United States. Ranchers in these times needed to be able to manage their cattle from horseback which is how it believed reining first began. It is now often performed as show in many horse shows around the country as well as in other countries.