Last weekend, the University of Guelph Kemptville campus was the site of the Ontario Reining Horse Association’s June show. I attended for a couple of hours on Sunday. When I was a young rider, reining was one of the classes regularly included in horse shows for western riders. Since those days, reining has grown in popularity and now has specialized shows.
Reining began on working cattle farms, where a cowboy needed a quick and agile horse to gather and move cattle. Casual competitions amongst cowboys, proud of the performance of their horses, developed into a structured equestrian event. Today, reining competitions show off the conditioning and training of horses as they perform maneuvers in a prescribed pattern.
Each horse entered in a class performs the same pattern and the quality of his performance is assigned a mark by a judge to determine the class winner. Important elements included in the pattern include controlled changes of speed, from a slow canter to a hand gallop, and smooth transitions in gait, such as from a walk to a canter. Between movements, the horse must stand quietly, calm and alert.
Circles are performed at a designated speed and size. Figure eights require the horse to change leads at the precise centre of the figure. Spins require the horse to turn 360° , rotating around his inside hind foot, which stays in one spot. In a rollback, the horse gallops to a stop, spins 180°, and departs at a canter, performed as one continuous movement. When backing up, the horse must move straight back on command.
In a sliding stop, the rider cues the horse to stop from a gallop. The horse sets his hind feet and slides with his hind quarters lowered. I happened to catch the ‘green’ and ‘novice’ classes, and enjoyed seeing these horses perform.