Reining: Understanding the Sport

"Polly Cooke" horse
Polly Cooke riding Hollywood Downtown

Understanding the Equestrian Sport of Reining

About 10 years ago my husband and I were introduced to the sport of Reining. We did not know what reining was and had never even seen a horse perform a pattern. We were immediately hooked and we are still showing today. It’s a lot of fun filled with challenges as it’s an ongoing learning process. We’ve been fortunate to have some very nice horses that have taught us a lot.

Reining has often been described as the Western equivalent of Dressage. In the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) rule book “the best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.”

Most reining horses are Quarter Horses but there are also some other breeds that can be trained to be Reiners.

There are 11 different patterns, all done at a lope with the exception of the spins. All of them contain the same elements that are put together in a different order: large circles, small circles, flying lead changes, spins in each direction and sliding stops. This equine sport is very precise and when horse and rider perform a pattern well it looks effortless.

"Ben Balow" horse
Trainer Ben Balow and horse perform sliding stop

What are characteristics of a good Reining horse?

One that is very broke
Moves off of gentle leg pressure
Reins are used to direct the horse with little pressure
Breeding and conformation
Is willingly guided by the rider

Have you ridden a reining horse? Please share your tips on what you think makes a good reining horse. You might also like What Makes a Good Cutting Horse.

This is a guest post by equestrian Polly Cooke. I had the pleasure of getting to know and ride with Polly in Darby, Montana during a Klicks for Chicks multi-day trail ride at Triple Creek Ranch.