Getting into Reining
Reining is a fun and exciting equine sport. It attracts a lot of people for its fast turns and big sliding stops. I have to admit without them I may not be quite so hooked either. But there is more to it than buying a reining horse, putting it in the back yard and hauling it along to the next show. This month we will look at some things to consider should you want to become a reiner.
You are sitting around one day and see a horse on TV run down the arena as fast as it can run and then slide to a stop on its hind legs. Dust and dirt is going everywhere and “WOW that looks like fun, I want to do it”. Great but first I recommend you familiarize yourself with the sport. We are lucky in this modern age that the internet is a wealth of information. You can read articles, watch videos of performances, learn about training and pretty much anything reining short of actually riding the horse.
If you do an internet search for reining you will find a wealth of information. The National Reining Horse Association (www.NRHA.com) is also a great place to start. They are the governing body of the sport and host the largest reining events in the world. This may not quite be you yet maybe, but they also do have other programs focused on entry level people into the reining arena. I would recommend becoming a member of the NRHA, familiarizing yourself with the rules and how it is judged. Even though it is performed at a fast pace it is judged on how well you perform the pattern. Understanding this will help make sense of scores relating to the runs you view.
Reading is fun but not as much as watching videos. Youtube is a great source for reining videos, from great show runs to horses for sale. Watching these runs will help you see different styles of horses and riders and help familiarize yourself with the industry.
The only problem with the computer is you don’t get the smell of horse sweat and dust in your eyes. There are local reining associations all across the country, and the world for that matter. A lot of them hold shows regularly. Either through NRHA or your internet searches you can find your local association and events they are hosting. Go along and watch, introduce yourself to local trainers and competitors. The reining community is a close knit community and most people are friendly and will welcome you in. With the knowledge you have learned from your websurfing you will be able to gather more information here at the show.
Find a Trainer
I would recommend visiting several trainers in your area. If you want to learn reining you are going to need some help. Just because a horse is trained in reining it does not mean it is good at it or will stay good at it without maintenance training. Horses are always in a constant state of learning, whether it be good or bad things. Some horses maintain their formal reining training better than others but at some point need some training direction. Incorrect riding can train in negative attributes. A trainer is your best source for helping find and buy a horse and general advice on your path into the reining sport. In finding a trainer, look for one with a good reputation, a personality you get along with and other people in the barn you get along with. Between practicing and shows you will spend a lot of time with these people and you will want to enjoy each others company. Some trainers have a lesson or practice horse that you may be able to have a ride on. This will help you decide when in the saddle if it is really what you want before you dip into your wallet.
Once you have decided on your trainer you need to discuss the costs of owning a reining horse. On top of the monthly board and training there is the farrier, show expenses, vet bills, saddles, bridles, other equipment and the list goes on. If you are a golfer and don’t play for a month it doesn’t cost you anything. Unfortunately horses are not that way. Whether you ride your horse in a particular month or not, there are certain fixed expenses you still have to pay. These you need to know up front.
You need to discuss with your trainer about lesson times and make sure their schedule aligns with yours. Hopefully the fact you are buying a reining horse means you want to go ride a lot. A lot of trainers have schedules for their lessons so as to ensure all their clients get a fair share of their time.
Due to the speed at which reining is performed at, along with the scoring system and sensitivity of the horses, a certain level of riding ability is required. You need to be able to use your hands and legs independently of your seat so you can correctly cue the horse. Your riding ability may dictate the level of reining horse you initially purchase. Some of the more seasoned and entry level horses are more forgiving of any rider mistakes. A lot of the higher performing horses are like high performance cars and very sensitive to drive. Your first horse may not be a Ferrari but I recommend you chose a horse that suits your initial riding ability and upgrade your horses as your riding improves.
Purchasing a horse
Should you decide to purchase a reining horse I strongly recommend you use a qualified trainer to help you. There are a lot of things to consider on top of whether it is the right horse for you. You should watch videos of the horse showing as it may ride different in the show arena to what it does in the practice pen. Generally your first horse should be an experience reiner as green horses and green riders are rarely a good combination. Once you and your trainer have found a suitable horse you need to get it checked out by an experienced veterinarian. If you are buying a horse with a bit of experience under its belt, that can come with some physical wear and tear on the horse. Some things are maintainable and some are just issues that you don’t want to deal with. This is where using a vet that is experienced in reining horses is very important. It is a lot cheaper to pay a vet to find out you shouldn’t buy the horse than buy one you should not have.
I hope anyone out there wanting to get into reining found this helpful and maybe encouraged someone to come and join our fun and exciting sport. A little planning and information gathering up front can make it a more fun and exciting experience. Until next month, ride, slide and have fun. Welcome to Reining.