Reining and Western riding explained

Reining originated from the moves that cattle horses adopt when on the job… It was first recognised as a sport in 1949 by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the world’s largest equestrian organisation currently counting more than 320,000 members and some four million horses. Its members, be they competitors, coaches, breeders or horse owners, greatly contributed to giving the western ranch type horse the international recognition it enjoys today. From 1966 through to 2000, the sport was managed by the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA). In 1999, it had some 9,000 members worldwide and distributed USD 3,6 in prize money to 317 competitions. On 14 April 2000, the FEI approved Reining as its seventh discipline.

Required Movements

The required movements are:

  • Walk-in: brings the horse from the gate to the centre of the arena to begin its pattern; should appear relaxed and confident.
  • Stop: the act of slowing the horse from a lope to a stop position by bringing the hind legs under the horse in a locked position sliding on the hind feet.
  • Spin: a series of 360-degree turns, executed over a stationary (inside) hind leg; location of hind quarters should be fixed at the start and maintained throughout the spin.
  • Rollback: a 180-degree reversal of forward motion completed by running to a stop, turning the shoulders back to the opposite direction and departing at a canter, as a continuous motion.
  • Circle: done at the lope, of designated size and speed; demonstrates control, willingness to guide and degree of difficulty in speed and speed changes.
  • Hesitate: act of demonstrating horse’s ability to stand in a relaxed manner at a designated time in the pattern; horse should be motionless and relaxed.
  • Lead change: act of changing the leading legs of the front and rear pairs, at a lope, when changing direction.
  • Run-down and Run-around: demonstrate control and gradual increase of speed to the stop.
Freestyle Reining

It not only provides an opportunity to use the manoeuvres creatively, but also to expand them to music by means of choreography. Competitors are required to use musical scores, which permit them to show the athletic ability of the horse in a crowd appealing way.


Reining horses are judged individually. Each horse automatically begins the required pattern with a score of 70. One or ½ points are given or taken away for each manoeuvre. Credit is given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority. Controlled speed in the pattern raises the level of difficulty and makes the reining horse exciting to watch.


All competitors must wear appropriate western attire including a long sleeve shirt with collar, cowboy boots and western hat or safety helmet.

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