In addition to explaining the fundamentals of reining, I would like to explain the required maneuvers of the sport and how it is judged. At events such as stock shows, many people not familiar with reining attend the horse events. I hope that this article will give you some idea of what to look for in the event of reining. I will break it down into the various maneuvers and explain how each one should be performed. I won’t explain all of the penalties, but I will give you a brief overview.
Patterns call for a combination of 3 circles loped in each direction, including two fast cirlces and one small slow circle. The order of fast and slow is dictated by the pattern being run. All circles should be the same size. This means small, slow circles to the right should be the same size and shape as the small, slow circles to the left. This same rule applies to the large, fast circles. The horse should also be willfully guided in the circles (as well as through out the entire pattern). Deductions are given for a multitude of reasons, including running off or resistance to the bit shown by an open, gaping mouth.
The stop is judged not only on the actual stop, but by the entire approach–the stop, rollback, and departure. The approach should be a gradual increase of speed ending with a complete stop. The horse should willfully roll back over its hocks, loping off in the same tracks. Deductions are given for a gaping mouth, running off in the approach, falling out of stop (or not stopping), falling out of rollback too soon, resistance in the rollback, and trotting into the lope.
Lead changes are to be done in the center of the arena when the pattern calls for it. Deductions are given for a late or early lead change, refusal to change, kicking out in a lead change, and dragging a lead change. Deductions also result from changing on the front but taking two or more strides to change on the rear legs.
Depending on the pattern, most will call for 4 spins in each direction with the exception of a few calling for 4 ¼. The spin should start off smoothly, with no resistance from the horse, and build speed. The spins should stop with the horse facing the designated direction. Penalties are given when the horse does not stop facing the designated direction. If over or under spun by 1/8 of a spin then a penalty is applied. If you over spin by more than ¼ then a 0 is applied to the entire run. Penalties are also given for any hesitation by the horse or freezing in its spins.
I hope that this information will make reining more enjoyable for the first time observer of the sport. For a more in-depth look at the rules and point scale, please refer to an AQHA handbook or an NRHA rule/pattern book.