Reining is designed to show the athletic ability of ranch-type horses in the confines of a show arena. Contestants are required to run one of 10 approved patterns, divided into seven or eight manoeuvres, including small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, 360 degree spins and what is generally considered the signature move of the reining horse, the sliding stop.

Although part of a sporting lifestyle closely linked to the spirit of the Wild West, Reining is growing in popularity around the world. Despite the seemingly relaxed attitude of both horse and rider and the loose reins typically used, Reining demands high levels of concentration and riding skills with smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority all being closely watched.

The first FEI World Reining Championship took place during the FEI World Equestrian Games™ at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain in 2002 when USA’s Shawn W Flarida became the first world champion. His compatriot Tom McCutcheon shone at the 2010 event in Kentucky, winning both individual and team gold medals on Gunners Special Nite.


Western riding was born out of the necessities of daily live in the wide open spaces of the American wild west. It is a type of working equestrianism, traditionally used for the extensive breeding, caretaking and moving of cattle in western America. The need to ride on horseback and work cattle gave rise to multiple western disciplines. 


Beneath the obvious tradition lies the quintessence of equestrian dressage. Reining is the most athletic of all the western equestrian disciplines. Like in ballet, the pattern (routine) is a series of set manoeuvres performed at different tempos: the horse accelerates to a gallop before coming to a smooth sliding stop; it changes direction in an instant, then sets off again at a laid-back gallop; it spins on its hind legs at high speed then stops suddenly for a moment’s pause. These changes in rhythm are seamless, with no obvious commands from the rider. With each pattern lasting around 5 minutes, there is no room for improvisation.

Overall, reining is a thrilling show. The performances are intense and fast-paced with regular surges in adrenaline. The patterns are carried out to music. Spectators are also invited to wear cowboy hats, really get involved and cheer the competitors on ! 

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