Spins. Rollbacks. Sliding stops. Circles. Flying lead changes. These spectacular moves, once part of a working ranch horse s day, are now packaged as the western horse event called reining, one of the fastest growing equestrian sports. Riders guide their horses through precise patterns, exhibiting athletic prowess as they execute such powerful and dynamic manoeuvres as abrupt stops and furious spins.
Reining is one of three disciplines held as part of the Canadian Supreme (CS), a major western show that began in 1976 and has been held at Westerner Park in Red Deer since 1983. The Canadian Supreme runs September 25 to October 1, with reining running from Thursday through Saturday.
Reining has been described as being like figure skating. It has required patterns and is a judged event, said Colleen Wallace, a former reiner and Canadian Supreme board member. It can be really exciting to watch, with fans cheering and hooting over a good run. There s a lot of action and drama because of the speed involved.
Reining was first recognized as a sport in 1949 by the American Quarter Horse Association, which sets the patterns for the Supreme. The sport s popularity has spread to Europe and Australia, and it became part of the World Equestrian Games in 2002.
A good reining horse exhibits a natural willingness to carry out the moves, all done at a lope and gallop. Cues from the riders are almost invisible, and judges are looking for smoothness and precision, said Wallace. A good reining horse has to have heart and desire. You can have the most physically adept horse but if it doesn t have heart and a willingness to work with you, it s like hitting your head against a wall. Overall, judges are looking for a pleasing picture, Wallace said. They want to see a level top line with the head carried nicely.
A rider can t force the moves, said reiner Diane Latrace, of Brooks, AB, who first began competing in the Canadian Supreme in 2001. A horse can have all the ability in the world, but it has to have the right attitude. You can t make it want to do it.
In judging, any resistance to any move is considered a fault, and marked accordingly. A rider is in control of the horse s every move. Wallace even puts attitude over conformation. They have to have strength and good legs, but I would take a good-minded horse over a well-built one. Riders also have to approach the sport with the right attitude, she said. It takes a lot of patience and dedication, and you re putting yourself out there to be judged. Success is not going to happen overnight. It s all about commitment, said Latrace. You have to ride every day. And you have to know what works with your horse.
Sliding stops and 360-degree spins are signature movements and crowd favourites, performed in patterns that include several movements. Sliding stops can be so abrupt, with the horse s hindquarters well beneath its rounded back and body, that arena dirt goes flying. Spins are
Reining has been described as being like figure skating. It has required patterns and is a judged event.