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Characteristics of Reining Horses
Riders need a horse that can work at the Western lope and gallop since these are the two gaits that are used during competitions. Reining may be fast, but it is also controlled and structured so that it is sometimes described as Western dressage. Horses need to be able to stop, turn, circle and spin to reach advanced levels in this discipline. They are usually compact rather than leggy, as this is the best conformation to do the spins, turns and sliding stops. They are normally light on the forehand since this is what gives them the deftness required for quick reactions. A short, strong back and pasterns that are not too long also indicate a horse with the right conformation for reining.
Reining Horses: The Best Breeds for this Discipline
The top-level of competitive reining is dominated by American breeds and the American Quarter Horse in particular. These horses have been bred for centuries to manage cattle, so they excel at this activity. Other American breeds and colour breeds that are successful include paints, appaloosas, palominos and foxtrotters. Brazilian criollo horses are also beginning to take top places in international competitions. Any compact horse with strong conformation and good bones can do well at the entry-level of the sport, but to make progress to the top, most experts recommend a Quarter Horse or a partbred Quarter Horse. Specific QH lines are known to be top performers at this sport.
Reining Horses in Equestrianism
Talented reining horses are found anywhere in the world that vast herds of cattle are still managed from horseback. Reining requires all the skills that would be used while herding cattle, but it is performed in an arena without any cows. The horse and rider perform circles both small and large, all at the lope, and often with a flying lead change as they progress from one circle to another to create a figure 8. The horse will also perform spins around one back foot, which remains on the same spot as the horse turns. For the rollback, the horse has to perform a sharp and tidy 180-degree turn after a fast gallop down the arena and then lope away in the opposite direction. There are also the sliding stops, which come at the end of a brief but intense gallop down the arena, after which the horse slides spectacularly to a halt on its haunches, with the front legs still walking as it moves. The horse will also be expected to back up smoothly and in a straight line. These are all essential movements for working cattle, performed in show conditions in the arena. As well as being one of the more advanced Western disciplines, with many events organised both in the USA and the rest of the world, reining is a sport that is recognised by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI), which organises reining series, games and championships. For most events, Western clothing and tack are used. Fancy dress freestyle reining is now very popular too, with competitors coming up with some imaginative and often humorous ways to show off the skill of horse and rider. Riders can use approved bits, bosals, or ride bridleless, which is an increasingly popular way to prove the strength of the relationship.