Horse Riding

Riding Styles: Reining

Riding Styles & Disciplines


Any horse can be taught to do specific reining exercises. However, keep in mind that the conformation and disposition of the horse being trained are very large factors. Some horses may have conformational limitations that prevent them from executing an exercise that other horses are capable of.

The reining horse should have correct conformation in order to execute difficult tasks such as spins and quick, sliding stops with ease. The horse’s disposition should be calm in order to accept the vigors of training and stress.

For soundness, reining horses should have straight legs with good pasterns and a nice way of moving. A low head carriage with good overall body balance is mandatory, along with good, strong hindquarters.

Riding Styles Reining
Riding Styles Reining


It is required for all reining riders to wear appropriate western attire while showing. These requirements may vary from association to association or from show to show. The general apparel as is follows:


Should be long-sleeved and coordinated with the rest of your apparel. Showing reiners often match their shirt to their horse’s saddle pad. Shirt ties or scarves are optional.


Well fitted, new slacks or jeans that are not faded are your best bet for pants. Chaps are traditional and add a nice addition to the overall image. Wear western boots that are clean.


Optional. Use your own good judgement when deciding whether to wear spurs. Many times it is not necessary to wear spurs on horses depending on their individual sensitivity level.



The Bridle:

A clean, polished western bridle is traditional. Clean, polished silver is often desired on the bridle. Many riders prefer to ride using hackamores, and it is usually acceptable providing that the bosal is a braided rawhide or leather and no larger than 3/4 inch diameter at the cheek. It is also usually required that there is a minimum of 1 1/2 inch space between the bosal and the horse’s nose. Bosals should not have metal on them. Mechanical hackamores are usually not permitted in competition.

The Bit:

Most Reining Handbooks state that all bits must be free of mechanical device. Generally, the bit should be constructed only of round material with the bar space having a minimum diameter of no less than 5/16 inch. The port should not extend or protrude below the bars and should not exceed 3 1/2 inches height. Snaffles are desired, and should be smooth with a broken mouth piece with no ring larger than 4 inches and no smaller than 2 inches. The mouthpiece of snaffles are usually required to be no smaller than 3/8 inch diameter once inch from the cheek. Curb straps should not be metal, leather is accepted.

The Reins:

Usually the only type of reins accepted are split reins or romal reins. Horsehair reins are acceptable only when using a hackamore. Generally, reiners should never use closed reins, split reins are always desirable.

The Boots:

Splint boots should be worn at all times by reining horses for protection to the cannon bone. Bell boots are optional and protect the coronet band from being struck by another hoof. Knee boots can be used on horses that rub one knee against the other while spinning. Skid boots should always be used when the reining horse is doing sliding stops.




Teaching the reining horse to back is essential! Not only because rein-backs are required, but also because backing is the key element in teaching a quick stop. Do not over-do the training when teaching a horse to back. Always start by asking the horse to back a few steps each time you ride and work up from there.


Riding good, round circles are extremely important to successful reining. Not only do most reining patterns include extensive circles, but once your horse can do solid, round circles, teaching lead changes becomes much, much easier!

Lead Changes:

I’ll make it a point here that it is essential to be able to do flying lead changes whenever and wherever is necessary. Any time, any place, you should be able to do one to be a successful reiner. A good professional tip: never, ever do a transition down to a trot in order to pick up a new lead. This way your horse does not think it is an option, and thus, learns to change leads faster and cleaner.

Sliding Stops:

Many judges refuse to admit it, but they usually put more emphasis on the sliding stop than any other movement in your pattern. A good reiner and a well trained horse will be able to stop on any type of footing. A good professional tip: never, ever try beat your horse is a test of strength. A good reiner will need only light pressure on the reins to perform a beautiful sliding stop!


What the judge looks for in a good turnaround is that the movement is fluid, no hesitating in the middle, and most importantly, no up and down motion while performing a turn-around. When teaching a horse to do a turn-around, you should start slow on half-circles and full circles. A good professional tip: always keep good form from the very first day you start to teach a turn-around. If your horse isn’t doing a half-circle with good form, he won’t do a good turn-around with proper form!


Rollbacks are not in as many reining patterns today as they once were. A rollback is a 180 degree turn over the hocks which is performed immediately before the horse comes to a halt when making a stop.

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