by George Peters
We just hosted two Ranch Horse Shows, and this time I want to write about one of the two basic western events that have a big part of a good overall ranch horse, or therefore a good “Cowboy” horse. Cutting is a foundation without a doubt, but this time I’m into writing about reining horses, or at least getting a good rein on your Western horse.
A reining horse is expected to lope small and large circles, slow or fast with good speed change control and correctness of bend throughout the circles. Then lead change on the “fly”, front and back change of leads to the next circles. The horse may have to do a rollback (a stop, 180 degree pivot, lope off looking like one maneuver), and the crowd pleasers, a number of spins left and right, and the sliding stops and back up.
Over the years, I have seen reining change from fast and furious, to so controlled and smooth and precise that it is Western Dressage. Today the horses are so “framed”, or collected, so soft in the bridle, and their feet are so directed by their riders, it is fun to watch!
Working towards a good rein on a horse is simple, get all of the basics as good as you can. The horse must give to each rein with no resistance, stop and back with the head “tucked” or giving to the bit. Moving off the leg of the rider to the left and right is huge, and when the rider releases the leg pressure, the horse stops. Without leg control there is no lead departures or changes, no circle control, or spins. Without the fundamentals, the reining horse, (or any horse) is barely a riding horse.
Some families of horses today are selectively bred for reining and cow work. I asked my friend Joe Hayes in Gainesville, Texas. (Joe’s a top NRHA Judge & Breeder) to choose a few horses that have made an impact on the reining horse world. He said there are too many, but Top Sail Whiz is the lead sire of money earners, so start there. Then he said you have to mention Colonel Freckles, Smokin Gunner, Hollywood Jac 86, by Hollywood Gold, Smart Chic Olena, Wimps Little Step and a few others. I asked if there was anything else, and he said if there is Doc Bar, Colonel Freckles, Peppy San Badger, King, Leo, etc. in their background you were good to go.
With the genetic base of reining and cutting being so close, the horses are often the horse of choice for penning, sorting, ranch horse shows and other Western events. Some of the best calf roping and heeling horses have been those with reining and cutting bloodlines and training. Many ranches today have a two focus approach, cattle and good horses to make a better bottom line of profit.
Ride and slide them like you own them!