What Exactly is “Reining”?

October 29, 2021

Written by Milly Cavender, Assistant Director of Programming

Reining is not the wet stuff that falls from the sky practically every day in February. Reining is a type of equestrian competition where rider and horse execute a precise pattern of maneuvers meant to mimic the behaviors and skills a horse would need on a cattle ranch in the American West. Have you watched the first season of Yellowstone? Then you’ve seen reining.

The Maneuvers

All reining competitions center around patterns that contain a very specific set of maneuvers, or tests if you will. Patterns can have the maneuvers in a wide array of order, but all reining patterns consist of two types of circles, large and fast along with small and slow. They also include sliding stops, spins, rollbacks, and lead changes. Confused yet? This might be a good time to search “horse reining videos” so you can see it in action.

The Scoring

Every horse starts with a score of 70 the moment they enter the competition arena. From there, every maneuver gets a score that goes up or down in half point increments. Let’s say the first maneuver is a large, fast circle and the horse does it, but there’s nothing special about it. The judge gives them a maneuver score of zero. They are still at 70. However, if they come out and the horse runs a solid large, fast circle and the judge thinks it has something special, maybe it was faster than the other horses, they can “plus” the maneuver and add to the score. In this way, horses can earn points based on how well they perform the maneuver. On the flip side, judges can also go down in half point increments. Sometimes horses do unexpected things, or they aren’t having the best day, so if a mistake is made the judge can deduct points, dropping the horse’s score. Penalties are also incurred for mistakes. The rulebook outlines specific offenses that earn a penalty ranging from minus one to minus five points, further dropping a horse’s score.

The Popularity of Reining

Reining, when done well, is an extremely exciting sport to watch and thus has seen a massive boost in popularity. “The Run for a Million” is a huge reining competition in Las Vegas that boasts a million-dollar prize to the winner. Celebrities such as William Shatner, Lyle Lovett, and Taylor Sheridan, the creator of Yellowstone himself, have gotten on the band wagon with their own competition horses. Spectators travel the world to see the best reining horses compete, and winning horses can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Riding at Liberty University

Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center offers trail rides and recreational riding lessons for students, staff, and faculty to enjoy the beauty of the facility and the horses. Reining is a very specialized type of riding that requires years of practice, dedication to training the horse, and a true partnership between horse and rider. While the Equestrian Center doesn’t offer reining lessons, our recreational lessons will give riders the foundation of knowledge they need to pursue any avenue in equestrian sport. Come check us out, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself sliding to a stop in a reining competition one day.

To learn more about the programming opportunities at the Equestrian Center, visit Liberty.edu/Equestrian.