As reining continues to attract new participants, the pressure has increased on nonprofessional riders to master maneuvers that move performance scores into the plus marks. Maneuvers like the sliding stop are composed of three individual elements:??the before, the during, and the after.
“Spinning and stopping are just small parts of a pattern.??Getting around the pen is the big deal,” said NRHA judge, trainer and open competitor Joey Stetz of Blandford, Mass. “Sure, your horse can have a good stop, but what riders don’t realize is that they’re also judged on their approach and exit.”
That’s the difference: attention to detail. “Today’s reiners make judges work harder because they’ve got the basics down. Now they’re making us look closer at technique and style, and that’s a good thing,” explained National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) President Brian Dygert.
One Stop, Three Parts
When you think “technique and style,” you need to break things down and do each well in order to actually be competitive.
“There are three parts to a stop — the approach, the maneuver, and the exit. If you check the NRHA rulebook, that’s what it says,” explained Stetz.??“For example, Maneuver A asks for a run down, stop, back up.?? That’s all one maneuver.??Not just 'The Stop.’ It’s the whole thing.” Some riders, Stetz said, may have a plus 1/2 score coming into the maneuver “but the stop is horrible.??That puts their score down to a minus 1/2.?? Then they have a neat rollback that brings their score (for the entire maneuver) back up to zero.
“How could you make that score a plus 1'?? That would include a really nice approach (for a plus 1/2), and a good stop where the horse gets into the ground and slides with distance (for another plus 1/2), then cracks a rollback to neatly get out of there.?? That’s a plus 1 or better maneuver!?? All the parts were great.??All were plus scores.” But because a stop has three elements, Stetz explained, “You can still get a zero by having two plus parts and one not-so-plus part.”
Riders aren’t the only ones that fail to appreciate each component, Stetz said.?? “Some judges will only see one bad part and minus the entire maneuver,” he said.??“I don’t judge that way.?? You have to judge the complete sequence.”
Think About It
As an example, he compared two performances. “Rider A completes their figure-eights and comes down the far end of the pen for the stop.?? Their horse is straight and in control and gradually picking up speed down the long side.?? They quietly move their hand two or three inches in front of the horn and whoosh, the horse stops.??
“So Rider A has a gradual approach, when he says whoa the horse gets in the ground and, while it might not slide far, it gets good distance before neatly rolling back and getting out of there.?? I might plus that 1/2.”
“Rider B finishes their figure-eights and comes down the pen shaking their arms and hands and pushing the horse hard.?? Now to me, that’s a refusal if you have to chase a horse to run like that.?? So they race down, yank their hand up and say whoa, and the horse slides long and hard at 90 mph before cutting a weird U-turn of a rollback.?? They had the bigger stop, but I’ll minus that rider because the stop was only one part of the complete maneuver and, overall, it was a poor performance.”
“A nonprofessional shouldn’t work their horse unless they have at least two hours to devote to the process.??You don’t walk into a gym and pick up the heaviest weight first, do you'?? Probably not.??You build up.?? It’s the same with your horse,” Stetz explained.
A good training program also has three parts:
1.?? Warm-up/approach:??”I like to spend the first half-hour walking.?? Maybe I’ll spend five minutes after I’ve mounted just sitting there and let my horse stand so he doesn’t learn to run off as soon as my foot is in the stirrup.?? Don’t just rush into the pen and start working.??Let him relax first, then move into some transitions and loping work,” said Stetz.
2.?? Lesson/maneuver:?? “To keep rundowns and stops sharp, and to keep your horse from anticipating the stop, practice 'cigars.’?? Run down the long side of the pen, slow down and turn without stopping, and run back the other way.?? Don’t do a circle, do a cigar-shape.?? If you always run down and stop hard, your horse will learn to anticipate the stop.?? They’ll also get sore.?? Stopping and turning are physical maneuvers that are hard on a horse. Don’t constantly practice stopping.??Your goal should be four, maybe five nice stops.?? Then quit.??Otherwise you’ll sour him and lose the good stop.
“Also, don’t always run up the sides or the center of the pen.??Practice rundowns diagonally, from corner to corner, or work across the center.?? Better yet, don’t run them.?? Trot them.?? I trot my horses a lot.??You can trot the cigar pattern, turning and stopping and working your horse off your leg.
“If you want a smooth stop, don’t chase them with your hands and legs in the last four or five strides.?? That’s when you should be quiet. You want to sit back and prepare for the stop in those last few strides, not chase them for more speed.?? To me, that’s 'scotching’ (an NRHA term for a horse anticipating the sliding stop),” said Stetz.
“Getting after your horse like that implies he’s unwilling to move out — that’s not the impression you want to present to a judge. Don’t let your horse grow accustomed to a constant pattern of rundown, bang! Stop, turnaround.?? You’ll train him to anticipate.?? You’ll be the one 'pouring the scotch.’
“Another thing riders don’t do enough is gallop their horses other than when they’re going to stop them.??I like to take my horse to a field and gallop them.??It’s physically beneficial.??It’s like a person who jogs.?? Part of their run includes sprints or acceleration, and the more they sprint, the more endurance they build.??Same with horses.?? The more endurance they have, the more they gallop, the better they’ll perform circles on their patterns and show acceleration,??especially since they’ve learned they won’t get jerked into the ground and stopped every time they’re asked to run.”
3.?? Cool-down/exit: “When I’m done working my horse, I’ll walk him out to an open field and we’ll walk, trot, lope around a little, maybe do some lead changes in the fi eld.?? Then I may go back to the pen and practice a few circles and spins before returning to the field and doing more trot work.?? A field is a much more natural surrounding for a horse.
“The lesson itself should almost have been an afterthought.?? You have your warm-up, your cool-down, and in between, oh by the way, we’re going to practice this little exercise, too.?? I approach my training program like I ride my maneuvers:?? approach, maneuver, exit.?? The next day, I might just take them out to lope a lot in the field.?? The secret is not to train for exactly the same thing every day.”
Good training “is about all the parts,” said Joey Stetz. “People have to think about the individual components and think about their horses. Don’t ride with an ignition-key mentality — don’t just get on and go.”
Also With This Article
Click here to view ”Joey Stetz Is A Rider, Trainer And Judge.”