Soft, pretty and willing is the performance you want from your reiner, or from any horse you ride. How you use your reining hand is a key factor in creating this kind of responsiveness.
In Horse & Rider's January '08 issue, I demonstrate how to establish and maintain a soft, slow hand when rating, guiding and stopping your reiner. Here, I show you how to keep your reining hand soft and in position for the rollback and spin.
Work with a trainer or a knowledgeable friend on the ground as you practice what I describe in this lesson. He or she can tell you if you're sitting properly and keeping your hand soft--and slow.
1a. As you ask for a spin, keep your body positioned squarely over your horse and draw your reins softly and slowly in the direction of movement. Note how my horse is staying balanced and relaxed as she begins her spin.
1b. Don't lean, stiffen your body or bring your hand low. This weights your horse's forehand and causes him to stiffen, too.
2a. In a rollback, again, body position is key to a soft, slow hand. Here I'm sitting square and balanced over my horse, enabling my hand to pick up the rein lightly and ask for the maneuver. I'm looking in the direction I want to go, and staying relaxed in my body. In return...
2b. ...my mare is beginning the rollback with her own body relaxed and round, her head and neck perfectly positioned.
2c. As she comes through, my reins are still soft, and she's still light and correct. Her performance mirrors mine.
When Shawn Flarida won the 2007 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Open Derby aboard Walla Walla Whiz (the H&R December '07 cover horse), he became the NRHA's all-time leading money earner, with nearly $2.3 million in winnings. The three-time NRHA open futurity winner has also won medals in United States Equestrian Team competition, including the individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in Spain in '02. Shawn Flarida Reiners is headquartered in Springfield, Ohio.
The editors thank Arcese Quarter Horses, USA of Weatherford, Texas, for the use of the 3-year-old mare Wimpys Little Chic in these photos.