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Raining Stallions
Krisean Performance Horses “Life With the Blue-Eyed Wonders”
by Jill Smith • 15221 N. Shady Slope Road, Spokane, WA 99208 • 509-466-4612 • jillsmith4@earthlink.net

As I sidestepped spring puddles on the way to the paddock I noticed an interesting phenomenon. My perlino quarter horse stallion, Commander, was not eying the mare pasture as usual but staring straight up into the sky.

“What’s up, big boy?” I asked, staring upward too.

“I heard the stable radio say it was going to rain cats and dogs and I’m waiting for the first ones to fall.” Commander responded, nose still skyward. “No wonder you humans’ have so many of those critters around if they come in every rain storm!”

“Commander, that’s just a saying.” I giggled. “Hey, guess what I’m doing today! I’m off to watch quarter horse stallion reining.”

A terrified look crossed Commander’s blue eyes and he lunged for the back corner of the barn. A small very un-stallionish voice echoed out.

“Raining Stallions!!! I’m staying in here for the day! I wouldn’t want a big guy like me raining down on MY head!”

Stifling another giggle I tried to comfort 1200 pounds of quivering white horseflesh by explaining the sport of reining horses. Reining is actually taking the country by storm as more and more horse people are finding fun and profit in this western horse activity. Best described as “cowboy dressage” reining started years ago on the west coast where cowboys and vaqueros needed quick and nimble horses to work cows. Horses that were quick on their feet, could change directions at a moments notice, stop on a dime and had an explosive start and stop were prized as the best mounts. Of course that meant contests to see whose horse was the best at these maneuvers!

As this informal “stock horse” competition spread eastward it took on more formal aspects, more finesse and became known as reining. The National Reining Horse Associations was formed and promoted the sport, developed judging criteria and created specific “patterns” that a horse and rider had to execute with a certain set of maneuvers. The NRHA has 9 official patterns. All these patterns consist of the same maneuvers, but ask for them in different orders.

The individual maneuvers consist of galloping in a large circle, slowing to a lope for a small circle and then a ‘flying lead change” where the horse changes its leading front and hind leg at the lope in the middle of a circle and heads figure eight style to the other end of the arena. Halting in the center of the area the horse, from a stand still, spins or pivots up to four full turns in place around its stationary inside hind leg. They spin first one way then the other. A popular spectator maneuver is a fast run down the area that ends in a spectacular sliding stop. The horse actually glides to a halt on his tucked-in rear legs while the front legs stay loose and keep balance by pedaling until he comes to a standstill. This is the reining horse’s trademark and many times is the winning element in a reining competition. Horses are either asked to back 10 paces from the sliding stop or roll back where the horse stops and immediately performs a 180-degree turn and goes forward again into a lope.

Scoring is done by a panel of judges that give a plus or minus score to each maneuver. A horse enters the area, one at a time, and begins with 70 points. Besides the plus, minus or even score for each maneuver the horse is judged on willingness, style and consistency. Penalty points can be deducted from the score also.

A final score of 70 is considered an average score for a horse that made no errors but also did not perform with any particularly exceptional ability. A score below 70 reflects penalties for incorrectly performed movements or misbehavior of the horse, a score above 70 reflects that some or all movements were above average. A score over 80 would commend an exceptional performance.

Reining has become very popular and practiced by several different breeds of athletic horses with quarter horses being the most popular. Competitions range from just friendly contests for amateurs, to local organized reining events and large national reining shows where many dollars of prize money are at stake. Arabian reining has increased in popularity with new futurity purses offered at several of the regional shows. As a horse spectator event, reining is very popular. Fast spinning horses and dust-flying sliding stops draw many whistles and “Oh, yeah’s” from appreciative crowds.

“I could do that.” Commander’s voice sounded out from the back of the barn.

“You probably could because you’re very athletic and quarter horses like you are very popular for reining mounts. But you would have to put in many months of training, not to mention the discipline involved. Reining horses have a quiet, willing attitude and certainly don’t ever offer any smart aleck remarks!”

“Oh..... Say, I know where I want to go!” Commander charged out of the barn with a bright look in his blue eyes. “Let’s go down the road where I hear it’s raining mares!”

Jill Smith is a Spokane, WA entrepreneur, international business owner, artist/potter and cowgirl at heart. She raises Arabian racehorses, Arabian/Quarter Horses, palominos and Cremellos/Perlinos. High N Command (pen name, Commander) is a smart-talking AQHA perlino stallion, constantly trolling for mares. www.kriseanhorses.com


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6/7/07 10:21 PM