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Falcon club spins, slides and runs in circles

“Reining is the dressage of Western riding.” I’d heard that more than once, but I wasn’t sure what a sliding stop had in common with a piaffe. At a recent meeting of the new Eastern Plains Reining Horse Association, I saw the similarities between this fast-paced Western discipline and classical riding.Both disciplines evolved from practical uses of the horse, dressage from training horses for battle and reining from training horses for ranch work. The ranch horse needed to be fast, agile and responsive to gather, move and hold cattle. In competition, both dressage and reining horses perform prescribed patterns, are given scores based on each maneuver and move up levels that demand increasing finesse and precision.The Eastern Plains Reining Horse Association was recently formed to “preserve the family oriented sport of reining through the continued advocacy of the stock horse,” as expressed in their mission statement. Founders Janene Borini, owner of Peakview Quarter Horses, and June Larsen, active for many years in the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association, want to provide an educational forum for reiners and encourage young people to take up the sport.”We have a lot of interest in clinics, shows, reining, cutting, ranch horse competitions and trail riding,” says Larsen. At their meeting in early June, the members made plans for their first show in August, where members can help each other on riding their reining patterns. They are also working on becoming a nonprofit organization and hope to become an affiliate club of the National Reining Horse Association.The group plans to feature a speaker at each meeting. Myrle Ingle of Ellicott, who competes nationally and spent 10 years in Germany teaching and training reining horses, spoke at the June meeting about what judges look for in competitions.”A reining pattern takes one to one-and-a-half minutes to complete,” he explained to me. “Each pattern is broken into seven or eight movements that are judged separately. The judges are looking for a willing attitude on the part of the horse, precision, control and cadence.” Sounds a lot like dressage to me.The patterns performed in competition consist of a series of precise movements that involve slow and fast circles, rollbacks (turn on the haunches), spins (in which the horse turns rapidly around his inside hind foot, which should not move) and sliding stops. Patterns are all performed at the canter.”Everyone thinks riding a circle should be easy,” says Ingle. “But with speed you have to have control, and your horse must be turned into the circle and going at a steady cadence. It’s a hard thing to teach a rider.” Any dressage rider would agree.The club’s vice president, Winona Walker of Walker Equisport Performance Horses in Elizabeth, is a certified NRHA judge. She showed parts of a judging video featuring several different riders performing the same maneuver. The differences in skill level were clear.Club president Chris Taylor of Taylor Performance Horses guided the group in forming committees for fundraising, shows and events, youth activities and grounds. After the presentation by Ingle, several members unloaded their horses and practiced reining patterns in the Latigo Trails arena.Reining is hot and getting hotter. In the past 10 years, membership in the NRHA has grown from 6,800 to almost 13,500. Reining is an increasingly popular sport in Europe, as Ingle experienced during his years in Germany. In 2004, the top 10 NRHA horses were owned by Europeans. Reining is the only Western discipline approved for Federation Equestre Internationale competition.Dell Hendricks, president of the National Reining Horse Association, ended his column in the May issue of the association’s magazine with these words: “To anybody that says reining is just a sport, I would have to respectfully disagree. Reining is not just a part of my life or my family’s life. Reining and family are life.”The club meets on the first Wednesday of every month at Latigo Trails Heritage Center, 13710 Halleluiah Trail in Elbert. For more information, call June Larsen at 683-5133.

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