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10 Tips for a Winning Run in the Reining Show Pen

  1. Understand the pattern.

    In every reining, the pattern is posted hours, if not days prior to the start of the class, so you should not really have a valid excuse for going off pattern. I know sometimes show nerves effect your ability to think and focus, but you are given the road map of what to do and when to do it. If you feel like you need a moment to think, take a little longer during the hesitation to get your thoughts straight.

  2. Show the horse you have, not the horse you want.

    The warm-up pen is the worst place to get concerned about what other riders are doing. Most of the time the fast spins and the big stops never make it to the show pen, because during warm ups the riders are able to ride with their training gimmicks and really help their horses. I tell all of my clients, ask for 110% at home and 90% at the show, that way everyone stays happy.

  3. Know where the middle is.

    Every reining pattern requires you to run your circles through the middle of the arena as well as perform your spins in the center (most of the time). You can run the best set of right circles in your life but if you miss the middle, your score will receive a deduction, and your left set of circles start off on the minus side because they start off looking like an egg.

  4. Stay off of the wall.

    You are being judged on your horse’s ability to be willfully guided. If you run your circles on the wall you are showing me nothing, a trained monkey can sit up there and follow the wall. Even if the pen is small move a few feet off of the wall and show me that you have control of your horse. Remember, that circles are round. Also you must stay 20 feet from the wall on your rundown and roll backs, I want to see that your horse rolls back because he is broke, and not because you had help from the arena wall.

  5. The markers are there for a reason.

    In every pattern it is specified if you need to run and stop PAST the center or end marker. If you stop early, you will receive a zero score. Nothing is worse than having the run of your life, only to find out that you received a zero for missing the marker.

  6. Speed kills.

    Just because you are in the pen showing, does not mean that you have to runs the wheels off of your horse. A slow, smooth, correct pattern will usually always beat a pattern that is fast and full of mistakes.

  7. Learn to count.

    Know the number of circles that need to be run and the order they need to be run. Always be sure to count the first spin, a lot of the time in the show pen we are focusing on getting our horses set up to start the spin correctly, that we forget to count the first spin.

  8. Size Matters.

    Make sure there is a size difference in your circles. As a judge I don’t want to have to guess if you are still on pattern, or if your horse is just not broke, and not listening. Either way, your score will effected in a negative way,

  9. Hats off.

    It is super distracting to watch as a judge, and will adversely affect your ability to concentrate on you run if you are worried about it falling off. TIP: Spray some cheap hairspray to your forehead as well as on the sweatband of your hat it will help “glue” it in place, folding your sweatband over will help snug it down, or apply some doubled over duct tape to help stick it in place.

  10. Have Fun.

    The biggest mistake you can make is to not enjoy the ride, after all that is the main reason we got into horses, for the fun and friendship. The more you can enjoy riding and showing, the more your scores will improve, because you will have less nerves and stress. Even if you make a bobble while showing, don’t get mad, just think of it as a learning lesson, there will always be another horse show.

The biggest challenge in getting your horse shown is to just not beat yourself. When you have the pattern and truly understand what is being asked of you and your horse, as per the rules, your confidence will grow, your score will improve and you will achieve more that your fair share of success. Remember that all showing is, is crisis management.

As Always; Ride Hard, Be Safe, Have Fun. – Steve Kutie