Western Reining

Western Reining is a class based on set patterns and a precise scoring system. The horse’s and rider’s athletic abilities are tested with patterns comprised of a series of maneuvers including spins, stops, flying lead changes, and circles with changes in size and speed. In collegiate competition, the rider must perform one of the established National Reining Horse Association (NHRA) patterns. Riders are judged on their equitation as they control the speed and direction of the horse in what appears to be a poised, confident, and relaxed manner.

The IHSA competition and NCAA/NCEA competition both have one level of Western Reining: Open.

Generally Accepted Guidelines as set by the National Reining Horse Association

  • To rein a horse is not only to guide it, but also to control its every movement.
  • The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.
  • Any movement by the horse on its own must be considered a lack of control.
  • All deviations from the exact written pattern must be considered a lack of/or temporary loss of control, and therefore declared as a fault that must be marked down according to severity of the deviation.
  • Credit should be given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness, and authority of performing various maneuvers while using controlled speed. This raises the difficulty level and makes the exhibition more exciting and pleasing for the audience to watch.

Class Procedures and Maneuvers

During the performance of the specified pattern, exhibitors are required to perform specific maneuvers while striving to achieve the level of performance as described in the guidelines of the National Reining Horse Association. These maneuvers include:

  • Large fast circles
  • Small slow circles
  • Lead changes
  • Spins
  • Sliding stops
  • Rollbacks
  • Backup


Circles are performed in a specified location of the arena while maintaining a common center point. There should be a distinct difference between the size and speed of the large fast circles and small slow circles. During circles, the horse should exhibit control and a willingness to be guided by the rider.

Lead Changes

Lead changes are the front and hind legs’ change of leads performed at the canter during a change of direction in the pattern. The horse should exhibit control and precision when changing leads.


Spins are consecutive 360-degree turns, ideally with the inside hind leg remaining stationary. While remaining in one location, the horse should exhibit cadence, smoothness, and speed during spins.

Sliding Stops

Sliding stops are the change of speed from a canter to a stop position while traveling in a straight line. During sliding stops, the horse should move freely with its front legs, while the hind legs are positioned under the body and are maintaining contact with the ground during the slide.


Rollbacks are the 180-degree turn over the hocks which are executed as a fluid continuation of the movement from a sliding stop. Upon completion of a rollback, the horse should then continue with motion moving directly into a canter.


The backup is the backward or reverse movement of the horse, executed swiftly and in a straight line.


Scoring is 0 to infinity, with 70 being an average score. Each maneuver indicated in the pattern is scored individually. Maneuver scores range from +1½ to -1½ with half point increments and 0 indicating an average maneuver. The following are the general guidelines used to determine appropriate maneuver scores

  • +1½ — Excellent
  • +1 — Very Good
  • +½ — Good
  • 0 — Correct / Average
  • -½ —Poor
  • -1 — Very Poor
  • -1½ — Extremely Poor


  • Common penalty points are 5, 2, 1, and ½.
  • Points are also deducted for being on the incorrect lead.
    • at the end of the arena when performing a rundown (1 to 2 points)
    • while performing circles (½ to 4 points)
  • Exhibitors may also receive 0 scores and no scores. These scores are generally reserved for instances such as breaking pattern, breaking rules, or abuse of the animal.

Judges and exhibitors should reference the specified association for specific guidelines, rules, patterns, and score sheets.

Stay Connected!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Equestrian College Recruiter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!