Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Problems With Reining Horse Training Few People Understand

I am on trainer Larry Trocha's e mail list and get regular mail outs from him on various topics. I particularly liked what he had to say in his last e mail, and thought it appropriate to share here. I have edited some of the total content but have included some of his most salient points here:

The last couple weeks, I've received a few emails and even a couple visits to my barn, from people wanting to get involved in reining competition.

Without exception, every one of these people were relying on the help of a horse trainer who had never competed in reining.

As a consequence, these folks are going to go terribly WRONG.

Unfortunately, the two who visited my barn, already had. Why?

Because they don't understand there is a whole boat-load of problems and pot-holes that are "reining" specific.And unless you have trained and competed in reining competition, you have NO IDEA what they are.What owners don't realize is that ignorance about this could literally RUIN their competition reining horse or reining prospect.

I'm not kidding. It's that serious.

If you plan on competing in a SPECIFIC event, you need a trainer with EXPERIENCE in that event.

Other wise, he's not going to know how to head-off potential problems.

Here is a partial list of things about reining horses that "non-reiners" simply don't know...

The more you show a reining horse, the WORSE he gets.

The horse gets worse because if he is even half-way intelligent, he will learn the reining pattern and begin to anticipate the maneuvers.

They'll usually start anticipating within just a few shows.

In the show arena, he'll get antsy when asked to stand still, knowing a spin or lead departure is coming.

He'll charge the run-down and SCOTCH the stop.

When executing circles, he'll drop his shoulder and try to change leads whenever he lopes across the center of the arena.

If this pattern anticipation isn't addressed and managed, it will get so bad the horse will become literally "un-showable".

This form of show ring anticipation is called "show smart".

If you are going to buy a trained reining horse, you better find out just how show smart he is or risk buying a reining horse that you can't get through a run.

I had an out-of-state customer who purchased a mare for $30,000. She was a good horse and could really win. However, the owner soon discovered she couldn't make it through a run clean, without three consecutive "schooling" runs prior to the "competition" run. (Throw away 3 entry fees before every run that actually counted)

If you plan on TRAINING a reining horse from scratch, you have to know how to manage the pit-falls to KEEP that horse from turning into something bad.

Below is another big misconception about reining horses.


"I want to do reining but the horse I have now is too much of a DEAD-HEAD".

"I need to buy something with some get up and go".

When I hear that, I know that person has ZERO experience with reining horses.

They don't savvy a reining horse has to be able to go from a big, FAST circle... down to a small, SLOW circle... and he has to do it without the rider using much bit pressure. Only a quiet, laid-back kind of horse is going to do that. If the horse is "hot", once he gets running, he isn't going to want to slow down. Bottom line... you won't win anything.

Here's another point...

It is flat-out EASY to wake a quiet horse up. It is extremely DIFFICULT to slow a hot horse down. My suggestion to you... go with the naturally laid-back horse and learn how to wake him up.


This one thing has ruined more non-pro reining horses than anything else I can think of. The culprit...


When I was doing a lot of reining (I mostly show cutters now), I had quite a few non-pros. No matter how hard I tried to get those non-pros to trust their horse would change leads... they NEVER would trust him. They were so afraid of him not changing... they would use their spur and HARPOON the poor horse whenever a lead change was wanted. Do that at 3 or 4 shows in a row and at the 5th show... as soon as the horse realizes the lead change is coming... he'll grab his butt and CHARGE through the lead change like a freight train. Once the horse starts doing this, it's really tough to fix.

Okay, let's go over some more points SPECIFIC TO REINING.

In most cases, it's best to put the spin on your horse BEFORE you put the hard stop on him. If you don't, he'll be sucking back so much you'll have a tough time teaching him to cross-over in front. He'll be crossing under... banging his legs together and never learn to spin right.

FEW people understand just how SUPPLE and LIGHT a horse has to be to learn to rein. It is an absolute "must" and there is no getting around it. I see countless riders unknowingly TORTURE their horse trying to teach him to rein before he has any foundation. As a matter of fact, it's a common practice with many horse owners.

Here's my best advice...

Learn about training and horsemanship BEFORE you make all the common mistakes that make your horse's life miserable.

If you plan on training your horse for the performance events, learn how to do it right so you don't ruin him before you even get started.


I just took my 3 year old mare, Twister back to Sherri for training, for many of the reasons Larry has stated above.

Twister getting introduced to..Twister

Back to Work...

I am NOT a trainer, and I want her started right. I figure the best I can do, is to become as knowledgeable as possible and to become the best rider I can. I can only do that by working with trainers that TRAIN reining horses and compete at reining themselves. I feel fortunate to have a trainer I have worked with for years, and who I know and trust with my my animals. It is WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD!

I am SO PLEASED that we have a strong core group of dedicated and enthusiastic people in our club that WANT to learn and are WILLING to commit themselves both personally and financially by attending clinics and meeting regularly in a collegial and supportive manner.

So if you are a beginner, come out and take advantage of the collective knowledge of this dedicated group. We are all learning together, and becoming better and stronger as a result...And if you have the knowledge and skills to pass on, please leave your ego at the door, and come out and share!

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