NRHA Shawn Flarida Provided by NRHA-Waltenberry
Provided by NRHA/Waltenberry



"Reining is communication between horse and rider employing the principles of classical horsemanship to create an art form that is pleasing to watch."
--Bob Loomis, professional reining horse trainer.

Reining is recognized internationally as an equine sport of great significance that appeals to participants and spectators alike. The combination of speed and power maneuvers with amazing control and finesse makes the sport fascinating to watch. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) judging system allows spectators to closely follow the determination of the winners while being entertained by breathtaking performances.

Reining Today


NRHA Tish Fappani Provided by NRHA-Waltenberry
Provided by NRHA/Waltenberry


The Art of Reining
Reining is a judged event designed to show the athletic ability of a ranch type horse in the confines of a show arena. In reining competition, contestants are required to run one of several approved patterns. Each pattern includes small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, rollbacks over the hocks, a series of 360 degree spins done in place, and the exciting sliding stops that are the hallmark of the reining horse.

Required Maneuvers
The National Reining Horse Association has 11 approved reining patterns. All NRHA patterns are divided into seven or eight maneuver groups. The following maneuver descriptions can be found in the NRHA Judge's Guide section of the NRHA Handbook.

Walk-In: The walk-in brings the horse from the gate to the center of the arena to begin its pattern. The horse should appear relaxed and confident. Any action which may create the appearance of intimidation including starting and stopping, or checking is a fault, which shall be marked down according to the severity in the first maneuver score.

Circles: Circles are maneuvers at the lope, of designated size and speed, which demonstrate control, willingness to guide, and degree of difficulty in speed and speed changes. Circles must at all times be run in the geographical area of the arena specified in the pattern description and must have a common center point. There must be a clearly defined difference in the speed and size of a small, slow circle, and a large, fast circle; also, the speed and size of small, slow right circles should be similar to the small, slow left circles; and the speed and size of the large, fast right circles should be similar to the large, fast left circles.

NRHA Jordan Larson Provided by NRHA-Waltenberry
Provided by NRHA/Waltenberry


Spins: Spins are a series of 360° turns, executed over a stationary (inside) hind leg. Propulsion for the spin is supplied by the outside rear leg and front legs, and contact should be made with the ground and a front leg. The location of hindquarters should be fixed at the start of the spin and maintained throughout the spins. It is helpful for a judge to watch for the horse to remain in the same location, rather than watching for a stationary inside leg. This allows for easier focus on other elements of the spin (i.e., cadence, attitude, smoothness, finesse and speed).

Hesitate: To hesitate is the act of demonstrating the horse's ability to stand in a relaxed manner at a designated time in a pattern. In a hesitation, the horse is required to remain motionless and relaxed. All NRHA patterns require a hesitation at the end of the patterns to demonstrate to the judge(s) the completion of the pattern.

Lead Changes: Lead changes are the act of changing the leading legs of the front and rear pairs of legs at a lope, when changing the direction traveled. The lead change must be executed at a lope with no change of gait or speed and be performed in the exact geographical position in the arena specified in the pattern description. The change of front and rear leads must take place within the same stride to avoid penalty.

Rundowns and Runarounds: Run downs are runs through the middle of the arena, and runs along the side and ends of the arena. Run downs and run-arounds should demonstrate control and gradual increase in speed to the stop.

Stops: Stops are the act of slowing the horse from a lope to a stop position by bringing the hind legs under the horse in a locked position sliding on the hind feet. The horse should enter the stop position by bending the back, bringing the hind legs further under the body while maintaining forward motion and ground contact and cadence with front legs. Throughout the stop, the horse should continue in a straight line while maintaining ground contact with the hind feet.

NRHA Antifaev Provided by NRHA-Waltenberry
Provided by NRHA/Waltenberry

Rollbacks: Rollbacks are the 180° reversal of forward motion completed by running to a stop, rolling (turning) the shoulders back to the opposite direction over the hocks and departing in a canter, as one continuous motion. The NRHA Handbook states no hesitation; however, a slight pause to regain footing or balance should not be deemed hesitation. The horse should not step ahead or backup prior to rolling back.

Backups: A backup is a maneuver requiring the horse to be moved in a reverse motion in a straight line a required distance; at least ten feet.

Competition Venue

Reining competition takes place within the confines of an arena. Markers, placed at the perimeter of the arena, are used to enable riders to better follow pattern proportions. One marker is set in the center and the other two are set at least 50 foot from each end wall. An advantage of the sport is that it does not require anything special to be constructed for the event, such as obstacles or jumps.

However, because of the nature of the sport, reining requires special footing to allow top performance and ensure soundness, much the same as jumpers require well-designed courses. The ideal footing is typically a clay base with a combination of sand and silt as a loose topping. Moisture control, particle size, and compaction are three of the major components to consider when preparing proper ground. The technique in which the dirt is maintained is also very important. Reiners can not perform in soil that is too wet or too hard.

The National Reining Horse Association has created one of the most comprehensive and finely-tuned judging systems in the industry. Using a highly objective scoring system, the NRHA set the standards for reining competition.

Reining horses are judged individually as they complete one of several specified patterns. One or more judges scores each horse between 0 and infinity, with 70 denoting an average score. Each horse automatically begins the pattern with a 70. The scoring system then gives or takes away up to 1 and 1/2 points on each maneuver, and penalties may be accrued for incorrect performance maneuvers.

As the judges watch the horse's execution of the pattern, a scribe keeps track of each judge's maneuver scores and penalty marks. Scores are then tabulated and announced at the end of each run. The judge's sheets with individual maneuver scores and total scores are then posted for the benefit of the exhibitors following each class.

In scoring, credit is given for smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority when performing the various maneuvers. Although reining is not a timed event, controlled speed raises the difficulty level and makes the reining horse more exciting to watch.

The NRHA Handbook states, "To rein a horse is not only to guide him, but also to control his every movement." That description has remained unchanged since 1966 and serves as the definitive guide to the judging of reining events.

As well, NRHA's judging system is innovative, fair, precise, and easy for an exhibitor to follow and understand.

NRHA approved judges have successfully completed an NRHA Judges Seminar, NRHA Judges School, and successfully passed a series of tests. Once approved, judges must be retested every two years and attend educational workshops. The National Reining Horse Association has over 250 certified judges in the United States and abroad.

The National Reining Horse Association

Founded in 1966, the National Reining Horse Association is an organization dedicated to the promotion of the reining horse. It serves as the standard setting body for the sport of Reining worldwide and focuses on developing and maintaining suitable standards of performance and judging while providing a fun filled, family-oriented atmosphere.

NRHA Dani Latimer Provided by NRHA-Waltenberry
Provided by NRHA/Waltenberry


With over 700 competitions worldwide, NRHA-approved competitors vie for nearly $12 million in prize money, plus other awards, annually. NRHA's premier reining events draw competitors from around the world. The NRHA Futurity, the largest Reining in the world, pays $125,000 to the Open Level 4 Champion and nearly $2 million total to other show entries. In addition, the Futurity draws over 60,000 spectators to its exciting showcase of the industry's best Reining horses!

With a membership base of nearly 20,000, over 100 affiliates worldwide, and a supportive core of committed Corporate Partners, the future remains unquestionably positive for the sport of Reining.


Additional Information

For additional information contact:

    National Reining Horse Association
    3000 NW 10th St.
    Oklahoma City, OK 73107-5302
    (405) 946-7400