Reining 101

Hello everyone! Welcome back to another Rafter 3 blog post. By popular demand, I am going to be talking about reining today, one of my favorite events.

Then we are going to be discussing how reining exercises can be incorporated into training our barrel racing horses!

I had the opportunity to work under a phenomenal reining trainer along with own an outstanding mare who had a 30+ foot stop on her.  Now, a lot of you guys are barrel racers, but this will still be a helpful and insightful article for you guys too, so make sure to read on and subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of our articles or updates!

What IS reining?

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) has this to say about “What IS reining.”

“Reining as a sport came from the Old West culture where horses were a vital part of every working livestock ranch.

Horses needed to be sturdy, quick, responsive, and agile to be able to herd and move cattle and other livestock across the range. A Reining competition essentially shows off the skills and athletic abilities necessary in the working ranch horse, but does so within the confines of a show pen and the movements you see in competition today have become extremely precise and highly refined.”-

Reining, today, has become a much loved sport in the equestrian world. It combines speed, agility, maneuverability, grace, skill, and conditioning into a patterned class that demonstrates a horse and rider’s ranch riding abilities. Some of the most common maneuvers performed in a reining class include:

What breeds of horse are the best reiners?

The most common breeds of horse that perform well in the reining industry include The American Quarter Horse, The American Paint Horse, Appaloosa’s, and even Arabians or Half-Arabians.

Traditionally, most ranch horses are stock bred, western-style horses.

While you are able to teach certain levels of reining to any horse, having a horse that is “purpose built” for the job, such as a Quarter horse, will always have an easier time learning and performing reining. A reining horse should also have good conformation in order perform some of the more advanced maneuvers such as a sliding stop. A horse with a really long back or structural leg issues would not be a good choice for a reining horse.


Check out this great video on how to pick a reining prospect:

What are the basics of training a horse to become a reiner?

Riding a reining horse is much different than riding a typical performance horse or even a barrel racing horse! It was a huge shock for me the first time I got on the back of a reiner, all of the typical leg positionings, cues, and things I had done on my all around quarter horses was not inherently the same as with a reiner. While the basic principles of horsemanship still apply, there are vast differences in the way you communicate and sit on a reiner in order to achieve the maneuvers they perform.

When you are looking to first get into reining, you need to learn the differences that apply to reining horses so that you can properly set yourself (and your horse) up for success. Now, if you are new to reining I would highly suggest you go take some lessons with a reining trainer on one of their seasoned reiners to get a “feel” for how these horses move, feel, respond, and operate. Check out this video about how to learn to ride a reiner for more practical information.


Once you have a feel for riding reiners then you are going to be able to start implementing reining training on your horse.

“NRHA Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Willoughby states:

To rein a horse is not only to guide him, but also to control his every movement. The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little to no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.

Reining is most commonly compared to dressage due to the similarities in teaching body control. Although both disciplines strive for true collection and finding balance through the body, one major difference between reining and dressage is the use of contact. Reining horses are trained to perform maneuvers on a loose rein and are entirely trained off the rider’s legs and seat. This creates an effortless look, almost as though the rider is telepathically communicating with their horse.”-

Common exercises reiners use that will benefit a barrel racing horse

Due to the maneuverability and body control that reining horses possess, there is a lot we can take away from their training programs. We can then implement some of these exercises into our barrel racing horses training and conditioning routine that will only improve their performance.

The top reining exercises for barrel horses:

Run downs and stops



The Spin

All of these exercises will help both reiners and barrel racers achieve consistency, smoothness, softness, collection, and improve aid responsiveness in your horse(s).  Taking the time to incorporate additional training exercises into your horses routine will continue to build upon everything you are working towards. Another thing I would like to note is that the best and most competitive horses are generally schooled in a wide variety of activities. This creates a truly “finished” or “polished” horse because they become an actual all-around horse with the maneuverability and agility needed to perform any task. This is also another great aspect to consider for our barrel racing horses. The more well-trained, conditioned, and agile they are, and the more control we have over their bodies… the better our runs are going to be!


I hope this article was helpful and be sure to look out for our next article! Have a great day and God bless you all. We would love to hear in the comment section below what kind of material you would like to see on our blog posts page!