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Archive for September, 2008

For Cutters

I know this blog is for reiners, but I thought I’d mention this little tidbit for those who are also involved in the cutting horse industry.

Zane Schulte Awards nominations open

Know a professional trainer who exemplifies the character by which Zane Schulte is remembered: integrity, service, values, respect of their peers, contribution to the industry and excellence in the arena? You have until October 1 to nominate him or her for the prestigious Zane Schulte Memorial Award.

I learned a lot about the mental side of reining from Zane’s mother, Barbra Shulte.

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Reining – NRHA Pattern 2

Horses may walk or trot to the centre of arena. Horses must walk or stop prior to starting the pattern. Beginning at the centre of the arena facing the left wall or fence.

1. Beginning on the right lead, complete three circles to the right: the first circle small and slow; the next two circles large and fast. Change leads at the center of the arena.

2. Complete three circle to the left: the first circle small and slow; the next two circles large and fast. Change leads at the center of the arena.

3. Continue around previous circle to the right. At the top of the circle, run down the middle to the far end of the arena past the end marker and do a right rollback – no hesitation.

4. Run up the middle to the opposite end of the arena past the end marker and do a left rollback – no hesitation.

5. Run past the center marker and do a sliding stop. Back up to the center of the arena or at least ten feet. Hesitate.

6. Complete four spins to the right.

7. Complete four spins to the left. Hesitate to demonstration of the pattern.
Rider must dismount and drop bridle to the designated judge.

Pattern 3

Pattern 3

George McIvor from Castlegar, BC, was an NRHA judge for 14 years and has judged reining futurities, derbies and national championships all across Canada and the northwest United States. He and his wife Judy have owned a quarter horse breeding ranch near Trail, BC for 23 years.

“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 or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.”

The mantra of reining, written by NRHA Hall of Fame inductee Jim Willoughby, should apply to every move that is made in the reining pen from the moment you walk in until the moment the pattern is complete. Deviations from these standards are considered faults and a deduction in the maneuver score corresponding to the severity of the deviation(s). Likewise, maneuver credits come from smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness, and authority in the performance while using controlled speed, and being exciting and pleasing to watch for an audience. No competitor would knowingly walk into the show pen without having memorized the pattern, yet I am constantly amazed at the competitors who can not accurately distinguish or identify maneuver faults, credits, and penalties. NRHA publishes the Rules For Judging and the Judges Guide in the NRHA Handbook with the express intention of making the membership the most knowledgeable segment of the horse industry.

1. Beginning on the right lead, complete three circles to the right: the first circle small and slow; the next two circles large and fast. Change leads at the center of the arena.

The description for this pattern actually has two sentences preceding the numbered maneuvers that describe the process of getting to the center. Judging commences on entry into the arena and the NRHA Judges Guide indicates we are looking for the horse to appear relaxed and confident, with no appearance of intimidation from the rider. So just getting to the center can result in a fault(s) and a corresponding deduction in the first maneuver score. A horse that is dancing at center is displaying resistance and is not willingly guided or under control. At best, the first maneuver (right circles) would then be starting from -1/2. Usually horses that start dancing at center have displayed other forms of resistance in getting to the center, or the rider has attempted to intimidate the horse into behaving at center or has loped off before center to try and disguise a predictable behaviour. Loping off before center will attract a 2 point penalty and intimidation by the rider will further lower the starting position of the first maneuver to -1 or -1 ½.

Tip: Judges have no objection to a rider picking up the reins a couple of time on the way to center to make sure the horse is attentive, but if you jerk enough to float old Dobbin’s teeth you will get no scored before the run even starts.

2. Beginning on the right lead, complete three circles to the right: the first circle small and slow; the next two circles large and fast. Change leads at the center of the arena.

The rider’s body and position does not usually directly affect a maneuver unless the rider is using his body in some manner to intimidate the horse eg. sticking your left leg out past the point of the left shoulder to keep the horse on the right circles. Generally body position of the rider is not considered unless it is clearly offensive or attracts a penalty eg. use of the free hand to instill fear or praise, or falling off. Indirectly, the rider’s body position can hinder or assist the horse in completion of the maneuver. A rider hanging over the front/side of their horse attempting to see if the horse changes leads is almost certain to drag a lead and incur penalties.

Tip: Credit for smoothness and finesse implies little visible effort from the rider and great timing, so a good rider who can make the circles, transition, and lead change look effortless can positively influence the maneuver score.

3. Complete three circle to the left: the first circle small and slow; the next two circles large and fast. Change leads at the center of the arena.

The lead change and the transition from fast to slow takes place out of the first set of circles not the left circles. The lead change is the critical element in this part of the maneuver and is still a part of the right circles (maneuver 1). The Judges Guide says that the lead change must take place “in the exact geographical position in the arena specified in the pattern description” which is the center. The speed transition can take place simultaneously, a stride before, or a stride after at the discretion of the exhibitor. A simultaneous change and transition to a slow circle at center is to me the most difficult element in reining to execute and I reward it big when I see it (which is seldom). Most riders choose the stride before or after option for the transition and either is equally acceptable and, although it can for sure be a plus element, it is not the same degree of difficulty (or risk) that the all at center option presents.

Tip: The significant technical difficulty of this element (which also occurs in pattern 9) results in frequent missed lead changes and poor downward speed transitions often brought on by the exaggerated cues riders inadvertently apply to try and compensate for the increased technical difficulty.

4. Continue around previous circle to the right. At the top of the circle, run down the middle to the far end of the arena past the end marker and do a right rollback – no hesitation.

It is very important to run straight and build speed all the way to the stop. The size of the show pen is a critical factor in the approach to this maneuver and riders need to plan for this in preparing for the class. Smaller pens require greater speed between the lead change and the run down the middle to avoid the appearance of “blasting” into the stop. The timing of the cue for the rollback is also critical. The stop needs to be completed first or the horse will often veer off or lose contact with the ground on one of the hind feet towards the end of the stop. If the horse stops really deep, they also need enough time to get up out of the ground in order to complete a correct rollback. A plus stop is often offset by a negative rollback so it is critical to maintain concentration through all elements of the maneuver to not sacrifice those hard earned plus elements. These are all basic components of your run and should be part of your plan, preparation, and rehearsal or visualization. Adjustments during the maneuver should be reserved for the completely unexpected as a good plan will have anticipated some degree of “what if this happens”. Good plan – good execution – good score. Minor deviations to the left or right of the middle to avoid a bad spot have no impact on the maneuver score. Noticeable deviations become offensive to the pattern description and will be marked down according to severity. Significant deviations where it is no longer possible to determine if the competitor is running down the middle will result in a score of 0.

Tip: If the show pen has some bad ground it is sometimes useful to watch a class before the normal time frame where you begin your preparations for your run. Trying to watch runs in your class may interfere with or cause you to vary your planned preparation which is generally never a good thing.

5. Run up the middle to the opposite end of the arena past the end marker and do a left rollback – no hesitation.

Again, minor deviations that are not offensive to the pattern description have no negative consequences. If your rundown angle is sufficient to lose the parallel relationship between the stop and the sides of the show pen, the maneuver score will be reduced.

6. Run past the center marker and do a sliding stop. Back up to the center of the arena or at least ten feet. Hesitate.

I see more marker penalties incurred at center than on the ends and a discussion at a recent judges school confirmed that experience to be common. This could be as simple as the direct view the judge has of the center marker as opposed to an angular view of the end markers where doubt always goes in favor of the exhibitor, or it could be reduced concentration by the rider as the center should be obvious. Whatever the reason, it is 2 points that should never be lost. Again, because of the shorter distance to build speed, riders often blast to a stop past the center marker. This becomes very difficult to avoid if your preceding stop and rollback occurred just past the end marker because you are further shortening your distance to build speed. I dislike this particular maneuver because it tends to reinforces a behavior most of us try very hard to avoid – the blast to a stop.

Tip: A good stop is often negated by dragging the horse in the backup and can be made even more odious if you have gone too far past center and have to drag your less-than-willing-partner a long way back to center.

7. Complete four spins to the right.

The spins at the end of this pattern often present unique problems for the horse and rider because you have just completed two large fast circles followed by three stops. A lot of horses are seriously out of air at this point and some riders are on the verge of passing out. This is an obvious point in this pattern to straighten your reins (even if they don’t really need it) and to hesitate as much as you can without being offensive to gain some air for both old Roy and Trigger.

Tip: If your horse normally has a +1/2 turnaround, this is the time to be happy with a 0. Same game plan before you start the left turnaround.

8. Complete four spins to the left. Hesitate to demonstration of the pattern.

Make sure you clearly indicate that your horse is standing quiet and relaxed and the action has ended because your requests for action have ended. This is part of the evidence supporting your claim to the judge that your horse is willingly guided and dictated to completely. This is one of the few places where being out of air works in your favor. The run is over and there is really no reason to rush and receive a score of 0 for failing to hesitate.

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Over the winter you may consider taking a clinic to brush up on your skills. Even if you have a regular trainer, it can be helpful to have someone else’s opinion on your riding and your horse’s skills. It’s not “cheating” to go to another trainer’s clinic (though you should mention it to your trainer before you go!) it’s just learning. Sometimes the secret to your brain-block regarding lead changes or stops may be just a clinic away.

But make sure you are prepared to take full advantage of the clinic:

1. Double-check your horse and tack. Check your horse’s shoes before you go. Before you arrive in the morning to take your horse to the clinic and discover a ‘clink’ in your horse’s ‘clip clop’, ensure that the shoes currently tacked on to your horse will last. You should also check to ensure that your equipment is in prime working condition so that your ride is not delayed by equipment malfunctions.

2. Bring a buddy. While you are riding, it can help to have someone watching the clinic who can give you feedback after your ride. A clinician may give you several different exercises or pointers to work on and it can be handy to have a buddy in the stands to jot them down for you for reference later.

3. Ask the clinician if someone can video tape your ride. Clinicians will have different rules regarding audio or visual recordings of their clinics, ask before your ride if it is possible to have an audience member record your time in the spotlight.

4. Arrive at the clinic with three questions or areas to work on. A clinician may have areas he or she will want to work on, but it will help if you have specific areas of concern to focus on. Setting a goal to ‘ride better’ by the end of the clinic is not specific enough to gauge whether or not you’ve improved by day’s end. Single out specific problem areas (lead changes or departures, cadence at the lope, posture or seat issues, collection…) and ask the clinician specific questions during and after your ride.

5. Watch, listen and learn. If the instructor breaks the participants up into groups, it can be tempting to show up for your group and then leave for lunch or to hang out in the (often warmer) barn. Once your horse is put away and taken care of, head back into the arena and take notice of the other participants and how the clinician is guiding them. If you have not yet experienced the problems he’s helping them with – you may at some point in your riding career.

6. Make sure that you are choosing a clinic that is relevant to you and your horse’s skill level. It can be exciting and thrilling to attend a clinic taught by a world champion, but unless the clinic is geared towards green horses, you may not want to bring your colt with just 30 days riding on it to an advanced clinic. Phone ahead to clinic organizers to find out what the clinician will be covering and what the pre-requisites may be.

Have fun!

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