Saturday afternoon saw me trying to take photos of reining horses at a competition at the undercover arena at Dubbo Showgrounds. I don’t know that I have ever seen a great photo come out of that arena due to the lighting causing havoc with cameras. The challenge is, that the background is in fill sunlight but because the horses are under cover, they are in the shade.
So in I toddle after lunch and try to find a spot that might work- that took about half an hour, but in the end, facing southwest, with a big wall of trees about 50 m behind the arena as a backdrop seemed to sort of work.
I was bit conspicuous, but they were a friendly bunch who answered my many ignorant questions with humour (and I don’t think they were taking the mickey out of me but who knows). So here’s the lowdown on what this dressage princess learned in 5 hours about reining.
1. They think dressage riders are a mob of toffs.
2. They cant understand why anyone would want to be that far off the ground without a parachute.
3. Reining can be just as bitchy as any other sport.
4. They love good boppy country music.
1. They have classes for green riders similar to our associate classes.
2. More than one person can ride a horse on a day but I think they still have limits.
3. A Pattern (test) will start in the centre, or wherever, with a salute to the judges who are always in the middle of one side. Each pattern takes about 5 minutes.
4. Most work is done at a canter, even green riders are expected to be able to do flying changes.
5. The movements I saw included 20 m circles fast and slow, 10mish circles slow, 20m fast into 10m slow with a flying change in the middle, reinbacks, spins, rollbacks and slides (not sure if that is the correct terminology).
6. Scores are collated and announced immediately.
7. A break/lost pattern (error of course) results in a Zero score. For example, they are supposed to do 3 spins and do 4…gone.
8. They do bit inspections as well after each ride.
9. At the lower levels at least, the flying changes are allowed to be late, but must be fixed within ¼ circle.
10. After each spin set, the horse has to stand dead still and show it is relaxed. Some people stood as long as about 10 seconds, others not so long. The aim is to show that the horse can be wound right up, but still obedient enough to then stand.
Like dressage, the number of riders relying on their hands to get the job done and not their seat or legs was pretty disappointing. The ugly part of this is, the number of gaping mouths when the reins are used harshly ( but unlike dressage, no noseband to help hide the fact).
What did I like ?
Of the 50 or so horses I saw go through, only one showed any glaring disobedience, and that was a smaller young girl on a larger horse that I think was just being a bit smart. Darn sight better than some of the ODE’s or Pony Club events I have judged at.
The crowd clapped, cheered and wolf whistled their appreciation each movement that the rider got right. Yes it could be distracting, but at the same time very supportive and the horses did not seem to mind.
Interestingly, the horses who placed highest in many classes would have been at home in any dressage arena- forward, through, obedient and calm.
Which reinforces the conclusion- a good horse and good training is a good horse and good training, irrespective of what you do with it.
I’d love to have a crack at it one day, but probably not with the princess for a while. I don’t think she’d pass the spin/stand test for a while yet.