Maintaining Control Can Help Maximize Your Ranch Reining Scores
Ranch reining is one of six classes in Versatility Ranch Horse (VRH), one of the world's fastest-growing Western riding competitions. But rest assured, you don't need to ride a professional reiner to score high in this class.
"Versatility reining classes highlight how well the horse handles. A ranch horse needs to be able to turn around properly, lift his shoulder and use his rear end as an anchor," explains Kevin Oliver, AQHA Professional Horseman and sponsored rider and advisor to Farnam Companies, Inc. A top trainer, Oliver is a successful competitor in Versatility Ranch Horse (VRH), and also an AQHA specialty judge in VRH.
While these movements are perfected in National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) classes, in VRH competition, judges are looking for willingness more than perfection of each maneuver. The maneuvers should be done correctly, but judges aren't expecting the same level of perfection as at an NRHA show. For example, versatility horses aren't expected to "spin a hole in the ground," because they don't specialize solely in reining.
VRH reining differs from NRHA classes in other ways, as well.
Another difference is how much contact is allowed.
"A judge won't be as critical of your contact with the horse's mouth as if you were showing in NRHA competition," says Oliver. "In NRHA, they don't want to see contact, but in VRH reining the judge expects to see some contact because you're giving the horse direction with the reins."
"In reining, you really want to emphasize control of speed. You want the horse to always be looking to 'come back' to you," Oliver notes. "Too many people just want to go out and run a hole in the wind, and then they have to really pull on the horse, because he's not used to coming back to them."
"In reining, you really want to emphasize control of speed. You want the horse to always be looking to 'come back' to you"
"A lot of people work on their run down by running hard and pulling on the horse's face. They really try to maximize the stop, but the whole rundown is being scored," Oliver points out. "You want a gradual build-up of speed and control of the horse the entire time, but the stop should be immediate.
When it comes to turnarounds, again, the build up of speed should be gradual, but again, the stop should be immediate.
This kind of control can only be perfected by repetition with the gradual introduction of speed and then bringing the horse back down again. Doing this will increase your horse's confidence and comfort level because he knows every time you ask him to speed up, you're also going to bring him back down.
"This will also help you in ranch riding classes, because it about control of speed," adds Oliver.
Kevin Oliver was a featured presenter at Equine Affaire, November 10-13, 2016, held at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts. For more information, visit http://www.equineaffaire.com/massachusetts/
If life experience is the best teacher, Kevin Oliver has been a model student. This fifth-generation Texan is a lifelong horseman whose cowboy roots have provided a firm foundation for his work as a successful trainer and top competitor. An AQHA Professional Horseman, Oliver is also a sponsored rider and adviser to Farnam Companies, Inc. We caught up with him at his ranch in Canyon, Texas, to find out how the twists and turns of life have brought him to this point and how the cowboy influence is apparent in his training philosophy...
Versatility Ranch Horse (VRH) has become one of the fastest-growing Western riding competitions in the world. The various classes are all about promoting the horse's athletic ability and versatility by performing skills routinely used by working ranch cowboys.