Big, sure-footed horses look right at home in the show ring as they execute maneuvers that Western horses use while working cattle, all under the watchful eyes of judges. The rider keeps the reins in one hand, leaving the other hand free for tasks on the ranch like opening gates from horseback. It's a sport of speed, sliding and stopping on a dime.
H ow it ' s s c ored
Reining is scored by five judges who start with a score of 70 and add or subtract points for each maneuver. Up to 1.5 points are added or subtracted for each technical maneuver. A scorekeeper keeps track of the judges' scores, tabulates the numbers and announces the score at the end of each run. Highest score wins. The Games will feature individual and team competitions. Men and women compete against each other in the same classes.
W h at to watch
Riders must run one of 10 approved patterns divided into maneuvers including small, slow circles and large, fast circles; flying lead changes; 360-degree spins in place; and sliding stops in which the horse lowers its hind quarters and skids to a halt. A footing of dirt and sand over a clay base is crucial for reining. Horses cannot perform in soil that is too wet or too hard.
Spectat o r etiquette
Unlike many other events at the Games, loud is good in the reining ring. Applause is encouraged, as are whistles and whoops, all accompanied by background music.
■ Nearly all reining horses are quarter horses because of their speed and agility.
■ With cowboy hats and jeans, reining riders look ready to head for the wide-open spaces. But these are competitive athletes, more at home in a show ring than riding the range.
■ This sport has its roots deep in the American West, and the United States has dominated reining since its first appearance at the World Equestrian Games in 2002. But international competitors are catching up.
■ Reining is the fastest-growing discipline of the eight that will be featured at the Games, and in somewhat unexpected places including Slovakia and Finland. These countries don't have ranches or ranges but love the sport that celebrates that way of life.
Countries competing (based on preliminary nominations): 18 countries have reining teams; four countries will be represented by individuals.
Individuals competing: 85 athletes have been nominated to compete in reining.
Awards: Medals and trophies will be presented to the top teams and the top individuals.
BEVERLY FORTUNE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Team competition, part 1, 9 a.m.
Team competition, part 2, 2 p.m.
Team competition, part 3, 7:30 a.m.
Team competition, part 4, 11 a.m.
Qualifying competition, 9 a.m.
Individual final competition, 1 p.m.
Freestyle exhibition, 6 p.m.