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Reining Glossary of Terms
This is a list of the special terms used in the reining discipline. Some terms cross over to other events. Other general terms that mean the same in all events I did not list here for example "flying lead change" means the same in every riding discipline and is not defined here. The terms listed focus on showing in a reining class and the definitions of the various reining class maneuvers.


A maneuver called in a reining pattern. Loping a circle that takes up half of the arena. There are 2 types of circles, Large, Fast and Small, Slow. the intent is to show degree of difficulty and that the horse is willfully guided. Each circle element has a transition element of either Fast to slow, or slow to fast. The other maneuver demonstrated during circling is a flying lead change.

Degree of difficulty

Term used to help a judge score a maneuver. A high degree of difficulty for a well-performed maneuver will receive a higher score than the same maneuver done with a lesser degree of difficulty. Degree of difficulty does not mean "going fast" as a well performed slow loping lead change is a higher degree of difficulty than a lead change done at a faster lope.


Casual term used to describe the tilling up of the show arena soil to keep it smooth for the competitors. A drag happens anywhere from every 7 to 15 horses depending on how the show arena dirt is. Sometimes the center gets very deep and more drags are necessary to keep it safe.


This is a random generated listing of when the competitors are going to have their turn in the class. In reining everyone goes one at at time.


A training and warm up exercise where the horse runs from one end of the arena to the other end, building speed at intervals called by the rider until they reach the other end. at the far end the horse melts into a sliding stop so they are stopped right at the fence.


Indicators or labels that break up the arena into various areas where the rider is required to perform various maneuvers. Markers are most likely to be orange cones. The arena is divided into thirds. Key markers to keep track of are: the Middle markers for circling, turnarounds and perimeter rundowns, end markers for middle rundowns

Minus maneuver

A maneuver done not very well showing little or no degree of difficulty.

No Score

NRHA is very strict on it rules regarding treatment of reining horses. Each horse is checked after every go for legal equipment use as well as for blood and if in either case a violation is found by the checking judge, the horse's score is pulled and a record of the violation is filed with NRHA.


National Reining Horse Association - Here is the definition from their website: Founded in 1966, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is an organization dedicated to the promotion of the reining horse. It serves as the standard setting body for the sport of reining world wide. NRHA has an online version of their handbook which has all the rules and patterns that are to be followed.

Plus maneuver

A maneuver done well showing a high degree of difficulty.

Roll back

After completing a stop, the rider will pause and then ask the horse to rotate back on their haunches and lope off in the direction they just came from. A good stop and pause is key to the horse being able to roll back over their haunches well. The completion of the roll back completes the stopping maneuver called in a reining pattern

Run down

The maneuver preceding the stop where the horse builds speed in preparation for the call to stop. The proper execution of a run down is key to ensuring a good stop

Skid boots

Special protective leg wear for the horses back legs that wraps around the fetlock protecting against injuries from stopping.


A maneuver called in a reining pattern. This maneuver is performed at a gallop. The horse builds speed as they travel the length of the arena and after passing the required marker the rider will ask the horse to stop which will result in the horse sliding on their back legs, traveling with the front legs resulting in a sliding motion. The faster and harder the stop, the greater degree of difficult is shown. Per the NRHA rule book a stop is judged on three elements: the Run down, the stop itself, and the rollback.

Turn Around

Rotating in place on the inside back foot. Akin to a pivot but at a much faster pace. Typically in a reining pattern the maneuver calls for 4 to 4 1/4 turns. The horse demonstrates this maneuver in both directions.

willfully guided

The NRHA uses this term in the rulebook to denote a horse that is performing a pattern in a pleasant manner. Behaviors that show willfullness include quiet mouth, quiet tail, ears listening to rider, but not pinned back. Posture relaxed and attentive. Behaviors that do NOT show willfullness include tail swishing and ringing, ears pinned, gaping mouth, chewing on the bit or head up and ears forward looking out the arena.

Zero Score

If for any reason the rider goes off pattern, the result is a zero score. This is not a penalty in any way, it means that the rider is not scored for that class.

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