Monday, February 14, 2011

Choosing a Reining Prospect

I know most of you are anxious to get to the "good stuff" but, just as training a reining horse does, Reining Training Tips starts with "groundwork" - a little advice about choosing a reining prospect. (I know many of you will enter your reining experience by buying a trained reining horse, so the next post will be that.)

Selecting a reining prospect can be overwhelming. If you are new to reining and wish to take this route (buying a prospect and having him trained), then I would suggest that you enlist the help of your trainer or someone who has experience in the reining industry. Take someone you trust and take his advice. Decide how much you can spend and ask him what you can get for that dollar. Consider as well how much money must be added to the purchase price before you can show! Buying a prospect may be the right option for you if you enjoy watching your horse learn and/or you would like to show a futurity horse (Ask your trainer if that is a realistic goal).

What attributes must a reining prospect have?
1. Good breeding. A great pedigree does not always mean a great reining horse, but it's a good start.
2. Good conformation. The reining prospect should have correct, athetic conformation and he has to be sound and look like he will stay that way - no structural weaknesses that could cause unsoundness with the demands of the sport.
3. A "trainable" disposition and "willing to learn" attitude.
4. Courage and heart.

How do I find a prospect with these attributes? 
1. Breeding. Check out the performance record of both the sire and the dam. If they are both performers in the reining pen, then that's a good start. If the dam has not performed, but is leaving performers, that is good as well. Of course, those prospects will probably be higher priced, so that may dictate your decision but remember that the breeding influences everything else - all the following points!
2. Conformation: You can't undervalue conformation. Balance is everything. I always watch the horse running free to see how he moves. I love a pretty-moving horse and the judges do too! The reining horse should move flat, long and low, with his hind legs well under him and a lot of reach.
I like a pretty head with soft, wide-set eyes and large nostrils. The neck should come straight out of the withers and the throatlatch should be clean, shoulders sloping and wither the same height as the croup. (If the wither is lower, the center of gravity is forward and the horse cannot pick up his front end easily). Back and loins need to be strong, hips long and powerful, cannons short and feet well-shaped with large heels and healthy frogs.
3. Disposition and Attitude - I like to see a sense of cooperation in the reining prospect. He should be smart for sure, but also happy. I like him to look at me like he sees me, curious but not spooky.
4. Courage and Heart - A horse has "heart" if he gives you all that he has to give when you ask. You probably won't know if your horse has courage and heart until you show him but you can, however, tell a lot from his breeding and his disposition, which is what you have to go on when you are choosing a prospect. "Heart" comes from a good mind and a quiet, trainable attitude. It also comes from a trust-bond between horse and rider.

Wildwood Liberty at one year old - an excellent example of a reining prospect.

Liberty at one year - one thing I like to see when I watch a prospect move - he wants to stop!
 These are a few guidelines to selecting a reining prospect, one that has not been ridden yet. Next post I will talk about choosing a trained reining horse.

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