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Western Seat/
Reining Seat Equitation

Western Seat/Reining Seat Equitation and Western Horsemanship riders should give the impression of being in absolute control. Riders must have a very[...] secure seat and leg with a quiet, guiding hand as the performance of the horse is also considered. The rider should have purpose, direction, and follow through in all gaits and maneuvers.

The Western Seat/Reining Seat rider should give the appearance of control, adaptability, and the ability to demonstrate how to properly ride a reining horse and perform a reining horse pattern. Riders are judged on seat, hands, and performance of the horse. However, it is the riders who are being judged, and the performance of the horse is not considered more important than the method used to obtain it. Methods used, hand, leg, and body position must be considered, as well as how the aids were applied and what results were achieved. Riders should, show authority and show to the best of their ability.


Riders must wear Western hat, long-sleeved shirt with any type of collar, a necktie, kerchief or bolo tie or brooch, trousers or pants, or a one-piece long-sleeved equitation suit is acceptable provided it includes any type of collar. Chaps and boots are required. A vest, jacket, coat, and/or sweater may also be worn. Horses shall be shown with a stock saddle and a standard Western bit. Standard snaffle bits and hackamores are allowed if riding a junior horse.


In both Western Seat/Reining Seat Equitation and Western Horsemanship, the rider’s body should appear comfortable, relaxed, and flexible while sitting erect and straight in the saddle. The body should be erect and straight but not stiff. Riders should be sitting squarely in the saddle with the legs directly under the body, not pushed forward. The rider’s seat must be secure, heels should be under the rider’s hips, the knee in contact with the saddle, calf in contact with the horse, ankle relaxed, and the heel down. The stirrups should be just short enough to allow the heels to be lower than the toes, and the feet should be placed in the stirrups with the weight on the ball of the foot, not on the tip of the toe or pushed home to the heel. This position gives the rider the most effective use of the aids.

Riders must sit straight and in the center of the horse’s balance, keeping complete contact with the saddle. A quiet, light hand should be held in the proper position while maintaining a consistent head position and balance in all gaits. A secure leg position is necessary for control of the horse and maintaining consistent gaits, transitions, and maneuvers.

At all gaits the rider should be straight with only a slight motion in the saddle, keeping with the rhythm of the horse. Riders are to sit to the jog, and at the lope should be close to the saddle without popping out of the saddle or leaning back. At all gaits the rider’s legs must remain directly underneath the body and the upper body must not fall behind or in front of the vertical. All movements of the horse should be governed by the use of imperceptible aids. The obvious shifting of the rider’s weight, leaning to direct the horse, or over-use of spurring, should be penalized.

Since riders only use one hand for reining, it is imperative that the rider uses the hand, seat, and legs in coordination to guide the horse.

Arms are held in a straight line with the body. The reining hand— or the hand holding the reins— is bent at the elbow. Only one hand is used for reining regardless of the type of bit used. Hands should not be changed during the class. However, either hand may be used for reining and either is considered correct.

When romal reins are used the hand is to be around the reins. The rider can hold romal reins or the ends of split reins with the free hand— the hand not used for reining— to keep them from swinging and to adjust the position of the reins, provided it is held with at least sixteen inches of rein between the hands.

When using romal reins or when the ends of split reins are held in the hand not used for reining, no finger is allowed between the reins. All fingers are around the reins with the thumb on top and the reining hand is held in a vertical position. The position of the rider’s free hand is optional but should be kept free of the horse and equipment and held in a relaxed manner with the rider’s body straight at all times. It is common for a rider using romal reins to allow the free hand to rest securely on the thigh, keeping the elbow close to the body and the shoulders straight and even. The free hand should not float, change positions, or bounce around.

When using split reins and the ends of the reins fall on the same side as the reining hand, one finger is permitted between the reins. The reining hand is held in a natural position, not necessarily vertical. The position of the free hand is optional, but should be kept free of the horse and equipment and held in a relaxed manner with the body straight. Riders often hold the free hand in a position bending at the elbow, or resting securely on the thigh. Either is acceptable. The elbow is close to the body and the shoulders are straight and even. The free hand should not change positions, move or bounce around.

Using either method of holding the reins, the reining hand should be above the horn and as near to it as possible. Bracing against the horn, saddle, or riata is penalized.

Class Routine

Riders enter the ring at a walk or jog and are judged at a flat-footed four beat walk, two-beat jog, and a three-beat lope both ways of the ring. The order to reverse may be executed by turning toward or away from the rail. All competitors are required to back in a straight line during the line up in all classes. Judges are encouraged to call for at least two tests to be performed by competitors being considered for an award. Judges can choose from a list of tests.

Western Horsemanship

In Western Horsemanship, emphasis should be placed on the horse and the rider working together. Rail work is optional at the discretion of the judge. Execution of required gaits, transitions, tests, and correct form of both horse and rider, while maintaining a pleasurable ride, are the important factors.

When performing the pattern in a Western Horsemanship class, riders should show complete control, precision, accuracy, and smoothness. Execution and correct form of both the horse and rider while maintaining a pleasurable ride are the main criteria for this class.

Portions of the text provided courtesy of the Arabian Horse Association, Education/Evaluation Commission.

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