SHERIDAN — The Sheridan WYO Rodeo brings fans of the sport to the northeast portion of Wyoming for a week filled with pageantry, competition and community.
In an effort to capitalize on the big week, and even add a little to it, the Cowboy State Reining Horse Association held a horse reining clinic over the weekend at the Sheridan College Agripark.
“The WYO Rodeo for a couple years actually helped us financially with our horse shows to get it started because their mission is encouraging the cowboy way of life,” said Nancy Pfeiffer, the CSRHA treasurer. “So this year, in a way to make rodeo week a little bigger, it was suggested that we put this on the schedule.”
The clinic featured 10 participants receiving extensive instruction from National Reining Horse Association trainer Sam Schaffhauser.
Schaffhauser traveled to Sheridan from Tennessee just a few days removed from a NHRA derby in Oklahoma City. Schaffhauser had never visited the Equality State, and while the area left an impression on him, Schaffhuaser’s tutelage made an even stronger impression on his participants.
“It’s really a treat to have somebody like [Schaffhauser] to be able to come and teach us,” said Pfieffer, who took part in the clinic.
The Tennessee native also walked away pleased with how everyone, of all skill levels, improved.
“They were good,” Schaffhauser said. “We had some that were upper-level non-pros that rode that had really nice horses and had some pretty good skills down to the ones that are just starting out. … They all did really good, and the horses were good, so it was a lot of fun.”
Schaffhauser guided horses and riders through the main aspects of a reining-horse competition. Riders learned how to dictate their horse to circle — which entails accelerating and decelerating — spin and come to a sliding stop.
A competitive reining-horse pattern encompasses seven tasks. The opening step features four spins to the right, followed by four spins to the left. The horse and rider then complete three circles to the left — the first two being large and fast and the last one small and tight — and then the same motion is duplicated to the right.
The horse and rider duo then makes a larger circle to the left but doesn’t close it off and instead runs along the side the arena edge before doing a rollback. The same task is performed on the opposite side of the arena, as well.
The pair completes the pattern with a siding stop followed by the horse backing up at least 10 feet with the rider dismounting for a finish.
Judges score a performance based on a competitor’s precision. The NRHA definition of a successful ride is: “To rein a horse is not only to guide it, but also to control its every movement. The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.”
The sport of horse reining has grown regionally in the last few years, and the reining clinic this weekend provided further proof of that. While the clinic only featured 10 participants — so as everyone involved would receive extensive one-on-one instruction from Schaffhauser — more wanted to sign up.
Sheridan embraces its rodeo each and every year, and this year’s spectacle featured a new event to get people in an equine state of mind.