There is something truly magical about witnessing a rider and their horse maneuvering in complete synchronicity.
I had the treat of a lifetime being able to witness first hand an amateur “Reining” Event in Idaho Falls, featuring about 30 of the finest and most skilled riders. Among those competing in the event was Dr. Gene Williams, the father of a very good friend of mine. “Reining” is a specific type of horse riding competition that resembles the skills required for ranchers and cattlemen to work their cattle. If you can imagine a large herd of cows and a rancher needing to separate one specific cow from the rest of the herd, you can begin to envision the maneuvers and skills that would be demanded. Gene is no new comer to this sport. He has been riding and competing on both the amateur and professional levels for over 25 years.
Rider and steed racing forward in the ring, cutting sharp angle turns, pivoting on a dime, roaring in the opposite direction, lurching to a full stop, and then backing up, in a direct straight line, all without what seems to be even the slightest of commands. Absolutely astounding.
I know little, if not nothing, about horseback riding. Only enough to say that it is a lot harder than it appears. As a kid, my best friend and I decided we wanted to try our hand at riding, so after a lot of prodding of our parents, they finally relented, and sent us both off for 7 weeks in the summer to a blazingly hot ranch in the Arizona desert. I learned a lot that summer, and took a lot of lumps. For the first two weeks it seemed I was working on perfecting a daily ritual of getting thrown off my horse. One time while in a full gallop, headlong over my horse’s shoulders, and nearly getting trampled in the process. That whole summer experience taught both of us a lot, specifically that we needed to change activities. We both agreed, next summer, we’d try climbing. .
All the more reason for my enormous respect for the incredible talent that was on display. As Gene entered the ring, sitting tall in the saddle, ready for his shot at the title, it starts to sink in that what I am witnessing is really not just a singular event, but rather the culmination of years and years of training, for both rider and horse.
Reining, as I learned from Gene’s son Adam, consists of a group of different riding patterns. Each pattern requires the horse and rider to perform several specific maneuvers, in an exact sequence. Here’s the catch. You do not know which pattern you will be judged on, until the event gets underway. So you and your horse have to be trained and ready to perform whatever is required. Gene certainly did not disappoint. He masterfully pulled off a near perfect ride. I have to mention this, though Gene may never speak to me again for doing so, but Gene just celebrated his 80thBirthday. I know that for a fact, because I attended his surprise 80th birthday party just a few months back.
The skills, and dedication to craft that all the riders displayed that day, were truly inspiring. The horses also seem to transmit a clear signal that they fully understand and appreciate that what they are doing is an art, which sets them a breed apart. Just like their rider’s, their heads are held high.