Does Reining Hurt Horses? The Sad Truth

Is Reining Hard on Horses

Does reining hurt horses? This is an all too common question among riders who care for their horses health and are interested in the sport of reining.

What is Reining?

Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. Reining is done at the canter or gallop. Reining is in some ways similar to dressage and is often seen as the western equivalent. Reining can trace its origins back to the days of cowboys in the west.

So Does Reining Hurt Horses?

The answer to this question is yes, reining is very demanding and hard on the horses joints and causes mild/serious arthritis later when they are ridden a lot. The repetitive trauma from the movements involved in reining such as performing fast circles at a gallop increase the likelihood of arthritis appearing greatly.

Horses that have been involved in reining often require a significant number of injections later in life to deal with the arthritis. This is not only expensive but is also in our opinion cruel on the horse.

Arthritis in Horses

Osteoarthritis more commonly known as Arthritis is unfortunately very common in horses, especially in the ageing horse population. Arthritis It is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain and inflammation just as it does in humans. Over time, the inflammation from the Arthritis damages the cartilage within a joint beyond repair, leading to chronic pain.

If osteoarthritis is detected and treated early on in a horses life it is possible that the horse makes a full recovery with a complete cure occuring. Sadly this is not normally the case and most horses with arthritis struggle with it for the rest of their lives. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of a horses retirement.

Joint injections are commonly used to relieve pain and inflammation caused by arthritis in horses.

The most common symptoms of arthritis in horses are swollen joints, stiffness, uneven gait, short stride and lameness. 

Does Reining Hurt Horses? Arguments Against

While reining can become hard on a horses joints. It really does not have to be. A well-bred, quality and well conformed horse bred to rein and trained, conditioned properly and well maintained will have little to no problems at all. But, a horse that is overused, not worked out properly and lacking the best conformation for reining can and probably will have problems later in the horse life.

There are testimonies of people having reiners who have not suffered any serious joint issues even in their 20’s. These horses were all extremely well cared for.

Is Reining Hard on Horses

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Like any training/discipline, it still comes down to how early a horse started and how hard a horse trained for. This goes for reining, jumping, western pleasure, dressage, or whatever. We’ve seen a lot of aged reiners that do not require injections and are 100% fine and sound.

Something you should totally avoid is pushing a horse past the point where it is conditioned for the work. Ensure you understand and respect the horse capabilities (both physical level of exertion and skill) and don’t push it beyond what it can take and you’ll avoid potential injuries.

Lastly, there are lots of reining trainers who just administer adequate injections per month. Some trainers start the horses too young, which can be a contributing factor. I would never advise anyone buy an aged reiner unless of course, you have the best vet in town as your best friend.

So does reining hurt horses? It really depends on how much the horse is used in the discipline however we would argue that it is.