Aug. 22—WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Reining reigned supreme Monday afternoon at the Crawford County Fairgrounds as more than 70 horses and their riders worked as one to show off the athletic ability of ranch-type equines in the arena.
Reining is a sport that combines speed, riding skill and horse training as competitors run one of several approved patterns, according to the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA).
Each pattern includes small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, roll backs over the horse's hocks, 360-degree spins done in place, backups and sliding stops that are the hallmark of the reining horse, according to the NRHA.
"What makes a good reining rider? Somebody who's been at it a long, long time that has good horsemanship," Rick Brown, 65, said with a laugh. "You need to have a mentor. Somebody to ride with."
For Brown, it was trial and error when he started out in the 1970s because he didn't have a mentor.
These days he operates Maple Grove Performance Horses and Training Stables with his daughter, Shauna, in the Lincolnville area just south of Canadohta Lake.
"I went to the 'School of Hard Knocks,'" Brown said with a smile. "It took me a long time to learn what I could have learned in a lot less time had I been with somebody who knew something."
Brown did teach himself well, however, training his own Quarter Horses and competing in National Reining Horse Association events. He even reached a world top-10 ranking in two reining divisions in 2010.
"It's the most technical western sport that there is," he said. "It's just that drive to get one (horse) just better and better and better and it takes years to do so."
For another competitor, Kaylee English, it was the challenge of trying something new.
"I'm here for the fun of it," said English, 21, of Cochranton. "The (horse) games are more my forte, and barrel racing."
English said she's been into horseback riding all her young life — even being carried in her mother's arms on horseback when she was a baby.
"I like to try new things. It (reining) looks like fun and I never had done it before," English said of why she entered the fair's competition.
Riding Romeo, a horse that she borrowed from her friend, Haylee Caszatt of Cochranton, English was confident in the ring and afterward as well.
Asked if she thought reining was all she expected it to be, English answered with a resounding "Yes."
"I just saw and learned the pattern yesterday (Sunday)," she said. "I'm someone to just jump in and do it."
Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.