- Created on Wednesday, 15 December 2010
- Written by Pat Fuerstein & Erin Haynes (Waltenberry Photo)
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Seasoned reiners offer their expert tips for how to execute turnarounds and avoid spin penalties.
It can happen to anyone, from the most seasoned professional to the greenest of rookie. It can happen in any arena, in a schooling class or during the National Reining Horse Association Futurity finals. It’s known as under- or over-spinning, and it’s something no reiner wants to do when winning is on the line. Depending on how short or over horse and rider are of the number of turns indicated in the pattern, a penalty of half- point to one point from each judge, or a zero score if the fault is more than a quarter turn, can result.
Nerves, excitement, distractions: Any of these can take a rider’s mind away from counting spins. However, these seasoned reiners have developed some strategies for how to count turnarounds, execute them accurately and avoid penalties, as well as for how to move on if the unfortunate mistake occurs.
Whether you’ve been suffering from inaccurate turnarounds for some time, or simply need a booster shot to refresh your technique, no worries, the “spin doctors” are in.
Brandon Brant London, Ohio
One of the things I do is I count, “zero, one, two, three, whoa.” I never say “four.” There are four spins, but if you go to saying “four,” you’re going to usually spin five times. The other thing I think in that turnaround is that horse has got to turn by itself. If you’ve got to drag him around that turnaround, it’s hard to count, and drag one around and kick and cluck. So, I think it’s crucial that when you prepare that horse, you get him thinking about that maneuver on his own, so you can concentrate on counting.
I start the maneuver, drop my hand and hopefully they spin until I tell them to stop, and I can concen- trate on counting. It makes it a little easier. But not all horses go in there and turn the same they do in the warm-up pen, so you may have to use a cue of some sort. Put your leg in there; they’ve got to speed up off your leg or something like that to where it doesn’t crack your concentration.
I shut off a quarter before where I’ve got to stop. I teach my horses that. That gives them a step lee- way to kind of shut off, and hopefully I’m fortunate enough to be where I’ve got to be.
Roger Brazeau Collinsville, Texas
You have to practice counting spins – period. It doesn’t matter how many times you spin when you’re practicing, but decide how many you are going to do, where you’re going to start and when you’re going to stop, and practice that.
For every one under-spin, you’ll see 50 to 60 over- spins. Something probably happened during that spin and you lost count. I tell my students, if they’re show- ing and lose count – stop. The best part about that is that if you under-spin, usually your buddy yells at you. Then you can do one more spin and only have a two- point penalty for a freeze-up instead of a zero for doing five spins.
Kelle Smith Marietta, Okla.
At home, I practice spinning five times. The reason is I never want the horse to get used to shut- ting off at four. So I practice just one more. It keeps my horses from thinking, “Shut off.” It allows me to practice counting my spins and not teach them a bad habit. I need to practice for me, but I’m showing young horses, and if I always shut them off at four, I’d never get them to turn four times in the pen; they’d start anticipating that shut off.
But I do practice counting spins, and the way I count mine when I show is I get to three and a half in the arena, and I turn my head to where four is going to be. I just have a good concept of where I’m at, and I always know when I’m at the backside of where I started. So I count to three and a half, turn my head to where I started and say “whoa.” And by the time I turn my head and say “whoa,” the horse is there and it’s the shut off. I usually try to avoid those spin pen- alties by being a half of a circle in front of the horse.
But I practice the five spins at home. I make sure I always count to five, sometimes I do six. But I always practice that half thing [turning head and saying “whoa”].
We all over-spin at some point. You sit there and you go, “Gosh darn it!” And then you’re usually more aggressive in the pattern, because you know you just zeroed that [maneuver] because you had a penalty. Or if you had a zero turn, you’re in a minus situation. So it usually makes me even more aggressive. I don’t ever fret about it or worry about it. I’m thinking about really trying to make that up and step it up.
The best people – the top professionals – have turn penalties. A lot of times it costs them the reining just because of a half a point. I think it’s the easiest pen- alty to eliminate and the easiest one to practice, because you are in control of the horse through the turns. So to me, that solid plus-half turn doesn’t need to have that penalty and take your horse’s plus-half turn to a zero.
Casey Deary Weatherford, Texas
I will always count “one, two, three, whoa.” I don’t count until the first revo- lution is complete. I see the cones or the judges. I don’t focus on them – because I’m still focused on what I’m doing. I generally cluck with the completion of each turn. I’ll cluck when I get started, and I’ll cluck when I go by there [judge or cone], cluck when I go by there again, cluck when I go by there a third time and then “whoa.” It helps me keep my rhythm and find that center, but it also keeps that horse moving around the turn.
I generally don’t practice four turns, maybe I’ll do five or six. I have my non-pros or my amateurs prac- tice four occasionally, but I don’t ever want that horse to think about stopping at four. They will count, and you’ll get them to where they’ll get to three and a half, and they start quitting and you can’t get them around.
Generally, my theory is if I’ve spun five times and I know it, then I’m going to school [the horse]. If I’m not sure, then I’m going to keep showing, because there’s a good chance that I miscounted or the judge miscounted. If I have a penalty where it’s a disqualification, then I school.
If I have a penalty half [point] or a penalty one [point] – the rulebook says you have to hesitate between your spins, but it doesn’t say how long – what I generally do is if I have a penalty, I’m going to shut if off for just a second, then I’m going to go the other way.
I just don’t dwell. I don’t want to advertise that I have that penalty. So I make sure that when I’m turning, if I’ve overturned, if I have that penalty, I shut them off and then I go directly to that next maneuver. I don’t ever want to fix it. A lot of people will get to that spot and try to readjust the horse back to center. To me, that’s just added work that nearly takes away from what you’re after.
The NRHA rulebook says that the rider has the benefit of the doubt. Let’s just say that it’s at the Futurity and I’ve got five guys looking at me. Chair One is going to see something different from what Chair Four is going to see. So if I have that half [point] turn pen- alty and then I correct it, then I’ve told that judge that can’t necessarily see the best angle, “Yes, I was an over-turn.” If I shut off and I’m confident, and I start that next maneuver, if he’s got a doubt in his mind, then he has to give me the credit.
Charles Smith Ocala, Fla.
Subconsciously, the last thing in your mind, you’ll do next. So I tell my non-pros to walk to the center – or wherever they’re going to spin – and take a picture in their mind of what they’re going to do. Envision the spins. Count the spins out loud – “one, two, three, whoa.” That’s before they ever start to spin. And be sure to trade “whoa” for the word four.
I also tell them that the first spin belongs to the horse. The horse has to get started and get his cadence going. You have to give the horse direction in that first spin, and then motion with your leg for more speed.
A lot of people start with their leg asking for speed first. Then the horse doesn’t get into sync. Draw your hand and give the horse a direction to go. Open the door with your leg. Steer them in the first spin. Then add speed with your leg.
A lot of people ask for speed on their first spin. Then the horse leaps out or jumps off to the side. That’s where a lot of over-spins come from. The horse must start first. He has to get his front end moving. Then you can add speed to it.
Which spin would you like to be fastest – the first one or the last one? Which one do you want the judge to remember? And besides, if you start up fast and the horse slows up, that’s a negative. If a horse has a glitch on the first spin, 99 percent of the people quit counting. You have stay with it. You have to focus and concentrate – one thing at a time. And you must envi- sion those four spins before you start.
Mandy McCutcheon Aubrey, Texas
If I lose count, for sure I listen for some backup, for someone to cheer. As far as shutting off without getting a penalty, in that last spin I look for that marker in the middle. If I have a horse that shuts off real well, I try to be soft with my hand. If I have one I have to help him shut off a little bit, I try to get my hand to meet that judge when I say “whoa.”
It just depends on your horse [when you shut off ]: the timing of your horse, the rhythm of your horse, how big a step they take. It’s one of those things you have to prac- tice on each horse.
Bob Feuerstein, Ocala, Fla.
I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’s easy to count spins on my horse. I just say “onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne, twoooooooooooo, threeeeeeeeeeeeeee, fourrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”