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NRHA Handbook Maneuvers & Pattern Descriptions

With perspective from Corey Wilson

May 25, 2018 


The NRHA Handbook shows us many ways that we can prepare and show our horses to their best potential.  The  Maneuvers sections show us pertinent details on how the judges evaluate each group of maneuvers.  It's important to realize when we are showing that the maneuvers listed on the score sheets are maneuver groups.  Let's go to the handbook and look at some more breakdowns:

Maneuver Scores
As described earlier in this guide, the NRHA has divided each pattern into sets of maneuvers.  It is the judge's responsibility to evaluate the maneuver groups individually and rate each maneuver group on the following scale:
-1 1/2     Extremely Poor
-1           Very Poor
-1/2        Poor
0            Correct

+1/2       Good

+1          Very Good

+1 1/2    Excellent

(2) In evaluating a maneuver, a judge should consider the horse's performance based on the following hierarchy of concerns:
      (a) On Pattern: The judge must ensure that the maneuver being performed by horse and rider is the correct maneuver as dictated by the pattern.

      (b) Correctness: Having ascertained that the horse and rider are performing the maneuver required by the pattern, the judge must then ascertain whether the maneuver is being executed correctly.  In this regard, the judge must evaluate the performance of the maneuver against the requirements of the maneuver descriptions listed in this guide.  In each group of maneuvers, the judge must ascertain that the horse has been dictated to completely and the basic elements of the maneuver have been fulfilled regardless of the degree of difficulty.
      (c) Degree of difficulty: Having ascertained that the horse and rider are on pattern and have performed the maneuver group correctly, the judge must evaluate the degree of difficulty in completing the maneuver.  Credit for degree of difficulty should be given for using smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness, authority and controlled speed while completing a correct maneuver.

(3) It is recommended that a judge use the same scale for evaluating a manevuer, regardless of the level of competition at an NRHA event and regardless of the ground and other conditions.  When utilizing the above scoring methodology, it is critically important that a judge evaluate the entire maneuver group.  For example, in maneuver six of pattern 8, a judge is required to evaluate all of the following:
      (a) the run around the end of the arena

      (b) the approach to the stop

      (c) the stop

      (d) the rollback
      (e) the exit from the rollback

From reading over this section we can see how important it is to execute each component of a maneuver group, correctly.  To better understand the specifics of each maneuver group we can read through the Pattern Descriptions portion of the handbook, as it is a good black and white account of exactly what the judges evaluate and score.

Let's briefly go over some of the Maneuvers as described in the handbook:

Taken directly from the 2018 NRHA Handbook:

As mentioned earlier, judges are required to score a reining horse based on its execution of the maneuver groups required in each pattern.  All NRHA patterns are divided into seven or eight maneuver groups.


The descriptions of the maneuvers are listed in the handbook, however, we will not go over each one.  Use the link provided at the end to read through and become familiar with the descriptions of each maneuver.  The maneuvers that are scored are as follows:  Walk-In, Jog-In, Stops, Spins, Rollbacks, Circles, Backups, Hesitate, Lead Changes, and Run Downs and Run-Arounds.  We will go over a couple of the maneuvers and get a feel for how they are broken down.

STOPS: Stops are the act of slowing the horse from a lope to a stop position by bringing the hind legs under the horse in a locked position, sliding on the hind feet.  The horse should enter the stop position by bending the back, bringing the hind legs further under the body while maintaining forward motion, ground contact, and cadence with front legs.  Throughout the stop, the horse should continue in a straight line while maintaining ground contact with the hind feet.


The STOP is the signature maneuver of a reining horse.  From the handbook's description above we get a clear guideline to strive towards.  The Stop is usually grouped with the Run Downs, Rollbacks, or Backups.  We will break down a couple things after reading the Run Downs description:

Run Downs and Run-Arounds: Run Downs are runs through the middle of the arena, and runs along the side and ends of the arena.  Run Downs and Run-Arounds should demonstrate control and gradual speed to the Stop.


Significant elements from these maneuvers are demonstrating control and gradual speed to the stop, a slowing...from a lope to a stop position with the signature "sliding stop", maintaining forward motion, cadence in the front legs, continuing in a straight line, and maintaining ground contact with the hind feet.  From these descriptions we have a clearer understanding as to how a maneuver group is evaluated and scored.  Let's remember from the Maneuver Scores section that it is recommended  that a judge use the same scale for evaluating a maneuver, regardless of the level of competion, ground, and other conditions.  No matter what reason our horses may or may not perform a maneuver well, the judge is following the NRHA guidelines for scoring. 


We are fortunate that most NRHA shows now have videographers.  Comparing our pattern reviews with the descriptions in the NRHA Handbook can show us where we can improve.   The NRHA has an incredible program for judges, and has done an excellent job providing its members with the maneuver and pattern descriptions, penalty applications, and maneuver scoring - all compiled in a handy booklet.  In going over the Judges' Guide we copied and quoted a lot of information, because it is important to remember that we have access to all of the scoring guidelines.  When we understand how the patterns should be executed in accordance with their descriptions, and understand how the judges view and evaluate maneuvers, we can work towards successfully showing our horses - every time.

Use the link to the online NRHA Handbook (pages 147-148)


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