Building the Reining Spin
Here is an approach to schooling spins. This is for the horse that has some experience, not the younger horse still figuring out foot work and staying in the turn on his own. This is to brighten up the broker horse’s spin by working on the startup, body position in the spin, speed, and the shut off. It is kind of simple, but there is a lot going on to be aware of. Get your horse trotting on a loose rein. It makes it easier if you are two-handed, but a horse that is really broke could probably stay one-handed. The goal with the trot is to encourage forward motion for the pivot foot. There are only a couple of things to think about here –
1. Make sure your horse is really stepping forward with the trot - it’s not a jog.
2. Don’t let your pattern get too big - too big is too easy.
Make your horse turn often; corners are very helpful. If your horse is swinging a hip out or dropping a shoulder, ask for a turn in the opposite direction. Keep them guessing. By keeping your horse busy with a lot of rights and lefts, they will start to focus better and balance themselves.
Once you have your horse willingly going forward and right and left, you can start to think about the spin. From the trot drive your feet down as though to ask for a stop, but pull your horse into a turn in either direction. Hold him in the turn as long as it takes for him to figure out it’s not a roll back. Use your feet like you want to help your horse understand the direction and impulsion you're asking for, but don’t rush them to start the turn. You are not spurring them into a spin; you are guiding them into a spin. Open one leg and close the other. You don't want your horse to be nervous about what is happening. You want them solving the request you gave them, which is to turn – not react. You want them to think their way through the exercise, not trying to survive it. It’s not going to be pretty for a little bit, but a cool spin is coming. Reward your horse for any effort to turn on their own by letting them out of the turn. Then stop and sit. Show your horse you are happy. You could pet on him, but asking your horse to settle in the bridle is just as good and looks good. By settle, I mean drop his head while standing. They can appreciate the reward and the confidence booster.
The exercise isn't over. You need both directions, and your horse needs to learn to stay in the spin longer – working toward the desired speed and cadence you will eventually want. Remember to reward your horse for any effort that is better than his “normal”. He will learn to get better with each request, but you will have to protect that environment. Be consistent. If you’re not making improvements in the spin, something else is wrong. Go back to the exercise and work at it. You want crisp, intelligent movements. The shut-off of the spin gets better when you’re standing and resting, so make sure you let your horse rest. Set that neck as low as you want it, but then leave the horse alone. For a good minute or so he is on his own not worrying about your hands or legs doing some random, meaningless tug or spur nonsense. This will really help him get sensitive to your riding requests. Track your horse’s progress over a few weeks of working this exercise and note the improvements.
The horse in this video is not a finished reiner, but she understands cadence and staying in the turn. This exercise is for working on her staying soft in the bridle going into the spin and shut off and getting overall good efforts toward building the spin.