TNRHA Smoky Mountain Reins:

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Exhibitors from across the Southeast enjoyed TNRHA’s third show of the season.

Story and photos by Allison Armstrong Rehnborg

For a reiner in pursuit of their next perfect run, there’s nothing in the world quite as exhilarating as that first step onto the smooth, unblemished surface of a freshly dragged arena. On October 4-6, 2019, plenty of reiners had the opportunity to slide into great scores on good dirt at the Tennessee Reining Horse Association’s third show of the season at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Despite having a show weekend that fell during the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, Smoky Mountain Reins drew a good-sized crowd of TNRHA members and exhibitors from across the Southeast – a testament to the affiliate’s active membership and the efforts of its hardworking, all-volunteer board of directors.

“TNRHA is very much a thriving affiliate of NRHA,” said TNRHA President Audrey Kidd. “We are right at 300 members. Our exhibitors usually represent around 15 states, and come primarily from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia and Ohio. We also had exhibitors this year from Florida, Texas and Michigan. It never ceases to amaze me how far people will drive for a good horse show.”

Judged by Ollie Galligan of Petaluma, Calif., and Sherry Dooley of Georgetown, Ky., the show offered a full roster of classes as well as a robust freestyle reining class, which took place on Saturday night along with a Congress live-feed viewing party.

“Everyone had a great time,” Kidd said. “We took it as a laid-back weekend, enjoyed some parties and had some very good competition. People also had a lot of open riding time and they loved getting their horses in the Coliseum. It turned out to be a great weekend.”

NRHA Professional Horseman Jennifer Robinson of Vienna, Ill., loves the friendly atmosphere of TNRHA shows.

“TNRHA does a great job of making this a fun atmosphere for everyone,” said Robinson, who has exhibited at TNRHA’s shows in Murfreesboro for the past eight years. “They really want everyone to have a good time, plus it’s a nice facility with plenty of room for us.”

For Robinson, who got her start in the dressage world as a kid and began reining later in life as an adult, the discipline is all about teaching the horse.

“There are a lot of similarities between dressage and reining, in that we spend a lot of time on body control and collection and really training and teaching our horses,” Robinson said. “There aren’t as many different intricate maneuvers in reining as there are in dressage, but our horses have to be better at doing those maneuvers themselves. We show one-handed, so we can’t hold them, and we can’t help them. It really evens out as far as level of difficulty.”

Adding to that difficulty is the fact that in reining, each exhibitor has the entire arena to himself or herself – so there’s no hiding from the judges.

“You are the judge’s total focus during your run, and each maneuver is judged individually. That can be really good if you mess up on one part, but the rest of your pattern is wonderful, or it could be really bad if everything starts falling apart,” Robinson said. “You just have to keep riding. You might get a minus one-half on one maneuver and get a plus half on everything else, so never quit riding.”

While reining can be a challenge, rookie reiner Pamela Saunders of Birmingham, Ala., loves the way that everyone supports each other in the reining industry. Saunders rides with Daniel Hill of Daniel Hill Performance Horses in Clanton, Ala.

“I love the fact that you’re always trying to get better, and it seems like you never perfect a maneuver,” Saunders said. “Or you perfect one, and then there’s another one you have to work. It’s such a great challenge, but I’ll also say that reining is very inclusive. The people are sweet and friendly and it’s an extremely inclusive family environment. Everyone knows how hard it is to have a good run, so when you get one, everyone’s happy for you.”

Non pro reiner Traci Morris, also of Birmingham, Ala., compares reining to figure skating. Like Saunders, Morris also rides with Daniel Hill.

“Reining is the pursuit of perfection. You’re doing a pattern and something with a lot of eye appeal, and it’s something that people want to come and watch,” Morris explained. “The stops and turns are just amazing. It’s amazing that our horses can do that.”

TNRHA President Audrey Kidd says that TNRHA is especially thankful for its sponsors, who help make shows like Smoky Mountain Reins possible.

“We really look for every possible way we can to give our sponsors the best bang for their buck for supporting Tennessee, from arena banners to social media mentions and a lot more,” Kidd said. “We always update the home page of our website and we do constant announcements at our shows. There are numerous other ways, too, that we like to show that we’re thankful for our sponsors.”

To learn more about TNRHA and to stay updated on future show dates, visit or follow them on Facebook @tn.rein.1.

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