WHEN a rider can make their horse go from a perfect stand in the middle of an area to spinning on a dime with the slightest of movements, they're demonstrating a level of horsemanship that takes years of practice and training.
But those skills were on show for all to see at the Southern Queensland Reining Horse Association in Gatton at the weekend, with riders from around Queensland and New South Wales putting their finely trained horses through the controlled patterns.
A two-day training clinic run by Kandanga's Warren Backhouse, ranked 13th in the world in the sport, was a major drawcard and a chance for beginners and experienced riders to learn from one of the best.
Mr Backhouse, riding three-year-old stallion Lil Nuit All, said the Gatton arena was well-suited to the sport.
"You can't do slide stops on any surface, it has to be soft, and this arena is quite good for it," he said.
Mr Backhouse took up the sport about 13 years ago and quickly fell in love with it - both the social aspect and the challenge of doing the perfect pattern.
He said it differed to more traditional, and popular, forms of horse riding such as dressage because of the precision required.
"In dressage, I guess because you have more control on the reins, you can get away with a lot more," he said.
"But in reining, it's all about your legs and your seat and leaving the reins as loose as possible."
A reining pattern typically has between eight and 12 moves, including circles, flying lead changes, spins, sliding stops, back-ups and rundowns, where the horse gallops the length of the arena, which leads into the stop.
They are a mixture of small, slow circles done at a lope (canter) and the larger circles are done at a gallop.
The 360-degree spins done in the centre of the arena are initiated, and controlled, by the rider's legs and the challenge is for the horse to turn without its back feet stepping away from their original spot.
The horse must also stop in the exact spot after completing a number of spins.
Although he's been at it for more than a decade and has raked in more than $400,000 in prize money in that time, Mr Backhouse said there was always something more to learn.
"I think that's one of the big things for me is the challenge of perfecting something," he said.
"I guess if I had to pick one piece of advice I'd give to riders it would be to master the small things that lead to the big manoeuvres.
"You can't just practice the spins or the stops all the time - you have to focus a lot of time on the small things like leg movements to make sure your horse knows what it has to do."
Mr Backhouse rides each of his horses for more than an hour each day.