IMEHA Ruling on Split Reins

USEF WS 102 Rule is written in a confusing manner. It states that when using split reins Rider may hold the end of split reins to keep them from swinging and to adjust the position of the reins provided it is held with at least 16 inches of rein between the hands. IMEHA will not sanction this rule and finds that the only acceptable manner is that excess split rein bight should fall on the same side as the rein hand. The excess bight shall not be held in either hand for western pleasure arena.

Extra Credit Should Be Given If...

If split reins are used, the rein should fall on the same side as the rein hand.

If a romal rein is used; romal should fall on the opposite side from the rein hand (romal is usually held in the rider's other hand.

Entry Number is shown on saddle blanket or on rider's back.

Points Should be Deducted If...

Model exhibits excessive speed for gait assigned.

Model is on the wrong lead.

Model appears to display a slowness in any gait or loss of forward momentum resulting in an animated and/or artificial gait at the lope.

Rider touches horse or saddle with free hand.

Model's head is carried too high.

Model's head carried too low tip of ear below the withers.

Model is overflexed or has a strained neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical.

Model displays Excessive nosing out.

Model displays an opening mouth excessively.

Rider uses spurs forward of the cinch.

Model appears sullen, dull, lethargic, emaciated, drawn or overly tired.

Model appears agitated has ears back, tail twirled, etc.

Model displays quick, choppy or pony strides.

Reins are draped to the point that light contact is not maintained.

Model is overly canted at the lope. *When the outside hind foot is further to the inside of the arena than the inside front foot.

Set-Up Options

Arena Fencing Required:
Indoor or Outdoor Arena
Types of Fencing Allowed
Painted or Natural

Post and Rail

Post and Plank

Chain Link

Solid Plyboard

Plyboard with Top Rail

Post with Drape Rope

Stock Tube Pipe Rail

Interior Arena Wall

Footing Required:


No grass base

No rock base

Backboard or Natural Setting:


Western Riding

The common mistake among model horse hobbyists is that Western Riding is a class for equitation or for enjoyable trail rides. Western Riding is a pattern event where the horse is judged on quality of gaits, lead changes at the lope, response to the rider, manners and disposition. The horse should perform with reasonable speed, and be sensible, well-mannered, free and easy moving. It is suggested that entrant use one of the four Western Riding Patterns depicted below and state the number of pattern in the comment box. Or they may use a western riding pattern from a real horse association and state the name of the association approving the pattern, the pattern number and movement number assigned. Without this information the judge may disqualify the entry. If the movement the horse is doing is incorrect as per the assigned comment the judge will disqualify the horse for being 'off pattern.' Judge will also disqualify the horse for having no pattern and movement assigned.


Western Riding Class

  1. The horses will be judged on riding quality of gaits (walk, trot, and lope), change of leads, response to rider, manners, disposition, and intelligence.

  2. The Western Riding class is a competition on the performance of a sensible, well and mannered, and easy moving ranch horse that has the athletic ability and handiness to do a variety of ranch jobs as well as give its rider a pleasant ride over trails or in open country. This competition is not a race or a stunt and should not be confused with equitation classes in which the rider is judged.

  3. Each horse and rider will perform the Western Class riding patterns and routines individually. If the pattern is changed, the contestants should be notified and the pattern to be used should be posted 1 hour before the class is called. The pattern specifications are as follows:

    • The eight small circles represent pylon markers, which are recommended. These should be separated by a uniform measured distance of not less than 30 feet nor more than 50 feet on the sides with five markers (see pattern illustrations below). In Pattern I, the three markers on the opposite side should be set adjacent to the appropriate markers. It is recommended that markers be set a minimum of 15 feet from the fence and with a 50 to 80 foot width in the pattern, as the arena permits.

    • A solid log or pole should be used that is a minimum of 8 feet in length. The horse will either jog or lope over the pole (not walk over the pole).

    • The long serpentine line indicates the direction of travel and gaits at which each horse is to move. The recommended lead changing point is equal to ½ stride length before or after the center point between the markers. The shaded area represents the lead changing area between the markers. The dotted line (...) indicates walk, the dash line (---) jog, and the solid line (__) lope; the squiggly line (zzzz) indicates the back.

    Western Riding Patterns:


Western Riding Pattern II


1. Walk at least 15’ & jog over log
2. Transition to left lead & lope around end
3. First line change
4. Second line change
5. Third line change
6. Fourth line change lope around the end of arena
7. First crossing change
8. Second crossing change
9. Lope over log
10. Third crossing change
11. Fourth crossing change
12. Lope up the center, stop & back

Western Riding Pattern II


1. Walk, transition to jog, jog over log
2. Transition to the lope, on the left lead
3. First crossing change
4. Second crossing change
5. Third crossing change
6. Circle & first line change
7. Second line change
8. Third line change
9. Fourth line change & circle
10. Lope over log
11. Lope, stop & back

Western Riding Pattern III


1. Walk halfway between markers, transition to jog, jog over log
2. Transition to the lope, on the left lead
3. First crossing change
4. Lope over log
5 Second crossing change
6. First line change
7. Second line change
8. Third line change
9. Fourth line change
10. Third crossing change
11. Fourth crossing change
12. Lope up the center, stop & back

Western Riding Pattern IV


1. Walk, transition to jog, jog over log
2. Transition to the lope, on the right lead
3. First line change
4. Second line change
5. Third line change
6. Fourth line change
7. First crossing change
8. Second crossing change
9. Third crossing change
10. Lope over log
11. Lope, Stop & back

Scoring the Western Riding Class patterns
Maneuvers will be scored on both quality and accuracy. Factors influencing quality include smoothness, speed, and manners. Accuracy involves the precision with which the maneuver is executed. Quality and accuracy points are calculated into an overall (final) score. Scoring system should range from 0 to 100 with 70 points denoting an average performance. Maneuver points are added or subtracted from the overall score on the following basis with points ranging from plus 1.5 to minus 1.5:



= Extremely Poor


= Excellent


= Very Poor


= Very Good

- .5

= Poor

+ .5

= Good


= Average

Maneuver scores are subjective to the judge's opinion and may vary from judge to judge. Maneuver scores are to be determined independently of penalty points for accuracy

Credits: The following are examples of credits for which points may be added to the maneuver score:

      • Clean simultaneous lead changes
      • Precision in changing leads near the center point of the lead change area
      • Accurate and smooth pattern
      • Slower pace while maintaining a collected frame with a consistent footfall pattern
      • Ease of guidance and control with rein and leg
      • Manners and disposition
      • Smooth, level lead changes
      • Smooth, clean stop and back, backing readily off diagonal pairs

Faults: The following are examples of faults that may require deductions from the maneuver score:

      • Excessive opening of mouth, pinning of ears, or wringing of tail by the horse
      • Anticipation of lead changes
      • Rough or elevated lead changes
      • Rough stop, rough back, or both
      • Excessive stumbling
      • Propping lead changes (whereby the horse drops a shoulder and elevates on the forehand into the lead change)
      • Appearance of charging in the lead changes, rushing, or being inconsistent in pace.

Penalties: The following are penalty points that have a specific point deduction as outlined by the American Quarter Horse Association. These penalties are not subjective to the judge's preference. Judges should familiarize themselves with the following point deductions prior to the class.

5-Point Penalties

    • Being out of lead beyond the next designated change area (for example, failures to change, including cross-cantering. Two consecutive failures to change would result in two 5-point penalties.)
    • Kicking out
    • Blatant disobedience (such as bucking)

    3-Point Penalties

    • Not performing the specified gait (jog or lope) or stopping when called for in the pattern, within 10 feet of the designated area
    • Break of gait at the lope
    • Simple change of leads
    • Being out of lead at or before the marker prior to the designated change area, or out of lead at or after the marker after the designated change area
    • Additional lead changes anywhere in pattern (except when correcting an extra change or incorrect lead)
    • In Patterns I and III, failure to start the lope within 30 feet after crossing the log at the jog
    • Break of gait at walk or jog for more than two strides


1-Point Penalties

    • Break of gait at walk or jog up to two strides
    • Hitting or rolling the log
    • Being out of lead for more than one stride either side of the center point and between the markers
    • Splitting the log (log between the two front or two hind feet) at the lope (The horse may accrue, two 1-point penalties if both the front and hind are split.)


½ -Point Penalties

    • Tick or light touch of log
    • Hind legs skipping or coming together during lead change
    • Non simultaneous lead changes (front to hind or hind to front)


Disqualifications (resulting in a 0 score)

    • Four or more simple lead changes, failures to change leads, or both
    • Illegal equipment
    • Willful abuse
    • Being off course
    • Knocking over markers
    • Completely missing log
    • Major refusal- stop and back two strides or four steps with front legs
    • Major disobedience- rearing or schooling
    • Failure to start lope prior to end cone in Patterns I and III
    • Failure to follow the correct pattern
    • No tie-downs or martingales will be allowed on the horse

Examples of the Western Riding:
Photo Credit:

Western Riding

Our Gal Sal shown as a Grulla Minimal Tobiano Paint Mare and is a Breyer Rugged Lark CM shown by Sue Sudekum. Comment Line reads: Western Riding: Horse has completed pattern, halted, and is now backing the requisite five steps

Photo Credit:

Western Riding

Adrenna Lynn shown as a Black Overo Paint Mare and is a Smokin HotChic by Clayton shown by Andrea Robbins. Comment Line reads: USEF WESTERN DIVISION: WESTERN RIDING PATTERN #3. STEP 1. Walk, transition to a jog, jog over log. ENTRY DEPICTS: After beginning the Western Riding pattern at a walk, the entrant has transitioned into a jog and is jogging over the log obstacle.

Photo Credit:

Western Riding

Taleschi shown as a Silver Bay Minimally Marked, Sabino Paint Horse Stallion is a SR Peter Stone 'Chief Leschi' Performance Horse shown by Wendy Hinson. Comment Line reads: Western Riding - Pattern 1, Performing lead changes between the markers at the lope.

Photo Credit:

Western Riding

Ruggedly Handsome Hawk is shown as a bay tobiano Paint stallion and is a Breyer Rugged Painted Lark shown by Andrea Robbins. Her comment line reads: Western riding (the event) The horse will be shown at a walk, jog, lope and reinback around a set pattern defined by markers on the ground, through which the horse must weave, demonstrating flying changes with each change of direction. The pattern is performed at a reasonable speed, (not fast, but at a pace which allows for flowing changes of lead) too slow and the horse must 'hop' in order to change leads, too fast and the horse will be unable to negotiate the tight corners of the pattern. Each pattern begins at the walk, progresses to the jog (often over a log), and then to the lope, finally coming to a halt from the lope and reining back a few steps. Horses are given credit for maintaining an even pace throughout, performing smooth changes of lead at precisely the halfway point between two markers and demonstrating responsiveness to the rider. -- ENTRY DEPICTS: Horse is shown jogging toward the log in the Western Riding pattern.

Hold the Reins Correctly:
Photo Credit:

Romal Reins by Susan Hargrove

Romal reins enter the hand by the "little" finger lay across the palm of the hand and exit the hand on top over the thumb. The hand holds the reins and not the loop and knot that form the junction of the reins and the romal whip.

Photo Credit:

Split Reins by Susan Hargrove

Split reins can be held in the right or left hand. The excess rein hang over untouched on the same side of the horse. So if right hand hold the rein then the excess rein lies on the right side of the horse. If left hand holds the rein then the excess rein lies on the left side of the horse. Split reins enter the hand via coming straight into the hand over the index finger and they exit by the little finger.

Photo Credit:

Snaffle Reins by Susan Hargrove

The snaffle rein crosses over the horse's neck with the bight extending down ward on the opposite side of the horse's neck. Both hands are used on the reins by picking the rein and the bight up with the palms of the hands facing down.

Photo Credit:

Hackamore Mecate Reins by Susan Hargrove

The hackamore mecate rein is a solid single loop rein with the bight tied from the bosal to either the saddle horn or coiled and tied to the front piggin string (or swell string) of the saddle. Both hands are used on the rein by picking the rein with the palms of the hands facing down.

Required Tack:
A western stock saddle without tapaderos. The saddle can have either squared or rounded skirts with the current style leaning toward squared. In most breeds the current style also is to omit the rear cinch, sometimes adding "tabs" to occupy the rear girth slots; however, if a rear cinch is used, it must have a connecter strap to the front cinch. Breastplates are optional. Silver should not be counted over a good working outfit. A saddle pad resting under all pressure points is recommended but not required equipment. A western style bridle (browband, one ear, two ear, with or without throatlatch) with a curb bit including a curb strap or curb chain. Standard snaffle bit and bosal hackamores are permitted on horses 4 and under (5 and under for Arabians and Appaloosas). Romal reins and split reins are both legal; Romal reins are usually seen on Arabians, Morgans, and NSH. Missouri Fox Trotters usually wear a noseband and current style includes older buckstitched saddle. MFT current style saddle pads are white with white ribbon in mane and forelock.

Nosebands or cavessons (except: Missouri Fox Trotter and National Spotted Saddlebred/Walking Horse). any type of martingale or tiedown, tapaderos, roping reins, any kind of boots or bandages, crops or whips, mechanical hackamores are also prohibited. Split reins may not be knotted or attached to each other (stickwax is of course permitted in model horses) Rider may not have more than one finger between split reins or any fingers between the reins of a rein and romal.

Attire is jeans, trousers or pants over western boots, long sleeved shirts, (vest, tie and jacket are also permitted) belt through loop, and western hat. Chaps are optional for Western Riding

The doll rider's posture must be addressed because if you can't get it correctly then don't use it. Doll must sit down in the saddle, the back should be straight. There should be a straight vertical line between the rider's ear, the elbow and the heel. The knee and toe of the boot should also be in a straight line, knees and feet turned straight along the side of the horse and heel of boot pointed down. The rein arm upper arm should be tucked into the side of the rider, elbow is bent and the forearm parallel to the ground. The free arm is held free and straight down with palm flat and lightly touching the leg. You may place ONE finger between your split reins and there is no rule as to which one - though most riders place their index finger between. If using romal reins the romal hand is carried with hand holding romal at the length of which the romal is straight and not curved. Hand then rest quietly near or on the doll's leg. Hackamore or snaffle reins the riders hands should be carried near the pommel and not further than four inches (to scale) out on either side of the saddle horn. Rein hand wrist(s) of either rein is turned slightly inward. The doll rider's head should be looking straight forward as if rider is looking through the horse's ears.

Rein Hand Holds:

Romal Reins

Split Reins

Rein Pull:
Horses are shown on a reasonable loose rein. Extremes such as too tight or too loose should be penalized.

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Updated: January 14, 2013