BAYFIELD Its not surprising that top competitors in reining would call this area home because the sport has been practiced in the region since before it became known by that name.
The maneuvers developed naturally among ranchers in the western United States and Mexico who needed nimble, responsive mounts to drive and cut cattle. Today, its a sport with national and international competitions.
Three equines owned by Bayfield residents Connie and Kevin Wing have placed in the National Reining Horse Associations premier competition for 3-year-olds.
Reining is a dressage-style exercise in which a rider, with barely perceptible movement of hands or feet or shift of weight, guides a horse through a series of maneuvers.
It was recognized as a sport by the American Quarter Horse Association in 1949, almost two decades before the National Reining Horse Association was founded in 1966. The Fédération Equestre Internationale, the world body that oversees Olympic equestrian events, recognized the event in 2000, and it was added to the World Equestrian Games in 2002.
The Wings were introduced to reining horses in 2000 when they spent time in Vallecito to escape the oppressive humidity in Texas that produced molds and mildew to which Connie Wing was allergic.
In 2004, the couple bought 160 acres along Sauls Creek east of Bayfield and founded KC Performance Horses. They have about 30 horses now, trained by Nick Howard, another Texas transplant who founded Howard Performance Horses.
In reining competition, maneuvers spins, turns, stops, pivots, pauses and backing up are done at slow and fast paces. A mount starts with 70 points, and points are added or subtracted in increments of a half, 1 or 1½ according to the difficulty of eight maneuvers.
Any breed of horse can be trained in reining, but stock horses, notably the American quarter horse, are mainly used in competition. Probably fewer than 10 percent of competitive reining horses make it to the finals in competition, Kevin Wing said.
This year, the couples Dunits Shining Sun, ridden by professional rider Craig Schmersal, finished fifth in the Open Futurity, the top category for 3-year-olds. Last year, the couple had horses that finished ninth and 28th in the same competition.
Another Bayfield couple, David and Lyn Bishop, saw their Wranglin Chics, ridden by Schmersal, finish 24th in the Open Futurity this year. The year before, their Mr. Montana Nic finished second in the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
The Bishops keep breeding mares and their offspring at Schmersals training facility in Overbrook, Okla.
Retired dentist Greg Brown and wife, Jan, have reining horses at their ranch. She has ridden reining horses for 15 years.
Shes the reiner, and Im the cheerleader, Greg Brown said. I use reiners that dont rein well for competitive team roping.
The Open Futurity this month was the last reining competition for the year. But the Wings are preparing for a brand-new adventure the World Reining League which will have its inaugural competition Jan. 19-21 in Oklahoma City.
They would like to enter one of their horses. But Schmersal said last week he plans to take mounts to the event, though he hasnt decided which ones.
Michael Miola, a financial-services veteran based in Scottsdale, Ariz., founded the reining league with the idea of developing team competition. Miolas website notes the international appeal of dressage-style equestrian competition, which he thinks will give it broader appeal than rodeo events.