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Is it still called reining when there aren’t any reins?
That is a great question, technically reining uses a set pattern, or “choreography” if you will. It is important to note that this performance is taught to the horse with all equipment (bridle, ect.) initially. The groups that study equine behavior often quite correctly mention this to the people that campaign to ban all bridles and bits (animal rights activists). Since horses as a species have a highly developed sense of direction, navigation, and muscle memory it is easy to teach them a reining pattern. It is similar to obedience training with dogs. It involves quite a bit of submission to the rider, and the animal is not allowed to think for itself.
In contrast, horse competitions that involve jumping require the horse have more autonomy from the rider, yet ironically the horse is wearing a bit. To be successful in jumping the horse is trained more like a search and rescue dog or guide dog, as it has to think for itself.
The biggest controversy in the equine industry now is the use of coercive training techniques that are causing many jumping horses to get catastrophic injuries because the reflexes and central pattern generators in their nervous systems can be overridden by operant conditioning, as well as the preoccupation of the rider insisting on extreme perfect obedience distracting the animal as it tries to take off for the jumps.
I totally agree. I really liked my move from Europe to the USA and the discovery of the difference between American and German training methods in jumping. I really like it how here the horse is given much more freedom to think and make decisions on how to tackle the jump. Instead of training meaning “learning how to obey the rider” it means “learning how to jump safely and efficiently with a little help from that guy on my back”.