Back in the saddle again

Drew Butler

The stalls at Hardy Murphy Coliseum are already filling up as horses and riders arrive for the Winter Slide reining horse competition beginning later this week. The event itself will run from Thursday through Sunday, but many riders have arrived early to get their horses acclimated to the arena.

The Winter Slide began in 2011 and is run by husband and wife Tamra and Pete Kyle. Tamra said this event acts as a sort of warm up for the new year.

“This show has really found its niche because it gets people going again,” Tamra Kyle said. “We had all our big fall futurities in December, and a lot of people have changed trainers or bought new horses since then. This is a nice place for a test drive, so they can know what to expect before some of the really big events come up in the spring.”

Kyle said because the event has grown so much over the years, they decided to add an extra day and begin on Thursday this year. There were around 400 different horses signed up to compete Tuesday, and most of these horses will be competing in more than one different events.

She then described how reining competitions work.

“Each of the different classes will have a prescribed pattern, and we have up to 12 different patterns,” Kyle said. “It’s a bit like figure skating because you have to follow a pattern, and if you don’t you’re disqualified.”

Kyle said judges assign each horse a score based on how well the horse completes the pattern. Part of the judging criteria is based on the degree of difficulty, so things like adding speed can add to the total number of points each horse receives.

She said because of the way the horses have to run, stop and slide as they complete their patterns, it’s crucial that the arena floor have good dirt — and the Hardy Murphy Coliseum has just that.

“These guys are phenomenal with their dirt,” Kyle said. “They had a monster truck rally over the weekend, and for most places it would be a nightmare for them to try to get everything good again. But they came in with lasers and made sure everything was level after the show. There’s a whole science to dirt, and it drives our industry. These guys here are very good at it.”

The Winter Slide runs Thursday through Sunday and begins daily at 8 a.m and is free and open to the public to watch. Riders from a variety of skill levels and of all ages will be competing in different classes over the course of the event. To see the full schedule visit