Champion reining horse trainer Bobby Avila knows what it takes to train and ride champions

Bobby Avila Jr., of Avila Performance Horses LLC, likes to train reining horses with “good minds.” A good reining horse prospect needs to be trainable, athletic, have good conformation and a good pedigree. These are all qualities that Bobby looks for in his equine counterparts that he trains out of Rogersville, Mo., at the Zimmerman Performance Horses facility. “I want to train a horse that is smooth, willing, happy and pleasing to the eye,” said Bobby. With several reining competition victories under his belt, he is no stranger to the sport, the training, or the outstanding horses involved.

The Sport
The equine discipline of reining is all about smooth partnership and control. Judges want to see athletic horses with good attitudes and smooth movements, and a rider that is in control of the horse. There are 12 patterns within the sport of reining. Each pattern consists of a minimum of three sliding stops, a back-up, a left and right rollback, three left circles and three right circles presenting speed transitions, left and right lead changes, and spins in each direction. Each of these maneuvers is judged individually. “The pattern needs to flow,” Bobby said. Reining is not just about riding a good pattern – there is a showmanship aspect involved as well. Bobby keeps his horses immaculately cleaned and groomed, and likes to make a good impression with clean, attractive tack and professional show attire.

The Trainer
Bobby has been training reining horses for 14 years. He grew up with horses, participating in fun shows and competing at local saddle club events. He recalls that one of his first experiences with reining stemmed from riding an excitable horse for team penning competitions. He found that training ‘Docs Jolly Wink’ to perform reining patterns helped condition the horse’s mind and responses and with a lot of work, helped settle him down. Bobby went on to learn how to ride bridleless freestyle with the same horse.
Today, Bobby has taken numerous horses to the top of their game. Two of his most recent accomplishments include winning the 2013 North Central Reining Horse Futurity, and placing 4th at the Southwest Reining Horse Futurity marking at 227.5 under three judges, his highest score to-date. He trains for the public, rides horses for investors as well as some of his own, and also trains horses with their owners.
Bobby starts his horses from the ground up. He spends at least two weeks working with a horse on the ground before the first ride, and horses are trained for 18 to 20 months including groundwork before they ever enter the show pen. “There’s a lot of groundwork,” he said, laughing. “I’m not a bronc rider.”

The Horses
Conformation, along with a willing attitude, is one of the most important qualities of a reining horse. Ideally, a reining horse prospect will have a ‘horse trapezoid’ – which means a good topline, a short underline, and good hip and shoulder angles. Bobby likes to look for pedigrees that include Gunners, Top Sail Whizzes, Wimpy’s Little Steps, or Jack’s Electric Spark. All of these lines can trace back to reining horse legend, Hollywood Dun It.
Horses in Bobby’s program are fed free-choice alfalfa hay, Strategy feed, mineral powder and salt. Most horses receive supplements as well, and are based horse by horse. The horses also have their manes and tails braided every week to keep the hair in good shape. Bobby likes to keep his horses in clean and in good flesh. “There are no places to skimp in the care for a horse,” he stressed.
In the future, Bobby will be competing in the NRHA Derby and the NRHA Futurity, both in Oklahoma City, Okla. With a winning and willing attitude, he and his equine partners plan on continuing to take it to the top, every time.


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