If you compete: Master the basics of the first moments of a spin (turn-around) to ensure that you finish with a bang.
If you don't: A solid turnaround is essential for control and enhancing a horse's guidability, and can come in handy in tight spots on the trail.
How you start a spin sets the tone for the entire maneuver, whether it's a single 360 or a group of four spins, as in a reining pattern. There are two essential components when starting this maneuver: 1. The turn must begin with forward motion (many people think of the spin as a maneuver on the hindquarters, but it actually starts with moving forward), and 2. The horse must be "between your reins," which literally means that if you lay the right rein on, the feet move; same for the left rein. When your hand moves left or right, your horse should move his feet.
Here, I'll show you an exercise to get your horse in a thinking frame of mind for turnarounds and show you how to correctly initiate a spin. I suggest working on this with your horse in a shanked bit and with one hand on the reins, because then you and your horse have less chance of developing crutches or bad habits that'll get in the way when you compete.
Devin Warren, Franktown, Colorado. Devin has won numerous reining titles from APHA and NRHA events, as well as been a finalist at major NRHA events. He trains reining horses and coaches non-pro and youth riders.