Horse reining trots to Oklahoma City for 50th year

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Lisa Hoffman ate her Thanksgiving dinner early - days early.

After all, she knew where she had to be on the fourth Thursday in November: at Oklahoma City's state fairgrounds.

"Best Thanksgivings anywhere," she said with a smile Thursday. "It really is a family tradition."

Hoffman traveled from her home in Larkspur, Colo. for the 50th running of the National Reining Horse Association Futurity & Adequan North American Affiliate Championship Show.

It's got a long name and a long tradition for horse lovers from all over the country and all over the world.

"It's an amazing horse show," said Cody Stark, who's been traveling from Colorado's western slope to compete since 1999. "Every year, it gets bigger and better, and the competition gets better. There's more money to be won. It's a great horse show and great people."

This year, there should be more than 1,000 horses squeezing into the stables at the state fairgrounds.

Eight countries will represented in the reining futurity, which is open to all 3-year-old horses.

Reining is an event designed to show the athletic ability of the horse.

Judges score each animal based on how it performs up to 13 approved patterns - including circles, spins and slide stops.

Judges are focused more on the horse's ability than the rider's.

"The ideal reining horse is going to do everything with little or no resistance, so meaning that we're going to put our hand right here and the horse is going to do her job all by herself," Stark said. "We're going to give her little cues to spin, and we're going to give her little cues to stop, and the rest is up to her."

Stark said he rides his horse five-six days a week to prepare it for competitions.

Oklahoma City benefits from the 10-day event too, to the tune of millions of dollars, thanks to hotel bookings and restaurant sales.