By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LAKE MILTON -- Frank Costantini sells insurance, but his choice of attire often includes a cowboy hat, boots and spurs. Western influence grabbed him early on.
"I've always had horses around. They became a way of life," he said.
After serving in the military, Costantini joined the National Reining Horses Association, an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit organization that promotes rules and conditions for reining horses to compete. The NRHA also developed a standard method for reining contests and acts as a forum for breeders and trainers.
Costantini was instrumental in getting reining approved as the only western discipline for the United States Equestrian Team. He served two four-year terms as NRHA's president and for his work with the organization, Costantini was inducted into the NRHA Hall of Fame this year.
Sport specifics: Reining is an equestrian sport in which ranch-style horses perform various maneuvers in an arena with a scoring system similar to that used in the Olympic games. Reining horses perform 10 NRHA-approved patterns with up to nine maneuvers accompanying each.
Maneuvers include "360s", in which the horse and rider spin several times in place, a move similar to one often used by figure skaters. The animals also perform sliding stops by locking their hind legs under them before getting up to reverse direction.
Some are adaptations of military maneuvers and others are similar to those used by warriors to evade enemies.
Scoring: Each maneuver can earn the rider points, but points can also be deducted for mistakes, and an overall score is given when the pattern is completed. Each competitor starts with a score of 70, which is also the average, Costantini explained. One or more judges gives points for smoothness, speed and agility.
Costantini said he's proud of three of his horses, Spirit of Five, Barroom B.H. and B.H. Toy Soldier, all of which were leading NRHA money winners and winners of several Futurity events. Futurities are competitions in which 3-year-old reining horses take part.
Reining competitions are based on the horse's age and the rider's previous earnings, and can be professional or nonprofessional events, Costantini said. In 2000, the NRHA approved more than 350 competitions internationally.
Costantini said one of his goals is to make reining an Olympic sport. So far, it has been featured as part of the World Equestrian games, the last step before the Olympics. He also said he hopes reining will achieve recognition as a full medal sport when it will be featured in Jeres, Spain, in September 2002.
"I want horses to compete nationally and eventually represent the United States internationally," he said.