The Oklahoman

The formation of a horse-reining league that will be based in Oklahoma City and kick off a major event early next year in the Sooner State is expected to spur Oklahoma's equine industry and rope in tourists, Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday.

Organizers announced the formation of the World Reining League, which plans to hold four events next year across the country, during a state Capitol news conference.

"We're proud that Oklahoma will be the home of the World Reining League," Fallin said. "The horse industry has had a lot of history in our state. The industry is very important to Oklahoma's economy. It contributes over $3.3 billion into Oklahoma."

The first reining event will be Jan. 19-21 at State Fair Park, said Michael Miola, chief executive officer of the league.

The league will present reining in an entertaining fashion to draw in more fans, said Miola, who has worked in the mutual fund industry. It will be a horse show wrapped around a concert. "The format is simple," he said. "Great reining and great rock.

"We want to bring reining to the people," he said. "We want to transform reining into a spectator sport that will give them a show that will knock their teeth out. All cowboys all the way."

Reining is a Western saddle sport that exemplifies the partnership between horse and rider and the speed and athleticism of the American quarter horse, organizers said.

Miola said a freestyle reining exhibition will take place at the Jan. 20 show. A concert featuring Phil Vassar and a patriotic performance by Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma who was second runner-up in the 1958 Miss America pageant, will take place afterward.

At the Jan. 21 show, two four-man teams will go head-to-head, he said. Team captains are Craig Schmersal, of Overbrook, and Shawn Flarida, of Springfield, Ohio. The new league is working with the National Reining Horse Association, which also is based in Oklahoma City. It approves shows for all breeds of horses, and for all levels of riders from beginning amateurs to professional trainers.

After the reining competition, John Turner will perform in concert.

Other shows are scheduled in June in Fort Worth, Texas, and in September in Las Vegas, Miola said. A site hasn't been selected for a December show.

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