You hear a lot of people say that they like to ride or show in a certain discipline. In reality, we all love spending time with our horses, whether it is riding or showing halter or just admiring them in the paddock. This document will help you understand what each area, discipline or style entails.
Western Pleasure – Western riding began here in the United States in the mid 1600’s. It was started by cowboys and cowgirls that worked cattle on ranches. This form of riding was brought to America by the Spanish Conquistadors. American cowboys needed to work long hours in the saddle over rough terrain, sometimes needing to rope cattle with a lariat or lasso. Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a rope with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact. Today, it is an enjoyable way of riding for many people. A pleasure horse should look like they are pleasure to ride and you are having the time of you life riding that horse. Smile!
English Pleasure – English riding originated in Europe and was brought to America. It was thought to be a traditional type of riding with a lightweight saddle. There are many variations in English riding, but all feature a flat saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle. English disciplines are all designed to allow the horse the freedom to move in the most optimal manner for a given task. Most versions of English riding require riders to use both hands on the reins, rather than just one hand. Riders also frequently "post" to the trot (rising and sitting in rhythm with each stride) in many circumstances; though there are also times English riders may sit the trot. Though the differences in equipment appear dramatic, fewer differences between English and Western riding exist than most people think. Both styles require riders to have a solid seat, with the hips and shoulders balanced over the feet, with hands independent of the seat so as to avoid jerking the horse in the mouth and interfering with its performance.
Equitation – This is defined by the art of horseback riding. Words that describe this are smooth, beautiful, flawless, controlled, proper, good posture, quiet independent hands, steady legs and a secure seat. Basically any equitation class is judged with the emphasis on your riding ability and the quietness and effectiveness of your aids. You may be asked to perform a pattern to show off your control and obedient horse. While your horse may make a mistake, you should handle that mistake in a calm and controlled manner.
Huntseat – This term is used in the US and Canada to refer to a style of forward seat riding commonly found at American horse shows. The Hunt seat is based on the tradition of fox hunting. Hunt seat competition in North America includes both flat and over fences for show hunters. Competition over fences where the horse's movement, form, style and way of going is paramount. May include a "hunter under saddle" section that does not require jumping, judging the horse’s movement on the flat. Many show jumping competitors began by riding in the hunter divisions, before moving into the jumper divisions.
Stadium/Show Jumping – In this sport, you have to jump with your horse over a course of fences. Your aim is to have a “clear round” This means that you must jump each fence without your horse refusing, running away or knocking any part of the jump down. If a tie occurs, then horse and rider do the course again timed. The fastest - clear round wins. The World Record set in 1949, for the highest jump was achieved byHuaso, the horse, and his rider from Chili, Captain Alberton Larraguibel Morales, jumping the world-record breaking jump of8 feet 1 ¼ inches, or 2.47 meters.
Cross Country – This is another quick paced sport. Horse and rider go through a course of natural and manmade jumps across open fields. Jumps may consist of water, trees, ditches, bushes and rocks and can be on unlevel ground up or down. This competition is also timed so the horses are galloping between jumps. It is a very athletic event. The World Record for this event was achieved in 1975 by Andre Ferreira (South Africa) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The record for the longest jump over water is 27 ft., 6 3/4 inches by a horse named “Something”.
Dressage – A French term meaning training, a form of both training and competition on the flat that emphasizes natural training of the horse to perform calmly and quietly in complete obedience to the rider. For dressage, the horse and rider have to perform special movements at set markers or ‘letters’ in the dressage arena. It has many times been compared to ballet or figure skating for horse and riders. The Royal Lipizzaner Stallions have made Classical Dressage a known event. It takes many years of training to compete at the highest levels, even the Olympics, but anyone can do it!
Eventing – In this sport, the horse and rider take part in three phases of competition. They are dressage, cross country and show jumping. Eventing tests the skill of the rider and the ability and obedience of the horse. It is an extremely athletic and exciting competition.
Reining - This sport is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits. Reining is often described as a Western form of dressage riding, as it requires the horse to be responsive and in tune with its rider, whose aids should not be easily seen, and judges the horse on its ability to perform a set pattern of movements. This is the event in which you will see things like flying lead changes and sliding stops.
Rodeo – Rodeo is a sport for the tough and brave. It became popular as a spectator sport and today has its own professional circuit. Many events involve riding horses like calf roping, steer wrestling, saddle and bareback bronc riding, team roping, and barrel racing. Today’s rodeo events are sensitive to both the rider and the animal’s safety.
Speed Events/Gymkhana – This is a term used to describe an event consisting of timed games for riders on horses. These events often emphasize children's participation and may be organized by a recognized Pony Club or a 4-H club. Gymkhana classes include timed speed events such as barrel racing, keyhole, keg race (also known as "down and back"), flag race, and pole bending.
Halter – This event is where you show your horse or pony in a halter or bridle to the judge in hand, meaning that they are led not ridden. You walk and trot with your horse to show the judge your horse’s conformation, obedience and way of moving. It is intended to judge how suitable the horse is for breeding stock. However, today all breeds, geldings, mares, and stallions can be shown. Halter classes are usually grouped by breed, sex, or age. Rules, breed standards, clipping patterns, grooming styles, use of grooming products and popularity of the halter discipline varies widely. However, all classes require that horses be meticulously groomed before entering the ring, be trained to stand correctly in the style dictated by their breed or discipline, and to walk and trot on command in a designated pattern or line. It is a fantastic way to get started at a horse show.
Showmanship- An event that judges people on their ability to groom and present a halter horse is called Halter Showmanship or Showmanship In-Hand. In most breeds, the exhibitor is given a score that breaks down to be roughly 60% or more on showmanship or skill, 40% on grooming and preparation, though precise standards vary by breed and discipline.
Reinsmanship – This is like showmanship, only with driving. Entries are judged primarily on the ability and skill of the driver. Horses are shown at a walk, slow trot, working trot and strong trot. The drivers could be asked to perform a pattern for the judge. The breakdown of the scoring system is 75% on handling of reins and whip, control, posture and overall appearance of driver and 25% on the condition of harness and vehicle and neatness of attire.
Saddleseat - This is a style of riding within the category of English riding that is designed to show off the high trotting action of certain horse breeds, like the Saddlebred, Tennessee Walker, National Show Horse, Morgan or Arabian. The goal of the Saddle Seat riding style is to show off the horse's extravagant gaits, particularly the trot. All saddleseat riding is done on the flat
Driving- Driving, when applied to horses is a broad term for hitching any equine to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way. It encompasses a wide range of activities from pleasure driving, to harness racing, to farm work, horse shows, and even International combined driving competition sanctioned by the FEI. For training purposes, "driving" may also include the practice of long-lining (long reining), wherein a horse is driven without a cart by a handler walking behind or behind and to the side of the animal. This technique is used in the early stages of training horses for riding as well as for driving.
In hand Sport- This is another form of halter class where the horse, usually a sport horse breed like a warmblood, is shown in hand at walk and extended trot. This class has a specific triangle pattern that is used and a scorecard for the conformation and movement of the horse. Horses are judged on their apparent ability to perform high level horse sports.
Trail – This is one of the most popular ways of riding and one of the most popular classes at the fair. You are asked to maneuver through an arena set up with many different kinds of obstacles. Gaits that can be called are halt, walk, trot, or canter. You may need to back up, side pass, ground tie, pivot, turn on the forehand or turn on the haunches. Things you may encounter in a class include poles, bridges, cones, gates, piles of hay, mailbox, tarp, jumps and just about anything you can think of. The whole point is to condition your horse to not be afraid of things they may encounter while you are riding. It is great for teaching your horse to become a safe mount.
Endurance - A sport, in which the Arabian dominates at the top levels, has become very popular in the United States and in Europe. Endurance races take place over a given, measured distance and the horses have an even start. Races begin at 20 miles (32 km) and peak at 100 miles (160 km). Horses are checked by vets at various spots during the race, some known and others are surprises. If a horse does not “pass” the vet check, they are finished with the race.
Vaulting – This is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, and like these disciplines, it is an art as well as a competitive sport. In competitive vaulting, vaulters compete as individuals, pairs or pas-de-deux, and teams. The vaulting horse, which has been carefully trained, moves in a 15-meter circle and is controlled by a lunger. The components of a freestyle vaulting routine may include mounts and dismounts, handstands, kneeling and standing and aerial moves such as flips. Teams will also carry, lift, and even toss another vaulter in the air. Judging is based on technique, performance, form, difficulty, balance, security, and consideration of the horse—the horse as well as the vaulter earns a score. Vaulting horses are not saddled, but they do wear a surcingle (or a roller) and a thick back pad.
Therapeutic Riding/Handling - Therapeutic riding, handling or even vaulting is also used as form of treatment for children and adults who may have balance, attention, gross motor skill, mental or emotional disabilities. Therapeutic Riding is a growing and widely-accepted treatment for rehabilitating thousands of people. Riders experience increased self-confidence and improvement in strength, balance, coordination, attention span, language and social skills. Shawano County is blessed to have such a riding facility, Red River Riders, just west of Shawano. I am sure you could volunteer some time and help with this wonderful program.
Drill Team or Quadrille – Drill Team is a team of riders that perform a routine choreographed to music. Riding in a drill team means that you ride your horse in pairs, triples, quads or even larger groups. Quadrille is a choreographed dressage ride, commonly performed to music, which is often compared to an equestrian ballet. In both, a minimum of four horses are used, although many times more (always in pairs), which perform movements together.
Exhibition Riding – Many people with extraordinary riding talents or successful training methods have taken their riding to the ‘bright lights’. Exhibition riding is done at large shows, races, parades, equestrian events, trade shows and even Las Vegas. If this kind of riding is your goal, be prepared to spend countless hours training your horse to be completely focused on you and not on outside distractions. Any horse person either loves to watch or dreams to ride in exhibition.
Polo – This is a fast paced ‘stick and ball’ sport played by two teams on horseback. Each team tries to score as many goals as possible. The horses that are trained to play this game can stop, start, turn, and sprint extremely quickly. This game is very tiring for the polo ponies, so each rider may have multiple horses or ponies to play the game.
Racing – People enjoy watching horse racing all over the world. It is even more exciting for the jockeys and horses taking part in the race. There are three main types of race, which are flat racing, hurdling and steeplechasing. Flat racing the very fast and has no jumps, and steeplechasing is a longer race, which includes large bushy fences. The fastest breed of horse is the Thoroughbred. Secretariat is still today, the fastest racehorse to ever live.
Harness Racing – Racing or trotting is a very popular sport in many parts of the world. It is like a chariot race, but the horse has to trot and cannot canter. Some horses can trot as fast as a racehorse gallops. This race is usually about 1 mile long. The cart these horses pull is called a sulky. Standardbreds are typically used in this sport.
Cutting - This sport requires a cutting horse which is an athletic and willing animal that is trained to instinctively keep a cow from returning to the herd. In the actual event, the horse and rider select and separate a cow (typically a steer or heifer) out of a small group. The cow then tries to return to its herd; the rider loosens the reins “puts his hand down" and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow separated, a job the best horses do with style. You better have a secure seat and yes, you can use the horn!
Team Penning – This is another form of cutting that evolved from the common ranch work of separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport. Today it is a fast-paced event that gives a team of three riders on horseback from 60 to 90 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30, and put them into a pen through a 10 foot opening, at the opposite end of the arena. The sport usually features 30 head of cattle with numbers affixed to their back, three each wearing a number from 0 through 9 or with colored collars attached. Timing starts once the line judge has dropped his flag as the lead rider's horse crosses the foul line. At that time, the announcer identifies the cattle to be separated by calling out a randomly drawn number or collar color. The riders must cut out the three head, pen them and call for time. Teamwork is the key with all three riders working in harmony to cut out the correct cattle and drive them to the pen while keeping the rest of the herd back.
Team Sorting – Very similar to team penning, but instead the announcer calls out a number and the team has to sort them in order. Events may have 2 or 3 riders, have a 2 minute time limit and the goal is to “pen” them in numeric sequence in the shortest time.
Enjoying your horse, just because they make wonderful companions - If your goal with the horse project is to simply enjoy the company of your equine companion - that is great too. In 4-H you can learn how to properly care for your animal, keep it healthy, and keep both you and your horse safe, whether handling, riding or driving. Horses are wonderful animals to get to know and care for. Medical statistics show that people with animals tend to live happier and healthier lives, so here is to good health and lots of happy times with your equine friend.
*Some parts of these descriptions were taken from Wikipedia.