Horse shows have something for everyone, and are probably one of the most common activities horse riders participate in. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced rider, you can participate in local or regional shows to show your training and skills.
If you are interested in competing in shows, it’s best to start out in local shows. They are the best place for beginners to build confidence and gain experience. As you compete in local shows and consistently place well, you can then consider competing in state, regional, or national level shows. Be aware that at these levels, it is more difficult to place because there are more riders, and more emphasis is placed on superior skills shown in the shows.
During a show, there are several classes presented where you can win ribbons based on how good a horse person you are. In regional shows, you may participate in a class with as many as 25 other riders. No matter what, style is very important in the show. The general categories that are included in a regional show are:
- Pleasure classes, which are not judged on the rider’s ability, but rather the performance of the horse. They judges will look for how “pleasurable” the horse is to ride. Pleasure classes are offered in both Western and English styles.
- Equitation classes, where the rider is judged on her riding skills. In this class, the rider must effectively give commands to her horse, and the horse must respond smoothly. Dressage does belong to this class.
- Timed classes, which are different depending upon which riding style is preferred. Western riding includes games such as barrel racing and pole bending, while English riders will do cross country and stadium jumping.
- Showmanship class, where riders stand alongside the horse and walk it through a pattern that is posted around an hour before the show. The rider demonstrates leading, backing and turning around. The showmanship class is not always included in every show.
In a Western competition, there are typically three classes presented:
- The stock horse section, where the rider demonstrates her horse’s paces at the walk, trot (or a job), and cantor (or a lope).
- The reining-back test, which shows how quickly a horse to come to a stop from full speed. Some competitions involve working with cattle in this section.
- The timed events, which are the same as mentioned above in the regional shows.
And finally, there are the English events, which are traditional English style horse shows which last three days (and are the ones where you see the ladies with big hats). Each day presents a different test:
- Dressage, which requires riders to perform a test made up of about 15 different movements. Three judges oversee the riders, and marks are awarded for each movement including the seat of the rider, submission and paces.
- In the speed and endurance test, riders typically go through four phases over a cross country distance of six to 12 miles. A steeplechase is sometimes included in this test.
- The last event on the third day is show-jumping, which is a test made up of a course with up to 12 fences. Each event is timed and points are lost of a horse knocks over a fence, refuses to jump, or the rider falls.
Horse shows are considered by many riders to be one of the most fun activities to participate in. With plenty of training and practice, you can become very successful and progress through the ranks, or simply enjoy showing off the training you and your horse have worked through. Either way, it is a very fulfilling activity, for both you and your horse.
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