Picking and choosing horse classes at a
show is simple once you get the
hang of it. Take the time to consider how your horse
may perform in each
class you are considering entering in if you are newer to the
Not quite sure if a particular class is right for you? Hang out and
watch before deciding. You can learn a lot from more experienced riders
including subtle riding
tips that you can apply to your own riding.
For all of us involved in horse showing there
has a to be a first time for everything. However you may not want to
enter your horse in a trail class if he has never seen a ground pole or
a bridge before, just a suggestion. I have seen many exhibitors "try
it" with no success. If you walk onto a trail course with no prior
experience or practice, make sure you remain respectful of the judges
and those waiting in line by removing yourself from the class if you
miss a couple portions of the course.
You also should probably not enter your horse in a class requiring
jumping if he has never seen a jump before (no matter how small the
You could get hurt pretty badly if you put your own wants in front of
the reality of what your horse is suitable for. Just a few common sense
thoughts you should keep in mind when entering horse classes at a horse
Make sure your horse can physically meet the demands you will be
placing on him for each class. There is such a thing as over-showing a
horse which can lead to soreness, lameness, illness, and ring souring.
Be respectful of your team mate in the ring and it will get you farther
in the long run.
Here is some helpful information about the different classes you may
encounter at a stock horse show.
A favorite of horse classes among riders
everywhere. The pleasure
classes at the large stock horse shows (i.e. All American Quarter Horse
Congress and the various national and world level shows) tend to draw
in a large crowd of both exhibitors and spectators. Pleasure classes at
a stock horse show are generally judged on the horse and its quality of
pleasure (the more favored of the two) involves a slower
collection during all three gaits and, when done right, is actually one
of the more challenging classes to show in for horse and rider. English
pleasure or hunter
under saddle requires slightly larger movements. By larger, I
do not mean faster. Hunter horses typically move with longer, free and
In each type of pleasure class, exhibitors are asked to show their
horse at all three gaits traveling in both directions. Any break in
gait will result in a disqualification (DQ) from the class.
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Another fun set of horse classes you will
find at a stock horse show
are the pattern classes. There are both in-hand and under saddle
varieties, allowing for a fun yet challenging addition to your horse
is an in-hand pattern class in which the exhibitor works with the horse
to execute a showmanship
pattern specified by the judge(s). This class usually
involves a series of walking, trotting, stopping, backing, turning, and
setting up. As you can see the possibilities are endless when creating
a pattern. Ground markers (typically traffic cones) are put in place to
indicate transition points in the pattern.
Seat Equitation is an english, under saddle pattern class.
Riders are judged on their equitation or body position while executing
a specific pattern. Again traffic cones are used for markers and rail
work (showing the horse on the rail at the walk, trot, and canter) may
or may not be a part of the class. Patterns are also judged on how
clean the horse and rider can complete each component of the class.
is a western, under saddle pattern class. Riders are also judged on
their body position and how smooth the pattern is completed. Components
in a western horsemanship pattern will typically include walking,
jogging, loping, lead changes, stopping, backing, and turning. Rail
work may or may not also be included.
riding is a pattern class, but is different than the
horsemanship classes. In western riding, there are several standard
patterns which can vary between shows. Each pattern requires a horse to
complete a series of lead changes at the lope around several different
cone set-ups. This is a more difficult class for horse and rider
because of the careful timing and skill needed to execute the many lead
changes throughout the pattern. It is also very impressive to watch
this class when performed correctly.
class can be classified as a pattern class, but it requires
more complex maneuvers around obstacles. Ground poles, bridges, cones,
and a gate are typical for most shows. Be prepared for the added big
blue tarp or strange props meant to distract your mount. The higher
level shows will require a highly trained and specialized trail horse.
The higher you go in trail competition, the more complex and elaborate
Horses competing in performance horse
classes have to meet a higher set
of physical demands while showing.
horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a
calf from the herd for a certain amount of time. Top performing horses
have a higher level of instinct to keep the calf from returning to the
herd. You are not likely to see cutting combined with the pleasure and
pattern horse classes unless you are showing at an upper level world or
national show. There are separate cutting horse shows through the
National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) where the best cutting horses
can be found.
horse and rider are judged on their performance as they ride
a pattern at the lope and gallop. The pattern also includes sliding
stops, spins, lead changes and circles. Although it is a class judged
on a pattern, there is a higher level of physical performance for both
the horse and rider. Again you may or may not have reining classes
combined with the pleasure/pattern classes at a show.
cow horse is judged on its ability to perform maneuvers
around a single cow including circling and turning the cow. They are
also judged on their completion of a reining pattern. Horses competing
in these classes are also called reined cow horses.
A roping horse is found competing in a variety of timed classes based
on real ranch work. Calf roping, team
roping, and breakaway roping are a few examples of roping
Also known as speed horse classes,
include a variety of timed events.
Competing in horse
games classes involves speed and timing. A few examples of
speed events include barrel
bending, and keyhole
racing. Not only does a games horse need to be fast, they
also need to be relatively agile when winding around barrels or through
a series of poles.
Over Fences Classes
Over fences includes various levels of horse
jumping classes through a course of fences. Courses will vary
in set-up and fence height based on the class. A hunter hack class
usually has two smaller jumps, while a working hunter class has an
entire course of jumps set up.
horse classes are judged specifically on horse conformation
and movement at a trot. Halter is another in-hand class but is solely
judged on how well your horse is put together. Some varieties of halter
classes take into account horse coloring. These horse classes are
found at smaller open shows and at the larger color breed circuit
As you can see there are many choices to be made when trying to figure
out which horse classes are best suited for you and your horse. As I
have said before, just use some common sense and you'll be fine. Have
fun and get out there!