How to Choose a Riding Class

Pleasure riding classes

The pleasure riding class is the most popular Western riding competition. Competitors are judged in a group rather than individually, and the emphasis is mainly on the horse, making pleasure riding an inviting and easy introduction to showing in the Western style. The key to the competition is in the title-the horse must look a pleasure to ride. The judges are therefore looking for a relaxed and easily controlled horse that is not worried by the environment of the show ring and the other horses around it.

A class begins with the competitors walking in a large circle around the judge. When appropriate, they are all asked via a loudspeaker to move forward at “jog” (trot). Next, the competitors will be asked to move upwards to “lope” (a very controlled canter).

Riding Class

When taking part in pleasure riding classes, make any changes of pace on your own time rather than waiting for the other horses to begin-you need your horse to stand out as an individual.

At some stage, the riders will be asked to make their horses “reverse,” which requires the horse to move backward in a straight line. The winner will be the most happy, relaxed horse with a good movement that appears to respond to almost invisible aids from the rider and can be ridden on a very loose rein.

Showmanship classes

In a showmanship class, the horse is used almost as a prop while the handlers take their turn to show how well they can control their horse from the ground. A pre­determined set of moves is carried out in front of a judging panel. The moves are often only made known to the handlers an hour before the class begins. As the emphasis is on the handler, competitors wear very elaborate Western-style costumes with starched jeans, boots, a belt with buckle, large cowboy hat and a highly decorated blazer-female competitors are even encouraged to wear plenty of makeup. Showmanship is really a fun class with the handler being judged on his or her ability to present the horse in the best possible manner to the judge. This means providing an unobstructed view of the horse throughout the routine yet always being in full control and demonstrating that the horse shows complete respect and will obey the slightest command.


Reining is a very impressive spectator sport and has its roots firmly in the history of American stock raisers. A good cattle-hand needs a highly responsive horse from which to round up and rope in ranch steers, one that can accelerate up to a gallop at the slightest encouragement, turn on a dime and stop absolutely still without a moment’s hesitation—essentially a horse that is obedient and in tune with its rider. During a competition, riders are asked to perform a set pattern of movements in front of a panel of judges. Movements such as the famous “sliding stop,” where the horse halts from gallop by locking its back legs firmly in place while running forward with its front legs until it stops, are inspiring to watch, while the “rollback turn,” where the horse slides to a halt before immediately turning 180 degrees and setting off at a fast gallop again, makes for very dramatic viewing. Horses are judged on their speed, finesse and smoothness-and ultimately their relationship with the rider.

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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