Show Horse

Show Horse collage
Show Horse – western riding on the quiet

For many,  and it’s especially the case in the UK, Western Riding begins and ends with the showing classes. Versatility in a show horse comes if it shows well in hand in the Showmanship Class. Then, it shows its paces in Western Pleasure. It could also cover Reining Horse and then quietly execute a Western Trail. But, like any other western riding competition in the World, many competitors have horses that show in only one class.

Make no mistake, you will see no finer example of the various breeds that are well known in Western Riding circles (American Quarter Horse, Appaloosa and Paint to name just three) when you watch a Show Horse class. Without doubt,  a show horse class demonstrates what most regard as the finer qualities of a western horse. Because, that’s its grace and quiet execution of the task at hand.


Showmanship is the only “in-hand” class in Western riding. It’s all about tack and turnout and the handler’s ability to show the conformation of the horse to its best effect. There’s nothing better when you are starting out with a young horse for getting both of you comfortable in the show ring. It’s all about groundwork which for many, is the foundation of the versatile horse

Western Pleasure

Western Pleasure consists of showing the various gaits in western riding: walk, jog and lope. In the process, you show smooth and unflustered transitions from one gait to another as they are called by the judge. Quiet stops and changes of direction are also required and the show horse must do all this in a calm, relaxed manner without so much as a flick of its tail.


Reining is the hallmark of western riding. In this show horse class, the horse must demonstrate a steady loping gait at various speeds. Plus, flying lead changes, spins, sliding stops and rollbacks. All performed with the minimum of visible cues from the rider and without any display of attitude on the part of the horse. The pattern for the class is set before hand by the judge and it depends on the competitive level of the competition. The reining pattern also determines the sequence in which the various movements are performed.

Western Trail

Western Trail demonstrates the western horse’s ability to quietly negotiate a variety of obstacles on the ground. It usually involves variations in gait as the show horse proceeds around the western trail course. The obstacles vary but will almost always include a gate, various pole step overs, side passing and backing up.

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