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Western Riding Showing Classes For many, Western Riding begins and ends with the showing classes. Even then, many will satisfy their experience with doing nothing more than just showing their horse “in hand”.

Make no mistake, you will see no finer example of the various breeds that are well known in Western Riding circles (American Quarter Horse and Appaloosa to name just two) when you watch a Showmanship class but, isn’t it a waste of a good horse simply go to an arena, be judged without even mounting up and then go home?

In a day’s versatility, Showmanship will likely be the first class of the day and, later, between a cattle class and game or two, the versatile horse will be put through its paces in a Reining pattern and one or two of  the other  western riding show classes


It all starts here. Whatever else you do with a versatile horse, be it Reining, Barrel Racing or Working Cow Horse, you must show him “in hand” now and again.

Managing a horse in hand is probably one of the first skills you will learn - and turning him out to his best effect is all part of the preparation for any horse show.

With Showmanship, you are being judged on your ability to show the fine qualities of your pride and joy.  

And although the whole process has become somewhat stylised for those who do nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to see what a thing of beauty a well turned out horse can be.

Western Pleasure

Like Showmanship, Western Pleasure is not only one of the first western riding  competition classes we do but, for many, it’s the only one to do.

It’s a class that is designed to show a horse that is a pleasure to ride: quietly responding to any request for a change of pace and showing a quiet and easy disposition at whatever pace.

It’s another tack and turn out class where both horse and rider will be expected to be in their best gear. Although this is interpreted by many as being a need for lots of “bling”, the fact is that if you and your horse are neat and tidy, the horse should get all the attention he needs by showing well at what he does best…


Probably the best known of all  the Western Riding disciplines, Reining  has been referred to as “Dressage with attitude” but that favours neither Reining or Dressage.

It’s a multi million dollar sport worldwide and shows all the finer aspects of a good western horse: quiet response to subtle cues,  a collected gait and nimbleness starting, stopping and turning.

For many, Reining is all that  western riding  is or needs to be but , once the Reining competitor has done a  two or three minute go-round, it’s the end of their day.

For the Versatile Horse, on  the other hand, its day is just beginning…

Western Trail

Western Trail is another perennial favourite and you will not find a western riding show anywhere that does not have a trail class in it.

The arena will be laid out with a series of obstacles intended to approximate to the sort of objects that would be encountered on a trail ride: a gate, a bridge, various poles in various configurations, a “ground tie”, and so on.

There’s no time limit on the class and the western horse scores highest that negotiates all the obstacles cleanly with the minimum of cuing from the rider and without any indication of “attitude” (hesitation, a flicked tail, a shaken head or pawing the ground are common signs).

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