Horse Show Performance Classes Explained: Why You Need Horsemanship 2022

Almost everyone who owns a horse will want to show. There are events for all. If you have a finely bred, well-trained horse, you may want to try the Perform­ance and Equitation classes at your local horse shows. Or if you want to have the fun of competing in timed events there are always play days and gymkhanas. A gymkhana is made up of horse games and timed events. Both horse shows and gymkhanas take much practice, but the winning of a trophy or ribbon is compensation for the effort.

Showing your horse requires as much practice as any other sporting event. The competition is great, and you must learn to be a good loser. You can’t just be good, you must be better. Showing for performance requires excellent horsemanship and unless the horse is schooled well in these events there is no use in entering. Play days and gymkhanas take good balance and a certain amount of skill and luck. Decide the type of classes that suit the talents of your horse and keep him in that category. An animal that is well col­lected and well trained should not be used in a race or game that requires the horse to run with abandon. This will cause the horse to be too animated in a Performance Class where collection is essential. By the same token, a fast horse capable of moving around obstacles should not be expected to become thoroughly quiet to show in equitation.

Performance classes consist of Western Pleasure, Trail Class, Stock Horse, and Western Equitation. In these horses are required to walk, trot, and canter on the correct lead, stop abruptly, and work on a reasonably loose rein both ways of the ring. In Western Pleasure, Stock Horse, and Trail Class the horse is judged. In all Equitation classes the rider is judged for hands, seat, performance of horse, and suitability of horse for the rider. The stock horse is required to make two rounds in a figure eight to show change of leads, both back and front, three fast sprints, and a collected stop (mouth should be closed), pivots (swinging front legs to left and right, pivoting on back legs), and backing on a loose rein. In a fast stop, if the animal’s mouth flies open it means too heavy a hand and the exhibitor will be marked down in points. In the Trail Class the horse goes through certain designated obstacles chosen by the horse show committee. This usually consists of a stock gate, backing through poles laid at an angle, a short hedge for jumping, a water hazard, a bridge, and a trailer. Sometimes a cowhide is added or a burro with rattling pans tied to his back.

At times, in an effort to make the obstacles more difficult, they are changed to unreasonable hazards that no self-re­specting animal on a normal trail would accept. It has been said that the average show trail horse is brain-washed when required to follow through these obstacles to the point where he would be dangerous to ride out on a real trail.

For performance classes, appointments are important, even though they count only 25 percent. The all-over appearance should be neat and attractive. Hat, gloves, ker­chief or tie, chaps or chinks, western boots, and spurs are optional. The saddle should be equipped with lariat, hobbles, slicker, and sometimes a sheathed pair of wire cutters. Some of these things may be optional. The saddle and all tack should be in good condition and clean.

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