icon points to HSC on Google Plus icon points to HSC on Twitter icon points to HSC on Facebook icon points to HSC on LinkedIn
image points to horse-magazine business website
HorseShowCentral > Riding Styles & Disciplines > Western Horsemanship

Western Horsemanship - Riding Styles & Disciplines

Close up of female in typical Western Horsemanship pose. Western Horsemanship Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

In Western Horsemanship also called Western Equitation, the skill of the rider is tested as well as the degree of training of his or her horse. Basically, what counts is how well the two work together, how harmonious their concerted performance is.


This is a class only for Amateurs and Youth contestants. Although the judge will design a pattern which the participants of the class must perform, the correct execution of the pattern is not the only aspect for this class. Half of the evaluation is based on the appearance of horse and rider, the other half on their performance. Appearance in the western horsemanship class includes the posture of the rider, as well as the horse’s condition, the equipment, and the rider’s outfit.

This is the only western riding class in which the rider’s seat, position, posture, position and action of hands and legs are being judged, as well as his or her ability to effectively cue the horse with as invisible cues as possible. This is not to say that these factors do not play a role in other classes, because they do, but in this one it is a main focus.

This class is to a considerable degree influenced by fashion and trends. Especially lady exhibitors not only like to present themselves in fashionable outfits, but are well-advised to do so. Sometimes, gloves are in, sometimes they are out. Everything should be color-coordinated. For male exhibitors it is possible to get by with a more traditional outfit


Riders should sit their horses straight up, but naturally in the western horsemanship class, they should ride in balance and be functional. An extraordinarily well-trained horse that executes the pattern correctly, but is exhibited by a rider who barely sits on top, like a passenger, is not going to win this kind of class.

Judges want to see competent riders, who actually ride their horses, help their horses, who are in control and functional. Missing parts of the prescribed pattern does not result in disqualification, but an exhibitor who missed something, or did something wrong, is never to be placed above one who executed the whole pattern correctly.


Maneuvers in a pattern for western horsemanship can be diverse. Often, rather easy patterns are chosen, which may include simply walk, trot, and lope at designated parts, maybe a turn or back-up. Cones are used to mark where the gait is to be picked up, where to stop, etc. Precision is called for, and smooth, competent execution with aids as close to invisible as possible.

A simple basic pattern may be enough for the judge to find his winner and placings. However, in classes on a higher level, every maneuver can be incorporated, from a spin to a flying lead change, from a side-pass to dismounting and remounting.

The western horsemanship class consists of two parts: the pattern work and the rail work. Rail work is basically like a western pleasure, only that here it is judged a little differently insofar as that horses may be more up in the bridle, presented with more contact.

Western horsemanship classes are sometimes held with all exhibitors in the arena, waiting in line, or individually from the gate. In the latter case, a working order must be designed and posted prior to the class. Working individually from the gate is preferable, as it gives the contestant a chance to warm the horse up and prepare it properly.

Article © HorseShowCentral.com. Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photos © Oelke or Oelke Archive. Reproduction of any portion of this copyrighted website without written permission of the publisher is prohibited and subject to legal action.

mount and rider working a pattern. mount and rider exhibiting an easy walk.
Sitting erect is important in western horsemanship, as are subtle cues. All kinds of maneuvers may be asked for in a western horsemanship pattern. The photo on the right shows an execution of a side pass over a cone.

You may also wish to read about the Quarter Horse, American Paint Horses, Appaloosa, or these related disciplines all involved in Western Style Riding:

Western Style Riding
Cow Horse
Western Pleasure
Western Riding
Western Trail Class
Cutting Horse
Reined Cow Horse / Working Cowhorse
Ranch Horse Competition
Calf Roping
Team Roping
Team Penning
Barrel Racing
Pole Bending
Halter Horses
Showmanship at Halter

Other site pages that offer information for those who ride Western style: horses, breeding, stallions, shows, industry supplies, etc.:

Shopping - Business Products Services

Search this site for Horse Shows - Events
Search this site for Stallions at Stud
Search this site for Stables/Farms/Ranches
Search this site for Horse Associations - Clubs

Return to Riding Styles, Disciplines