Western Horsemanship

What is Western Horsemanship?

This event evaluates the rider’s skill in performing a set of stipulated maneuvers. Judging is based on the degree of precision and smoothness in executing seven to nine maneuvers and requires the horse and rider to work in precise and complete unison. Riders are assessed on their ability to maintain a balanced and correct body position while directing the horse with subtle aids and cues, and the horse’s ability to respond to the rider and follow the intended pattern of moves.

In IHSA competition there are five levels of Western Horsemanship: Beginner, Intermediate, Novice, Advanced and Open.

In NCAA/NCEA competition there is one level of Western Horsemanship: Open

The event is judged both on the rider’s skill as well as how the horse performs for the rider.  The judge:

  • evaluates the rider’s position
  • tests the rider’s ability and the horse’s execution to perform a prescribed pattern

Ideal Rider and Rein Position

  • Rider should be seated in the center of the saddle, forming a straight line from the ear, through the center of the shoulder and hip, touching the back of the heel or through the ankle.
  • Reins should be adjusted so that the rider keeps light contact with the horse’s mouth so that no more than a slight hand movement should be required to control the horse. Penalties will be imposed for excessively tight or loose reins.

Acceptable Maneuvers and Patterns

  • Walk, jog, trot, extended trot, lope or extended lope in a straight line, curved line, serpentine, circle, or figure eight, stop, back in a straight or curved line, turn or pivot, including spins and rollbacks on the haunches and/or on the forehand, side pass, two-track, flying or simple lead change, counter canter, or ride without stirrups.
  • All three gaits must be demonstrated in at least one direction of the arena.
  • At least one back should be demonstrated.

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