Painthorses & Quarter horses – Cool Running Paints

Breeds

American Quarter horse

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The American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less; some individuals have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h). The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with more than 5 million American Quarter Horses registered.

The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeos, horse shows and as a working ranch horse. The compact body of the American Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, working cow horse, barrel racing, calf roping, and other western riding events, especially those involving live cattle. The American Quarter Horse is also shown in English disciplines, driving, and many other equestrian activities.

Breed characteristics

The modern Quarter Horse has a small, short, refined head with a straight profile, and a strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and powerful, rounded hindquarters. They usually stand between 14 and 16 hands(56 and 64 inches, 142 and 163 cm) high, although some Halter-type and English hunter-type horses may grow as tall as 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm).

There are two main body types: the stock type and the hunter or racing type. The stock horse type is shorter, more compact, stocky and well muscled, yet agile. The racing and hunter type Quarter Horses are somewhat taller and smoother muscled than the stock type, more closely resembling the Thoroughbred.

Stock type

Reining and cutting horses are smaller in stature, with quick, agile movements and very powerful hindquarters. Western pleasure show horses are often slightly taller, with slower movements, smoother gaits, and a somewhat more level topline – though still featuring the powerful hindquarters characteristic of the Quarter Horse.

Halter type

Horses shown in-hand in Halter competition are larger yet, with a very heavily muscled appearance, while retaining small heads with wide jowls and refined muzzles. There is controversy amongst owners, breeder and veterinarians regarding the health effects of the extreme muscle mass that is currently fashionable in the specialized halter horse, which typically is 15.2 to 16 hands (62 to 64 inches, 157 to 163 cm) and weighs in at over 1,200 pounds (540 kg) when fitted for halter competition. Not only are there concerns about the weight to frame ratio on the horse’s skeletal system, but the massive build is also linked to HYPP.

Racing and hunter type

A quarter horse competing in an open hunter show

Quarter Horse race horses are bred to sprint short distances ranging from 220 to 870 yards. Thus, they have long legs and are leaner than their stock type counterparts, but are still characterized by muscular hindquarters and powerful legs. Quarter horses race primarily against other Quarter horses, and their sprinting ability has earned them the nickname, “the world’s fastest athlete.” The show hunter type is slimmer, even more closely resembling a Thoroughbred, usually reflecting a higher percentage of appendix breeding. They are shown in hunter/jumper classes at both breed shows and in open USEF-rated horse show competition.

Colors

Quarter Horses come in nearly all colors. The most common color is sorrel, a brownish red, part of the color group called chestnut by most other breed registries. Other recognized colors include bay, black, brown, buckskin,palomino, gray, dun, red dun, grullo (also occasionally referred to as blue dun), red roan, blue roan, bay roan, perlino, cremello, and white. In the past, spotted color patterns were excluded, but now with the advent of DNAtesting to verify parentage, the registry accepts all colors as long as both parents are registered.


American Paint horse

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The American Paint Horse is a breed of horse that combines both the conformational characteristics of a western stock horse with a pinto spotting pattern of white and dark coat colors. Developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred bloodlines, the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) breed registry is now one of the fastest-growing in North America. The registry allows some non-spotted animals to be registered as “Solid Paint Bred” and considers the American Paint Horse to be a horse breed with distinct characteristics, not merely a color breed.

A Solid Paint Bred

In addition to bloodlines, to be eligible for the Regular Registry of the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), the horse must also exhibit a “natural paint marking”, meaning either a predominant hair coat color with at least one contrasting area of solid white hair of the required size with some underlying unpigmented skin present on the horse at the time of its birth. Or, in the case of a predominantly white hair coat, at least one contrasting area of the required size of colored hair with some underlying pigmented skin present on the horse. Natural Paint markings usually must cover more than two inches and be located in certain designated areas of the body.

Solid Paint-bred foal. Sire was a sorrel and white tobiano, dam is a black and white tovero. Foal is a solid Chestnut.

Solid colored offspring of two registered Paint parents, called “Solid Paint-Breds” or “Breeding Stock Paints,” are also eligible for registration, with certain restrictions. They are able to participate in some recognized Paint breed shows, and there are alternative programs offered, and many incentive programs within the registry are available to Solid Paint-bred horses. If a solid-colored horse is bred to a regular registry Paint horse, it is possible to produce a spotted foal. In some cases, such as the recessive sabino patterns, described below, even a solid colored horse may still carry genes for color. However, in the case of the dominant tobiano pattern, a Breeding Stock Paint will not carry these color genes, though it may retain other desirable tra

A Tobiano Paint

Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and another color of the equine spectrum. Most common are horses with white spots combined with black, bay, brown, andchestnut or sorrel. Less common are horses with spot colors influenced by dilution genes such as palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, pearl or “Barlink factor”, and champagne, various shades of roan, or various shades of dun, including grullo.  Paints may also carry the gray gene and have spots that eventually fade to white hair, though retaining pigmented skin underneath the areas that were once dark.

Spots can be any shape or size, except leopard complex patterning, which is characteristic of the Appaloosa, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint’s body. Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings and different underlying genetics, these are grouped into only four defined coat patterns: overo (includes frame, splash and sabino), tobiano andtovero and solid.

Breeding Stock Paints can sometimes showcase small color traits, particularly if they carry sabino genetics. Such traits include blue eyes, pink skin on lips and nostrils, roan spots, and minimal roaning.

Terms for color patterns defined

An Overo Paint

  • Tobiano: The most common spotting pattern, characterized by rounded markings with white legs and white across the back between the withers and the dock of the tail, usually arranged in a roughly vertical pattern and more white than dark, with the head usually dark and with markings like that of a normal horse. i.e. star, snip, strip, or blaze.
  • Overo: A group of spotting patterns characterized by sharp, irregular markings with a horizontal orientation, usually more dark than white, though the face is usually white, sometimes with blue eyes. The white rarely crosses the back, and the lower legs are normally dark. The APHA recognizes three overo patterns:
    • Frame: The most familiar overo pattern, the gene for frame has been genetically mapped and in the homozygous form, results in Lethal White Syndrome (LWS). Visually identified frames have no health defects connected to their color, and are characterized by ragged, sharp white patches on the sides of the body, leaving a “frame” of non-white color that typically includes the topline.
    • Sabino: Often confused with roan or rabicano, sabino is a slight spotting pattern characterized by high white on legs, belly spots, white markings on the face extending past the eyes and/or patches of roaning patterns standing alone or on the edges of white markings.
    • Splashed white: The least common spotting pattern, splashed whites typically have blue eyes and crisp, smooth, blocky white markings that almost always include the head and legs. The tail is often white or white-tipped, and body markings originate under the belly and extend “upwards”.
  • Tovero: spotting pattern that is a mix of tobiano and overo coloration, such as blue eyes on a dark head.
  • Solid: A horse otherwise eligible for registration as a Paint that does not have any white that constitutes a recognized spotting pattern.
  • “Color”: An informal term meaning that the horse has a spotting pattern. (The opposite of “Solid.”)
  • “Chrome”: An informal term of approval used in some geographic regions to describe a particularly flashy spotting pattern.

Paint or Pinto?

The terms “paint” and “pinto” are sometimes both used to describe spotted horses, but in modern use there is a clear difference between the two terms. A pinto differs from a Paint solely due to bloodlines. A pinto may be of any breed or combination of breeds, though some Pinto registries may have additional restrictions. (Some do not register draft horses or mules, for example.) For a horse to be registered as an American Paint Horse however, it must have registered American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, or Thoroughbred parents. Therefore, all Paint horses (except for the small number of “solids” allowed into the Paint registry) could be registered as pintos, but not all pintos qualify to be registered as Paints.

History

The American Paint Horse shares a common ancestry with the American Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred. A registered Paint horse should conform to the same “stock horse” body type desired in Quarter Horses: a muscular animal that is heavy but not too tall, with a low center of gravity for maneuverability, and powerful hindquarters suitable for rapid acceleration and sprinting.

When the American Quarter Horse Association emerged in 1940 to preserve horses of the “stock” type, it excluded those with pinto coat patterns and “crop out” horses, those born with white body spots or white above the knees and hocks. Undeterred, fans of colorful stock horses formed a variety of organizations to preserve and promote Paint horses. In 1965 some of these groups merged to form the American Paint Horse Association.


Quarab horse

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The Quarab is a horse breed from the United States, developed from a part-Arabian cross of Arabian horses, American Quarter Horses and Paint horses. Members of the breed are found that resemble all three of thefoundation breeds, leading to three recognized types: Straight or Foundation (an even cross between the Arabian and stock horse types), Stock (a heavier emphasis on stock horse breeding) and Pleasure (a heavier emphasis on Arabian breeding). Although there have been records of crosses between the three breeds throughout the history of their respective registries, the first Quarab registry was formed in 1984, but later went out of business. In 1999, the International Quarab Horse Association was formed and remains the leading force in Quarab breeding. In order to be registered with the IQHA, horses must have at least 1/8 blood from both the Arabian and stock horse types.

Breed characteristics

Quarabs are found that have characteristics of both Arabian and stock horse (Quarter horse or Paint) bloodlines, with individual horses’ characteristics are based on the ratio of Arabian to stock horse blood. Arabian types tend to have longer necks and barrels and level croups, while stock horse types tend to have more muscular legs and rounded croups. In height they range from 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm). The International Quarab Horse Association accepts horses of all colors and patterns, with the exception of leopard complex spotting, which is not accepted by the registry.

There are three recognized types of Quarabs: Straight or Foundation, Stock and Pleasure. Straight/Foundation horses are an almost even blend of Arabian and stock horse traits, showing the influence of both bloodlines equally. This type is sought by most breeders, and is the type on which the registry standard is based. The Stock type Quarab has a greater amount of either Quarter or Paint horse breeding and traits; this type is often used by ranchers and Western riding breeders. The Pleasure type shows a strong Arabian influence, with less traits from the stock horse – these horses are often favored by endurance riders.

Quarabs are found competing in many sports, including Western riding disciplines such as reining and roping and English riding sports such as dressage. They are also seen in use for driving, endurance and general pleasure riding.

History

Crosses between Arabians, Quarter Horses and Paints are recorded throughout the history of the Quarter Horse and Paint horse associations. For example, in the 1950s, the Arabian stallion Indraff sired two foals, a filly and a colt, by the Quarter Horse mare Cotton Girl. Both foals went on to successful careers, with the filly, named Indy Sue, earning an American Quarter Horse Association Performance Register of Merit and herself foaling three registered Quarter Horses. Before the American Paint Horse Association stud book was closed in the 1980s, a few sabino Arabian stallions were inspected and registered.

In 1984, the United Quarab Registry (UQR) was formed as the breed association for Quarter Horse/Arabian crossbred horses. In 1989, a new section of the registry, called the Painted Quarab Index, was added to include horses with blood from the American Paint Horse that showed tobiano and overo color patterns. The UQR was privately owned and later went out of business after a change of ownership. In 1999 the International Quarab Horse Association was formed to register the breed, functioning under the same guidelines as the UQR and soon spreading overseas, with member groups in Germany and the Netherlands.

The registry only accepts horses bred from parents registered with the respective breed registries – the American Quarter Horse Association, the Arabian Horse Association and the American Paint Horse Association, and horses must have at least 1/8 blood from either the Arabian or the stock (Quarter or Paint) horse parent.


Western Riding:

The needs of the cowboy’s job required different tack than was used in “English” disciplines. Covering long distances, and working with half-wild cattle, frequently at high speeds in very rough, brushy terrain, meant the ever-present danger of a rider becoming unseated in an accident miles from home and support. Thus, the most noticeable equipment difference is in the saddle, which has a heavy and substantial tree (traditionally made of wood) to absorb the shock of roping. The western saddle features a prominent pommel topped by a horn (a knob used for wrapping a lariat after roping an animal), a deep seat and a high cantle. Depending on the local geography, tapaderos (“taps”) cover the front of the stirrups to prevent brush from catching in the stirrups. Cowboy boots have somewhat more pointed toes and higher heels than a traditional work boot, modifications designed to prevent the rider’s foot from slipping through the stirrup during a fall and being dragged.

To allow for communication with the horse even with a loose rein, the bridle also evolved. The biggest difference between “English” and “Western” bridles is the bit. Most finished “Western” horses are expected to eventually perform in a curb bit with a single pair of reins that has somewhat longer and looser shanks than the curb of an English Double bridle or a pelham bit. Two styles of Western reins developed: The long split reins of the Texas tradition, which are completely separated, or the closed-end “Romal” reins of the California tradition, which have a long single attachment on the ends that can be used as a quirt. Young horses are usually started under saddle with either a simple snaffle bit, or with the classic tool of the vaquero, the bosal-style hackamore.

Rider attire

The clothing of the Western rider differs from that of the “English” style dressage, hunt seat or Saddle seat rider. Practical Western attire consists of a long-sleeved work shirt, denim jeans, boots, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Usually a rider wears protective leather leggings called “chaps” (from the Spanish chaparajos; often pronounced “shaps”) to help the rider stick to the saddle and to protect the legs when riding through brush. Clean, well-fitting work clothing is the usual outfit seen in rodeo, cutting and reining competitions, especially for men, though sometimes in brighter colors or finer fabrics.

Show equipment

Some competitive events may use flashier equipment. Unlike the English traditions where clothing and tack is quiet and unobtrusive, Western show equipment is intended to draw attention. Saddles, bits andbridles are frequently ornamented with substantial amounts of silver. The rider’s shirt is often replaced with a jacket, and women’s clothing in particular may feature vivid colors and even, depending on current fads, rhinestones or sequins. Hats and chaps are often color-coordinated, spurs and belt buckles are often silver-plated, and women’s scarf pins and, when worn, men’s bolo ties are also ornamented with silver or even semi-precious gemstones.

Western competitive events

For rodeo events, see Rodeo.

Competition for western riders at horse shows and related activities include in the following events:

  • Western pleasure – the rider must show the horse together with other horses in an arena at a walk, jog (a slow, controlled trot), and lope (a slow, controlled canter). In some breed competitions, a judge may ask for an extended canter and/or a hand gallop, and, less often, an extension of the jog. The horse must remain under control on a loose rein, with low head carriage, the rider directing the horse with nearly invisible aids and minimal interference.
  • Reining – considered by some the “dressage” of the western riding world, with FEI-recognized status as a new international discipline at the World Equestrian Games, reining requires horse and rider to perform a precise pattern consisting of circles at a lope and gallop with flying changes of lead, rapid “spins” (a turn in one spot on the haunches), “rollbacks” (a rapid turn immediately followed by a gallop in the opposite direction) and the crowd-pleasing sliding stop (executed from a full gallop).
  • Cutting – this event highlights the “cow sense” prized in stock horses. The horse and rider select and separate a cow (or steer) out of small herd of 10-20 animals. When the cow tries to return to the herd, the rider relaxes the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow from returning to the herd. Depending on the level of competition, one to three judges award points to each competitor.
  • Working cow horse – also called Reined cow horse. A judged competition that is something of a cross between cutting and reining. A horse and rider team work a single cow in an arena, making the cow move in a directed fashion through several maneuvers.
  • Ranch horse: An event that, depending on breed sanctioning organization, tests multiple categories used by working ranch horses: Ranch riding, which is similar to western pleasure; Ranch trail, testing tasks performed during ranch work, often judged on natural terrain rather than in an arena; Ranch Cutting, judged the same as a cutting event; Working ranch horse, combining Reining, Roping, and working cow horse; and ranch conformation and is judged like a halter class.
  • “Western Riding” Western Riding is a class that judges horses on a pattern, evaluating smooth gaits, flying lead changes, responsiveness to the rider, manners, and disposition.
  • Team penning: a timed event in which a team of 3 riders must select 3 to 5 marked steers out of a herd and drive them into a small pen. The catch: riders cannot close the gate to the pen till they have corralled all the cattle (and only the intended cattle) inside. The fastest team wins, and teams exceeding a given time limit are disqualified. A related event is Ranch sorting
  • Trail class: in this event, the rider has to maneuver the horse through an obstacle course in a ring. Horses must cross bridges, logs and other obstacles; stand quietly while a rider waves a flapping object around the horse; sidepass (to move sideways), often with front and rear feet on either side or a rail; make 90 and 180 degree turns on the forehand or haunches, back up, sometimes while turning, open and close a gate while mounted, and other maneuvers relevant (distantly) to everyday ranch or trail riding. While speed isn’t judged, horses have a limited amount of time to complete each obstacle and can be penalized for refusing an obstacle or exceeding the allotted time.
  • Halter – also sometimes called “conformation” or “breeding” classes, the conformation of the horse is judged, with emphasis on the both the movement and build of the horse. The horse is not ridden, but is led, shown in ahalter by a handler controlling the horse from the ground using a lead rope.
  • Halter Showmanship, also called (depending on region, breed, and rule book followed) Showmanship at Halter, Youth Showmanship, Showmanship in-hand or Fitting and Showmanship – In showmanship classes the performance of the handler is judged, as well as the cleanliness and grooming of horse, equipment and handler’s attire, with the behavior of the horse also considered part of the handler’s responsibility. The competitor is judged on his or her ability to fit and present the halter horse to its best advantage. The horse is taken through a short pattern where the horse and handler must set up the horse correctly at a standstill and exhibit full control while at a walk, jog, turning and in more advanced classes, pivoting and backing up. Clothing of the handlers tend to parallel that of western pleasure competition. Halters are leather ornamented with silver. Showmanship classes are popular at a wide range of levels, from children who do not yet have the skill or confidence to succeed in riding events, to large and competitive classes at the highest levels of national show competition.

Western equitation

Western equitation (sometimes called western horsemanship, stock seat equitation, or, in some classes, reining seat equitation) competitions are judged at the walk, jog, and lope in both directions. Riders must sit to the jog and never post.

In a Western equitation class a rider may be asked to perform a test or pattern, used to judge the rider’s position and control of the horse. Tests may be as simple as jogging in a circle or backing up, or as complex as a full reining pattern, and may include elements such as transitions from halt to lope or lope to halt, sliding stops, a figure-8 at the lope with simple or flying change of lead, serpentines at the lope with flying changes, the rein back, a 360 degree or greater spin or pivot, and the rollback.

Riders must use a western saddle and a curb bit, and may only use one hand to hold the reins while riding. Two hands are allowed if the horse is ridden in a snaffle bit or hackamore, which are only permitted for use on “junior” horses, defined differently by various breed associations, but usually referring to horses four or five years of age and younger. Horses are not allowed to wear a noseband or cavesson, nor any type of protective boot or bandage, except during some tests that require a reining pattern.

Riders are allowed two different styles of reins:  split reins, which are not attached to one another, and thus the rider is allowed to place one finger between the reins to aid in making adjustments; and  “romal reins,” which are joined together and have a romal (a type of long quirt) on the end, which the rider holds in their non-reining hand, with at least 16 inches of slack between the two, and the rider is not allowed to place a finger between the reins.

The correct position for this discipline, as in all forms of riding, is a balanced seat. This is seen when a bystander can run an imaginary straight line that passes through the rider’s ear, shoulder, hip, and heel. This means the rider’s feet and legs must hang directly in balance so that the heel hits this line, with heels down. The rider should also be sitting as straight as possible, but with their hips under their body, sitting firmly on their seat bones, not sitting on one’s crotch with an arched back. The rider should have their weight sunk into their seat and distributed through their legs. The rider’s shoulders should be rolled back and their chin up to show that they are looking forward.

The western style is seen in a long stirrup length, often longer than even that used by dressage riders, an upright posture (equitation riders are never to lean forward beyond a very slight inclination), and the distinctive one-handed hold on the reins. The reining hand should be bent at the elbow, held close to the rider’s side, and centered over the horse’s neck, usually within an inch of the saddle horn. Due to the presence of the saddle horn, a true straight line between rider’s hand and horse’s mouth is usually not possible. Common faults of western riders include slouching, hands that are too high or too low, and poor position, particularly a tendency to sit on the horse as if they were sitting in a chair, with their feet stuck too far forward. While this “feet on the dashboard” style is used by rodeo riders to stay on a bucking horse, it is in practice an ineffective way to ride.

The needs of the cowboy’s job required different tack than was used in “English” disciplines. Covering long distances, and working with half-wild cattle, frequently at high speeds in very rough, brushy terrain, meant the ever-present danger of a rider becoming unseated in an accident miles from home and support. Thus, the most noticeable equipment difference is in the saddle, which has a heavy and substantial tree (traditionally made of wood) to absorb the shock of roping. The western saddle features a prominent pommel topped by a horn (a knob used for wrapping a lariat after roping an animal), a deep seat and a high cantle. Depending on the local geography, tapaderos (“taps”) cover the front of the stirrups to prevent brush from catching in the stirrups. Cowboy boots have somewhat more pointed toes and higher heels than a traditional work boot, modifications designed to prevent the rider’s foot from slipping through the stirrup during a fall and being dragged.

To allow for communication with the horse even with a loose rein, the bridle also evolved. The biggest difference between “English” and “Western” bridles is the bit. Most finished “Western” horses are expected to eventually perform in a curb bit with a single pair of reins that has somewhat longer and looser shanks than the curb of an English Double bridle or a pelham bit. Two styles of Western reins developed: The long split reins of the Texas tradition, which are completely separated, or the closed-end “Romal” reins of the California tradition, which have a long single attachment on the ends that can be used as a quirt. Young horses are usually started under saddle with either a simple snaffle bit, or with the classic tool of the vaquero, the bosal-style hackamore.

Rider attire

The clothing of the Western rider differs from that of the “English” style dressage, hunt seat or Saddle seat rider. Practical Western attire consists of a long-sleeved work shirt, denim jeans, boots, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Usually a rider wears protective leather leggings called “chaps” (from the Spanish chaparajos; often pronounced “shaps”) to help the rider stick to the saddle and to protect the legs when riding through brush. Clean, well-fitting work clothing is the usual outfit seen in rodeo, cutting and reining competitions, especially for men, though sometimes in brighter colors or finer fabrics.

Show equipment

Some competitive events may use flashier equipment. Unlike the English traditions where clothing and tack is quiet and unobtrusive, Western show equipment is intended to draw attention. Saddles, bits andbridles are frequently ornamented with substantial amounts of silver. The rider’s shirt is often replaced with a jacket, and women’s clothing in particular may feature vivid colors and even, depending on current fads, rhinestones or sequins. Hats and chaps are often color-coordinated, spurs and belt buckles are often silver-plated, and women’s scarf pins and, when worn, men’s bolo ties are also ornamented with silver or even semi-precious gemstones.

Western competitive events

Competition for western riders at horse shows and related activities include in the following events:

  • Western pleasure – the rider must show the horse together with other horses in an arena at a walk, jog (a slow, controlled trot), and lope (a slow, controlled canter). In some breed competitions, a judge may ask for an extended canter and/or a hand gallop, and, less often, an extension of the jog. The horse must remain under control on a loose rein, with low head carriage, the rider directing the horse with nearly invisible aids and minimal interference.
  • Reining – considered by some the “dressage” of the western riding world, with FEI-recognized status as a new international discipline at the World Equestrian Games, reining requires horse and rider to perform a precise pattern consisting of circles at a lope and gallop with flying changes of lead, rapid “spins” (a turn in one spot on the haunches), “rollbacks” (a rapid turn immediately followed by a gallop in the opposite direction) and the crowd-pleasing sliding stop (executed from a full gallop).
  • Cutting – this event highlights the “cow sense” prized in stock horses. The horse and rider select and separate a cow (or steer) out of small herd of 10-20 animals. When the cow tries to return to the herd, the rider relaxes the reins and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the cow from returning to the herd. Depending on the level of competition, one to three judges award points to each competitor.
  • Working cow horse – also called Reined cow horse. A judged competition that is something of a cross between cutting and reining. A horse and rider team work a single cow in an arena, making the cow move in a directed fashion through several maneuvers.
  • Ranch horse: An event that, depending on breed sanctioning organization, tests multiple categories used by working ranch horses: Ranch riding, which is similar to western pleasure; Ranch trail, testing tasks performed during ranch work, often judged on natural terrain rather than in an arena; Ranch Cutting, judged the same as a cutting event; Working ranch horse, combining Reining, Roping, and working cow horse; and ranch conformation and is judged like a halter class.
  • “Western Riding” Western Riding is a class that judges horses on a pattern, evaluating smooth gaits, flying lead changes, responsiveness to the rider, manners, and disposition.
  • Team penning: a timed event in which a team of 3 riders must select 3 to 5 marked steers out of a herd and drive them into a small pen. The catch: riders cannot close the gate to the pen till they have corralled all the cattle (and only the intended cattle) inside. The fastest team wins, and teams exceeding a given time limit are disqualified. A related event is Ranch sorting
  • Trail class: in this event, the rider has to maneuver the horse through an obstacle course in a ring. Horses must cross bridges, logs and other obstacles; stand quietly while a rider waves a flapping object around the horse; sidepass (to move sideways), often with front and rear feet on either side or a rail; make 90 and 180 degree turns on the forehand or haunches, back up, sometimes while turning, open and close a gate while mounted, and other maneuvers relevant (distantly) to everyday ranch or trail riding. While speed isn’t judged, horses have a limited amount of time to complete each obstacle and can be penalized for refusing an obstacle or exceeding the allotted time.
  • Halter – also sometimes called “conformation” or “breeding” classes, the conformation of the horse is judged, with emphasis on the both the movement and build of the horse. The horse is not ridden, but is led, shown in ahalter by a handler controlling the horse from the ground using a lead rope.
  • Halter Showmanship, also called (depending on region, breed, and rule book followed) Showmanship at Halter, Youth Showmanship, Showmanship in-hand or Fitting and Showmanship – In showmanship classes the performance of the handler is judged, as well as the cleanliness and grooming of horse, equipment and handler’s attire, with the behavior of the horse also considered part of the handler’s responsibility. The competitor is judged on his or her ability to fit and present the halter horse to its best advantage. The horse is taken through a short pattern where the horse and handler must set up the horse correctly at a standstill and exhibit full control while at a walk, jog, turning and in more advanced classes, pivoting and backing up. Clothing of the handlers tend to parallel that of western pleasure competition. Halters are leather ornamented with silver. Showmanship classes are popular at a wide range of levels, from children who do not yet have the skill or confidence to succeed in riding events, to large and competitive classes at the highest levels of national show competition.

Western equitation

Western equitation (sometimes called western horsemanship, stock seat equitation, or, in some classes, reining seat equitation) competitions are judged at the walk, jog, and lope in both directions. Riders must sit to the jog and never post.

In a Western equitation class a rider may be asked to perform a test or pattern, used to judge the rider’s position and control of the horse. Tests may be as simple as jogging in a circle or backing up, or as complex as a full reining pattern, and may include elements such as transitions from halt to lope or lope to halt, sliding stops, a figure-8 at the lope with simple or flying change of lead, serpentines at the lope with flying changes, the rein back, a 360 degree or greater spin or pivot, and the rollback.

Riders must use a western saddle and a curb bit, and may only use one hand to hold the reins while riding. Two hands are allowed if the horse is ridden in a snaffle bit or hackamore, which are only permitted for use on “junior” horses, defined differently by various breed associations, but usually referring to horses four or five years of age and younger. Horses are not allowed to wear a noseband or cavesson, nor any type of protective boot or bandage, except during some tests that require a reining pattern.

Riders are allowed two different styles of reins: ) split reins, which are not attached to one another, and thus the rider is allowed to place one finger between the reins to aid in making adjustments; and 2) “romal reins,” which are joined together and have a romal (a type of long quirt) on the end, which the rider holds in their non-reining hand, with at least 16 inches of slack between the two, and the rider is not allowed to place a finger between the reins.

The correct position for this discipline, as in all forms of riding, is a balanced seat. This is seen when a bystander can run an imaginary straight line that passes through the rider’s ear, shoulder, hip, and heel. This means the rider’s feet and legs must hang directly in balance so that the heel hits this line, with heels down. The rider should also be sitting as straight as possible, but with their hips under their body, sitting firmly on their seat bones, not sitting on one’s crotch with an arched back. The rider should have their weight sunk into their seat and distributed through their legs. The rider’s shoulders should be rolled back and their chin up to show that they are looking forward.

The western style is seen in a long stirrup length, often longer than even that used by dressage riders, an upright posture (equitation riders are never to lean forward beyond a very slight inclination), and the distinctive one-handed hold on the reins. The reining hand should be bent at the elbow, held close to the rider’s side, and centered over the horse’s neck, usually within an inch of the saddle horn. Due to the presence of the saddle horn, a true straight line between rider’s hand and horse’s mouth is usually not possible. Common faults of western riders include slouching, hands that are too high or too low, and poor position, particularly a tendency to sit on the horse as if they were sitting in a chair, with their feet stuck too far forward. While this “feet on the dashboard” style is used by rodeo riders to stay on a bucking horse, it is in practice an ineffective way to ride.