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Western Ridden & Performance Events

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS AND TACK/RIDER REQUIREMENTS

WESTERN PLEASURE:

Western Pleasure is a riding class where the horse is judged on his manners and performance. The gaits performed are the walk (a straight, relaxed 4-beat walk), jog  (a slow, relaxed trot) and lope (a slow, relaxed canter). Gaited breeds (e.g. TWH's, MFT's, Rocky Mtn. Horses, etc.) perform their unique gait instead of the jog. The headset is low. This is based on the breed standard, but the head and neck should be carried in such a way as to give a relaxed performance and be in accordance with the horse's conformation. Stock breeds will have a flat or level neck, while other breeds, such as NSH's, Morgans and Arabs, will have a more elevated head position, with the poll above the withers. In all breeds, the profile of the head is vertical or near-vertical; overbending is undesirable.

Required Tack:

A western or stock-type saddle without tapaderos must be used, along with a saddle pad that rests under all pressure points of the saddle. Also, a western-type bridle (either browband, one-ear or two-ear styles, and with or without a throatlatch) with a curb bit and either a curb chain or strap (which must be flat, not rolled, rounded or braided) must be used.  Reins may be split or romal style (romals are the usual style used on Arabs, Morgans and NSH's).   (N.B. split reins should be held so that the rein enters the top of the hand and runs downward in the hand, with the rein ends falling on the same side as the rein hand - usually the left. Romal reins should be held so that the rein enters the bottom of the hand and runs upward in the hand, with the end of the romal falling to the opposite side of the rein hand and held against the rider's thigh with the other hand - usually the right). Snaffle bits and bosal hackamores are allowed on horses aged 5 years & under. The rider must only use one hand to hold the reins at all times, unless the horse is wearing a bosal hackamore or snaffle bit, in which case the use of two hands is acceptable.

Optional Tack:

The saddle may be plain or embellished with silver, and a correct plain saddle should not be marked down against one that is highly decorated but incorrect. Saddles may be round-skirted or square-skirted. Rear cinches may be used, but if so, must have a connecting strap to the front cinch. Saddle pads may be simple and unobtrusive or oversized and brightly-coloured/decorated. Breastplates are optional, as are hobbles and a rope or reata (a small rope tied just below the saddle horn).

Forbidden Tack:

Nosebands or cavessons are forbidden (except on MFT's which usually do wear a noseband), as are any type of tie-down or martingale, roping reins (i.e. one long single rein attached to the bit at either end) or split reins tied or ‘lashed’ together, any kind of boots or bandages, mechanical hackamores, whips or crops, and tapaderos on the saddle. Slip and gag bits are also prohibited.

Rider's Attire:

Western boots, a long-sleeved shirt and western hat are required attire, worn with either jeans or trousers (worn over the boots, Not tucked in). Vests, ties/scarves/bolo ties and jackets/sweaters are also permitted. Chaps (usually shotgun-style), spurs, belt and gloves are optional.

 

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WESTERN TRAIL:

The Western Trail class was originally designed to test the skills and obedience of the working ranch horse and features a course of obstacles meant to simulate those which might be found on a ranch. In this class, the horse is judged on his ability to work his way willingly and calmly through a series of 6-8 obstacles. In doing so, he demonstrates his agility, obedience, balance and responsiveness to the rider. The horse must perform the walk, jog and lope at some point in the course, and must negotiate all of the obstacles in the prescribed order on a reasonably loose rein without hesitation or disobedience. Models that are shying, rearing, prancing or which in any way suggest they are being disobedient or are out of control are not suited for this class. The obstacles used in this class should be in correct proportion to the model and must appear to be safe and appropriate for the class. Unusual and exotic obstacles, although not necessarily illegal, are best avoided. Examples of acceptable obstacles include negotiating a small jump (either mounted or led), backing through poles, walking over poles or logs, side passing over a pole, ground-tying, stepping though tyres, opening and closing a gate, crossing a water hazard or wooden bridge, and carrying objects or dragging heavy objects from one point to another.

Tack and Rider's Attire:

The required and forbidden items of tack are the same as those for Western Pleasure, as is the rider's attire. In addition, hobbles are often carried, as ground-tying is frequently used as an obstacle in this class. Hobbles are only ever used in conjunction with romal reins (never split reins), and when carried are usually tied to the saddle below the cantle on the left-hand side.

 

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REINING:

Reining is essentially the Western equivalent of dressage. In this class, the horse is judged on his ability to execute a set pattern of movements which include sliding stops, spins, rollbacks, loping circles, flying lead changes and back ups. In performing these movements, the horse should demonstrate "smoothness, finesse, attitude, quickness and authority...while using controlled speed" (AHSA Reining Horse Division Rules). The entire pattern is always performed at the lope. As in dressage, there are different levels of competition according to the horse's abilities and training. When showing in this class, it is important to include a description of which movement is being performed.

Required Tack:

A western saddle of any style can be used, with or without silver decoration and/or a rear cinch (if used, this must include a connecting strap to the front cinch). Breastcollars are sometimes used.  The bridle may be of any style, with a curb bit and curb strap or chain. Bosal hackamores and snaffles are acceptable on horses aged 5 years & under. Reins must be split reins. Leg protection (boots or bandages) for all four legs is almost always seen.

Forbidden Tack:

Nosebands/cavessons, tie-downs, closed (roping) reins, romal reins, mechanical hackamores, and whips or crops are all forbidden.

Rider's Attire:

Is the same as that for Western Pleasure.

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CUTTING: 

In Cutting, the horse is judged on his ability to cut a cow from a herd with a minimum amount of disturbance to the rest of the herd, and then his ability to prevent her from returning to the herd. In doing so, he demonstrates his skill, agility and ability to control the cow without any instruction from the rider. The work may be performed at any gait. The horse should not make eye contact with the cow, but should constantly anticipate her next move, matching every turn she makes and being neither behind nor ahead of her movements. Cows (not calves) are almost always used in this class.

Required Tack:

Any style of western saddle may be used, usually with a single cinch (although rear cinches may be used as long as they include a connecting strap), and usually with a breastcollar. The bridle can include any type of western bit (curb bits should include a curb strap or chain), but split reins must be used. Bosal hackamores and snaffles are acceptable on horses aged 5 years & under. Leg protection (usually boots) on all four legs is almost always seen.

Forbidden Tack:

Nosebands/cavessons, tie-downs, closed (roping) reins, romal reins and mechanical hackamores are all forbidden.

Rider's Attire:

Is western-style attire, usually with a cowboy hat. NCHA (National Cutting Horse Association) rules require chaps (usually batwing-style) to be worn.

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CALF ROPING:

This is a timed event where the horse and rider race against the clock to rope and immobilise a calf. Both horse and calf begin the event by standing in adjacent chutes. The calf is released and allowed a two-second head-start before the horse's barrier is released and he can begin his run after the calf. The rider then throws his rope over the neck of the calf and the horse comes to a sliding stop while the rider dismounts and runs to the calf. The horse then holds the rope taught by pulling back on it while the rider lifts the calf and throws it to the ground before tying any three of its legs together with a small hope held in his belt or mouth. Once the calf is tied, the rider raises his hands in the air and the clock stops. He then remounts and the horse steps forward to slacken the rope. The calf must then stay tied for at least six seconds, otherwise the team is disqualified. The calves that are used in this event are under six months of age and never have horns.

Tack:

Any type of western saddle may be used, although it is more correct to use the heavier roping-style saddle, which features square skirts, two cinches and a wide breastcollar. Any type of bridle and bit may be used, including mechanical hackamores, as long as it includes closed (roping) reins. The horse must also wear a tie-down and usually wears boots or bandages on all four legs. The horse must also wear a neckrope - a leather strap or rope that is tied loosely around the neck; the roping rope is then attached at one end to the saddle horn and runs under the neckrope. It is also correct to include a spare rope, tied to the saddle horn, which is used if the first rope misses the calf.

Rider's Attire:

In this event, the rider usually wears a western-style shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hat. Chaps are never worn, as the rider would be unable to run to the calf while wearing them.

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BARREL RACING AND POLE BENDING:

These are both timed gaming events. In barrel racing, three 55-gallon metal barrels are placed 30-35 yards apart in a triangular pattern. The horse starts from a chute and must gallop from one barrel to the next in a cloverleaf pattern, executing a complete circle around each one before returning back to the point where he started. In pole bending, six plastic poles measuring six feet high and set in rubber bases are placed in a line 21 feet apart, and the horse must canter in a serpentine pattern around them and back again to return to his starting point. A five-second penalty is incurred for each barrel or pole knocked over.

Tack:

Any style of western saddle may be worn, although it is more correct for a barrel racing saddle to be used. This is a lightweight western-style saddle, with small rounded skirts and a breastcollar. Any type of bridle and bit may be used, including mechanical hackamores, as long as it includes closed (roping) reins (it being dangerous to use split reins should one or both be accidentally dropped). Tie-downs are usually worn, in order to keep the horse's head down on the turns, and boots or bandages are almost always worn on all four legs.

Rider's Attire:

Riders usually wear colourful western-style outfits, often in colours that match those of the horse's tack. Cowboy hats are usually required, while spurs and chaps are optional.

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Sources: NAMHSA Judge's Handbook for the North American Nationals 1998, 1st edition. And the AHSA Rules for Western Division and Reining Horse Division. T

The following books are also recommended for further information and guidelines:-  The Art of Western Riding  by Bob Mayhew & John Bridsall  (Crowood), and  Riding Western by Jane Lake  (Allen)

The BECF wishes to thank Jane Varin for writing this information sheet.

 

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