Open Western classes are open to horses of any breed or combination of
breeds measuring 14.1 hands and over. Junior exhibitor classes are open
to both horses and ponies; but, stallions are prohibited in junior exhibitor
classes. Horses must be serviceably sound, in good condition, and of
stock-horse type. A full mane is not required. Entries may be judged
for soundness and conformation before entering the arena. Any horse
showing evidence of altered tail carriage may be penalized.
Open Western classes may include Western Pleasure, Working Cow, Trail,
and Western Riding. The classes may be held at Open Western Competitions,
breed-restricted or multi-breed competitions.
The good western pleasure horse has a comfortable, free flowing stride
of reasonable length in keeping with the horse's conformation. It should
cover a reasonable amount of ground with little effort. Ideally, the horse
should have a balanced, sweeping motion that requires no more or less than
light contact by their riders. The head and neck serve as a balance arm
and are carried in a relaxed, natural position appropriate for each horse's
Maximum credit should be given to the responsive, confident, willingly
guided horse that correctly performs all the required gaits with strength
and finesse. The horse should be balanced in all aspects; conformation,
gait, and disposition. Such a horse is an athlete that goes softly and
gives the appearance of being fit and capable of their tasks. Ultimately,
the horse is very eye appealing and gives the impression of being a pleasure
Light contact with the horse's mouth must be maintained at all gaits.
Light contact should be measured by a horse's response to the rider's
hands, seat, and legs and not merely by the tension in the reins. However,
an excessively draped rein is just as undesirable as an extremely tight
rein. Subtle cues are desirable, while an absence of cues is not. The
individual that willingly and quietly responds to subtle cues by the rider
is performing with light contact.
The purpose of this class is to demonstrate the horse's ability to control
a cow. This horse must be highly athletic and possess superior cow sense.
The best working cow horse must, at the rider's command, be able to hold,
drive, rate, turn, and overall contain and dominate a cow.
Judging begins when the contestant enters the arena. At the start of the
cow work, each contestant, upon receiving a cow in the arena, shall hold
that cow at the prescribed end of the arena for a sufficient time to
demonstrate the ability of the horse to contain a cow on the end. This is
known as boxing.
After a reasonable amount of time the contestant should run the cow down
the side of the arena and turn the cow along the arena wall at least once
in each direction. This is known as turning on the fence.
Finally, the contestant will take the cow to an open part of the arena and
circle the cow at least once in each direction. This is known as circling up.
The foregoing is the ideal type of cow work. The judge must take into
consideration the size of the arena, the condition to the ground, and the
disposition of the cattle when evaluating each work. If ground, arena,
and/or weather conditions are deemed unfavorable by exhibitors, they may
elect to alter the required cattle work for safety reasons.
The working cow horse is scored on a scale of 60 to 80 with 70 denoting
an average work. Judging starts when the contestant enters the arena.
A trail horse is one that can maneuver through a course of obstacles
with physical skill, expression and a good mental attitude. It should
travel through and between obstacles with an inquisitive desire to go
forward without compromising its calm, relaxed attitude and way of going.
It should approach each obstacle squarely with authority and correct form,
with its own style, yet maintaining its willingness to be dictated to
completely by the rider with no apparent resistance.
Maximum credit should be given to the trail horse that negotiates its way
through an entire course efficiently, in a timely manner, without excessive
hesitation, with curiosity, expression, smoothness and style; in a manner
that raises the degree of difficulty without sacrificing carefulness,
control, and/ or attitude. Ultimately, the trail horse is skillful, eye
appealing, confident, and leaves one with the impression of being sure,
safe and a pleasure to ride over a course of obstacles.
Western Riding is an event where the horse is judge on quality of gaits,
lead changes at the lope, response to the rider, manners and disposition.
The horse should perform with reasonable, speed, and be sensible,
well-mannered, free and easy moving. Emphasis should be placed on
smoothness, even cadence of gaits and the horse’s ability to change
leads precisely and easily rear and front at the center point between
markers. The horse should have a relaxed head carriage showing response
to the rider’s hands, with a moderate flexion at the poll. Horses may
be ridden with light contact or on a reasonably loose rein. Horses will
be scored in performing a set pattern selected by the judge.
Portions of the text courtesy of the Arabian Horse Association,