In riding competitions, the terms equitation and horsemanship indicate that riders are being judged on their ability to control and show the horse while maintaining the correct riding position. Intercollegiate riders have the added challenge of riding an unfamiliar horse, one that they draw for in a lottery system just prior to their class.
Riders must demonstrate the use of natural aids, or body signals from the seat, legs, hands, and voice to communicate commands to the horse - all the while appearing comfortable, relaxed and balanced. These signals should be subtle or imperceptible to the judge and spectators and exaggerated shifting of the rider's weight is not desirable. The resulting performance shown by the horse is not to be considered more important than the methods used by the rider in obtaining them.
The term equitation is used to refer to the English styles of riding. Hunt seat is the category of equitation English riders compete in, whose foundation lies in jumping and riding across country, such as Foxhunting. The term horsemanship is most often used to refer to the Western style of riding. Stock seat is the designation for this equitation division, where the ultimate goal of the rider is to maneuver her horse through a herd of livestock she wishes to rope, move or otherwise control.
Both riding styles compete on the rail, where the riders enter the arena and show collectively at all required gaits on command from the judge. English riders show at the walk, trot and canter - the gaits that the horse travels in; Western riders show at the walk, jog and lope. The judge may also require the rider to do an individual pattern in order to further test her ability. Once again, only the rider's performance is judged, conveying the impression of complete control over her horse during the class.
Equitation over fences is an individual performance where each rider shows a horse over 8-10 jumps approximately three feet high. Riders are judged on their ability to position the horse correctly at the jumps and avoid interfering with the horseis balance, while maintaining the correct riding position and producing a smooth, polished performance.
In reining classes, the most advanced Western riders perform an individual, pre-assigned pattern from memory, demonstrating a variety of stops, turns and figures at various speeds. The emphasis for this class is on precision, technical application of natural aids and the rider's ability to show unfamiliar horses.
The rider's appearance is expected to be clean, neat and
workmanlike. Tack is the equipment worn by the horse. schooling, or
practice time before the classes, is not allowed for intercollegiate
competitors. The horses, however, will be warmed up, or prepared for
competition using stretching and suppling exercises at various gaits, or
practice jumps if necessary by riders who will not compete the day of
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