Equestrianism is the sport of horseback riding. It is a popular sport in countries like the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. Horses are used in many different competitions.
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Within the sport, there are several types of riding, such as English and Western. In English riding, there are three Olympic events: cross country, dressage and show jumping (in which competitors ride horses over obstacles). There are no forms of Western riding in the Olympics.
In show jumping, a rider rides a horse over a set course of horse jumps while being timed. Riders win by having the fastest time without mistakes. There are many types of horse jumps such as the vertical (a jump which is straight up and down and has no depth), the oxer (a jump which is two or more rails deep, creating a wider jump), and combinations (2 or 3 jumps put right after each other). Courses will generally include more than 10 jumps, and require the horse and rider to do many complicated turns, jump at difficult angles, and perform more advanced tests of ability and communication.
Not every type of horse can jump well, just like not all horses are able to do well at horse racing or farm work. Most horses seen in show jumping competitions are warmblood and thoroughbred horses which were bred for equestrian sports. The riding has been popular since 1900.
Dressage is an event where horses are judged “on the flat” (no jumps) and where horse and rider are tested on their ability to talk to each other and perform specific tasks in a specific order within a time period. There is usually a sequence of activities that the horse and rider must complete. Letters are placed around a sand filled arena to show where movements should happen. In dressage the horse and rider can also perform a freestyle, which is also known as "Dancing on Horseback". Dressage riders usually wear tight pants called breeches, as well as a blouse, a top coat and a top hat. The moves of the horse should be very graceful. Horses and riders that compete at the Olympics in dressage have had many years of training to learn all the moves they must do together for the competition.
Eventing (or 3-day-eventing) combines dressage, show jumping, and the horse version of cross country into one sport. This combined training is based on the old military tests of the cavalry where the rider's life depended on the horse listening to what the rider told it to do. In eventing, the horse and rider compete in three separate tests of skill typically over 2-3 days: Dressage, Show Jumping, and Cross Country.
The cross country test makes this sport different from the other equestrian sports. It requires the horse to canter and gallop at a high speed over solid and complicated jumps and jump combinations. These jumps may be logs, stone walls, water, ditches, or banks. The cross country course is very long, and at the Olympics it may take as long as 10 minutes to complete the course.
The dressage test makes sure that the horse is listening to the rider, is relaxed, and is able to do very difficult small tasks. It tests that the horse is very well trained. The cross-country course makes sure that the horse is fast, has long distance endurance, and is brave. Cross-country fences may be very scary and the horses may become tired while running. The show jumping test makes sure that the horse and rider are in good physical condition, have excellent jumping skills, and are able to jump many high jumps in a short period of time without making a mistake. This is an especially difficult test as the athletes will be tired after completing the other tests. If the horse is too tired, he will hit the show jumps and make it harder for the rider to win.
In the Hunter-jumper discipline, people ride horses in various classes meant to test skills required in English fox hunting. Tests may be conducted over fences or “under saddle” meaning without jumps. In this discipline, the horse is being judged on how easy it makes each of the tests look. It is the job of the rider to make the test look as easy as possible, to not show signs of forcing the horse to do anything, and to let the horse show its ability.
Under saddle, a horse should walk, trot, and canter in both directions easily and relaxed. The horse should not show signs of being annoyed, show anger, change speed, or misbehave in any other way. In some cases, riders may be asked to “jog” their horses, which is where they get off the horse, take off the saddle, and run on foot next to the horse to show that it has no injuries and so the judge can look at the horse to see if it has the right body for hunting.
Over fences, riders will be asked to take the horses over a course of natural jump fences, made to look like the obstacles encountered in the English countryside. The courses are simple, with no tight turns, or complicated jumps, and usually only one or two changes of direction. The horse must keep the same speed throughout the course, they must not touch any of the jumps with their body, and the rider must make it look as easy as possible.
Hunter-jumper is one of the most popular disciplines for children and teenagers. Classes are also offered at most shows for adults and professionals as well.
Stock work began when horses were ridden on a ranch to round up cows, sheep, or other animals. Today, horse shows also have competitions for horses to show these skills. These include Cutting, Reining, Barrel Racing, Cattle Penning, Calf Roping, Campdrafting, and Pole Bending.
Driving in the horse world means that a horse is pulling a type of wagon. It knows where to go by a person sitting on the wagon that tells them which direction they should turn. A horse used to pull a wagon is usually bigger and heavier than most other horses. The hooves are also much larger than a racing horse. Large horses are calm, trustworthy and good-natured. Types of heavy horses are: Belgians, Shires, Clydesdale, Friesian horse, and Gypsy Vanners. These horse breeds are generally quiet, strong, heavy, but gentle. Beginner equestrians may be able to communicate with these well tempered horses.
In other types of carriage or harness races, teams of multiple horses may race around figure 8 courses. Horses may also compete in individual driving competitions which require individual or teams of horses to be guided through a serious of tests.
Horse racing tests the speed of a horse. Different breeds do different types of races. The most popular type in the U.S. is Thoroughbred racing, where only horses of this breed can participate in galloping around a track. There are also endurance races, trotting races and steeplechases (horses galloping around a track with jumps). Most horses that are used for racing are ridden by professional riders called jockeys. Usually the people that own or train the horse do not ride it in the races.
Barrel racing is a sport where the rider rides the horse in a pattern around three barrels. The rider must be able to turn the horse very quickly around the barrels. The horse that does the pattern the fastest is the winner.
Pleasure riding is riding for enjoyment, not for awards. People ride horses on trails in the forest, along quiet roads, or in an arena near their homes or barns. Horse back riding lessons could be considered pleasure riding. Pleasure riding can be called trail riding. Pleasure riding does not have to be for any specific reason, just for fun and enjoyment. Riding in a horse carriage may also be for pleasure.
Endurance riding is an equestrian long-distance race. There are two main types of endurance rides which are competitive trail riding and endurance rides.