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Horse Showing: A Sport That Is Worth Its Salt Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 24th, 2022


Horse showing is not a very well known sport in the country. However, the versatility, sportsmanship and competition involved in its events are sufficient to warrant interest and acknowledgement from the public. Through an analysis of the disciplines that take place in the All American Quarter Horse Congress, it will be shown that this is indeed a sport that is worth its salt.


Horse showing can best be understood as judged exhibitions of ponies and horses. Different breeds in one discipline or similar breeds in different breeds are made to compete against one another. In international events, some of the common disciplines include reining, dressage, show jumping and endurance riding.

The horse shows may stretch across a whole week or may last for one day depending on the nature and intensity of the competition. In the shows, groups of horses will do a set of performances, which are called classes. In order to win, the horses must have been trained for the class. They also need to have the appropriate physical and temperamental traits for the performance.

In this particular report, focus will be given to the All American Quarter Horse Congress Horse Show. This is considered as the world’s largest single breed show. In other words, only one breed of horses is allowed in the competition. The competition has been running for 45 years. Since the event is quite prestigious, it normally stretches across one month. Approximately, 8, 500 Quarter Horses come to compete against one another in a number of classes.

The event attracts an audience of about six hundred and fifty thousand participants annually (Potter 13). Numerous competitions occur in this show as Quarter Horse Association winners from local events lock horns to win various awards. Examples of disciplines that are covered include: barrel racing, horsemanship, reining, western pleasure, hunter under saddle, western riding, hunter hack, jumping, working hunter, calf roping, cutting and pole bending.

All these events are categorized as ‘senior’, ‘amateur’, ‘junior’ or ‘youth’, and they usually start with the preliminaries before culminating in the final competitions. Since it is not be possible to examine all components of the event, special emphasis will be given to: barrel racing, reining, western pleasure, pole bending, horsemanship and hunter under saddle in this report.

Prior to the examination of these disciplines and their relevance as types of sports, it is essential to first understand what a sporting event truly is. A sport is defined a form of physical activity, whose aim to improve the participant’s physical fitness and offer entertainment as well. It may be organized formally or could be a casual arrangement. Either way, it must have a clear cut way of identifying a winner, and the winner ought to have particular skills in order to beat his competitors (Mandel 34).

Although certain sports may be recreational; like fishing, this report will focus on competitive sports. On top of these qualities, a sport needs to be governed by a set of rules. There should be a physical event that can be used to define a result. However, certain sporting contests like body building do not have these activities, per say; judges use different criteria to select the winner.

Clear records need to be kept in order to differentiate between the people who do well and the ones who fail. Sports require participants to display high levels of sportsmanship. This means that they are expected to abide by the standards of the game. They must also show respect to their fellow competitors and to the administrators or judges of the activities.

Barrel racing

Barrel racing is one of the numerous events covered in the All American Quarter Horse Congress; this one that largely consists of female competitors. It is done by placement of three barrels in a triangular fashion within an arena. The rider gets into the arena at a very high speed, and then goes round the barrels in a clover-leaf pattern. One must leave the arena at the same point that one entered so that the time taken to reach there can be noted.

The person who has the fastest time is the one who wins the event. However, a competitor must not drop any barrels. Every time a barrel falls, five seconds are knocked of one’s total time. Most winners usually take thirteen or fourteen seconds to do the whole round. As stated earlier, a sport must have a physical event to define the result. In this case, completion of the barrel races is what defines the result.

The one who passes the exit mark the fastest is the one who wins the competition. This involves special skills as there must be a high degree of cooperation between the rider and the horse. Staying clear off the barrels is not an easy task, yet this must be combined with horse steering. It takes years of practice to compete at such a superior level, so this definitely counts for something.

The class, much like other sporting events, is governed by rules. Contestants are given a maximum of sixty seconds in order to cover the barrels after timing begins. They are also expected to pass through all barrels. Going past one of them will lead to disqualification. No one can begin the competition from an off-center position, and entrance into the arena is only permissible when the timer has been set, or the competition has officially started.

They must all have a set dress code, which consists of a western hat, boots, jeans or pants and a tucked long sleeved short. All contestants who do not abide by these rules may find that they have been automatically disqualified from the competition. The barrel race is governed by the National Barrel Horse Association which has laid out certain rules for placement of the barrels and fences in the competitions (Prorodeo 10).

At the end of it all, it is the horseman’s abilities that will carry the day. She must have studied the grounds or footing of the arena well. One needs to know how to work the sand and dirt in the area. The depth and the content of the ground must also be considered. Riders need to have very sharp horsemanship abilities. On top of that, they should have mastered the mental and physical condition of their horses. It is only through the careful balancing of these factors that one can expect to win in a barrel race.


Horsemanship competitions are designed in order to assess how well a horse can execute certain functions. Normally, contestants are analyzed for the speed, the softness of the horse, the degree of control over the horse and its willingness to obey instructions. A rider who displays the greatest level of finesse and control is the one that will win.

This event is essentially a test of the degree of respect that the person has for his horse, and the amount of confidence that the person and the horse have for one another. Since these qualities involve a series of various skills, horsemanship competitions are amalgamations of smaller events that include ranch training, ranch riding, halter class, and working ranch horse.

Basic activities are analyzed such as an ability to eye a cow, to tie a rope around a cow while on the horse and many more. All these challenges require a great degree of finesse, which can only be present after years of training. As a sport, there are physical events that define the result such as wrapping the rope around the cow etc (Ballou 21). Time taken to do so must also be measured.

Hunter under saddle

The American Quarter Horse Congress events also judge this as another discipline in the competition. The class involves assessment of an American Quarter Horse on the basis of its walk, canter and trot. The horse needs to be a hunter type, and must be free flowing. It should also be smooth in terms of its gait and must be willing to do those three things.

As explained earlier, a sport needs to have clear cut rules. In this competition, riders are expected to wear English traditional attire. There are rules on how the movement must be done; for both the rider and the horse.

Horses are expected to have long and low strides that reach forward with smoothness and ease. They need to demonstrate their ability to lengthen their stride while doing this. The horse needs to have the right gait. Here, consistency and quality are the key factor. Horses that look down or have dull ears are likely to loose marks.

Their ability to respond promptly to their masters when prodded with slight physical contact is essential. Judges usually expect that when an extension of a trot or gallop is done, then it needs to flow out in the same manner as the previous movements. One must make sure that the head position of the horse is vertical while the poll should be made to be level. Failure to play by these rules will lead to loss of marks or eventual disqualification (Ballou 67).

Sports need to have special skills that differentiate the winner from the other competitors. In hunter under saddle, the rider needs to have trained his horse on how to have a natural, flat footed and four-beat gait. This takes a minimum of five-days-a-week training. The horse’s trot should be cadenced, low and balanced.

To achieve this, one must put the horse in the presence of other horses so that he can acclimatize. The horse needs to have the right canter as well; this needs to be free moving and relaxed. Working on these elements takes much time and practice with one’s horse. One must ride with the horse severally in order to ascertain that it possesses those qualities.

Pole bending

This is yet another event covered in the American Quarter Horse Congress. Contestants’ ability to run through a weaving alleyway in the middle of six poles is assessed. The person who covers this distance in the fastest time is declared the winner. Just like barrel racing, riders must strive to stay in the alleyways and away from the poles. Any knocked off pole results in the deduction of five seconds from one’s over time (Running horses 13).

This class has rules just like any other sport. First, riders are not allowed to mix up starting points. They must start and end at the same point. They are required to follow the poles, and if they fail to do so, they will be automatically disqualified from the competition. If the horse started from the left, it needs to continue with that pattern throughout the whole race. Furthermore, the officials are also required to use standardized poles that have a specified height and diameter.

Sports require special skills that differentiate winners from losers. In pole bending, the ultimate winner must be in harmony with his horse. He or she needs to sit in the saddle properly. One should know how to navigate one’s horse using one’s legs and lower body. This ought to be done by working the poles.

Care should be taken to keep the poles standing as one takes on a forward motion. The rider needs to make use of the hindquarters because this helps the horse to maintain a smooth weave even as it zigzags from one pole to the next. The most skilled riders are the ones who can display great horsemanship rather than just clock the fastest times. It takes months of dedication and commitment to one’s horse to achieve this. Continuous riding leads to great levels of physical fitness as speed is needed in order to compete well.


This discipline focuses on the maneuvers that a rider can perform on his or her horse. They (The horse and rider) usually work hand in hand to create a pattern. One is expected to pick up reins and then release them. Steering also takes place, by first performing this action and then releasing as well. The responsiveness and softness of the horse are the qualities that are analyzed. Reining horses needs to be done so that the circle can hit centre (Ballou, 4).

This event also has a number of rules. Some mistakes are costly and will result in a zero mark while some actions can actually add some points to one’s overall score. For example, a rider who fails to make circles that hit the centre will be penalized for that. One should select one’s movement, prior to commencement of the competition; otherwise, it would cost the person dearly.

This kind of sport is difficult to judge because it does not involve timing. Instead, judges look for other criteria (similar to body building as a sport). They focus on how quickly the horse responds to its owner. They also look at the precisions and sharpness of the maneuvers done

Western pleasure

This category is not one that will be easily won with hyper energetic horses. The best horses are the ones that are graceful and slow. Four major gaits are analyzed in the competition and they include: the rein back, the lope, the walk and the jog.

The sport has certain rules that must be followed by contestants. One is obligated to stay out of another’s contestant’s way. Riders must gauge the distance that they place between themselves and their horses. They must also select good positions on the rails in order to show-off their horses. All horses must be thoroughly groomed, and so must the riders.

Once the rules are understood, a good sport should have a way of differentiating between the winners and the losers. In this class, horses should not be too slow. They also need to have polls that are level with their withers. A horse’s gaits should be easy-flowing, and when he needs to stop, this should be done with very little pressure on the horse’s reins (Ballou 16). Once these skills are displayed, then one could easily win the title. The sport therefore involves physical activity, specific skills and criteria for determining the winner.


The classes or disciplines covered under the All American Quarter Horse Congress possess all the important qualities of a sport. They have codified rules, such as where to start and end the competition, dress codes, alleyways that competitors can use and actions that participants cannot take. Violations of these rules results in penalties and disqualifications.

The disciplines also involve physical events that define results. Pole bending and barrel racing are defined by completion of the finishing mark while western pleasure and hunter under saddle are defined by the movement of the horse. These events all require special skills in order to beat one’s competitors. Some of them include: precision, accuracy, speed and ability to read one’s horse.

Works Cited

Ballou, Aristotle. Equine fitness: a program of exercises and routines for your horse. Texas: Storey publishing, 2009. Print.

Mandel, Michael. “The meaning of sports.” Journal of the philosophy of sport 12(2010): 34. Print.

Potter, Leslie. All American Quarter Horse Congress is underway in Ohio. Horse Channel Website. 11 Oct. 2011. Web..

Prorodeo. Professional Women’s barrel racing. Pro-rodeo website. 2 Apr. 2011. Web.

Running horses. Barrel racing and speedhorse online community. Running horses website. 11 May 2011. Web.

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