10 Most Popular Types of Horse Sports

The Equus Caballus species comprises hundreds of breeds of horses, each with different sizes, colors, patterns, and uses. Since the beginning of their domestication over 6,000 years ago, people have used horses for various purposes.

This article will explore the ten most popular types of horse sports that people engage in today. In addition, we will explore the dynamic relationship that must exist between you and your horse if you plan to prance around the competitive arena together.

It All Begins With Relationship

Before you and your horse can even think about entering competitive sporting events, you must first earn each other’s trust.

As a horse owner, you must dedicate time since the beginning to lay the groundwork for a positive reciprocal relationship with your horse. When a horse genuinely feels loved and cared about, its behavior and responses to your presence will radiate with trust.

From the moment you step into its stall, your horse’s behavior will indicate whether or not it trusts you. A tell-tale sign that a horse trusts its owner is if it remains calm once you walk in on it lying down because horses are known to be quite skittish and feel especially vulnerable in the prone position.

If you want to enter a competition, your horse will also have to learn how to follow your instructions. In addition, you will need to prove yourself as a good leader by building up your horse’s confidence and providing it with adequate rewards.

Remember that having a relationship with your horse is truly a privilege, and you want it to associate you with peacefulness and fairness. Therefore, the most dangerous thing that you can do is to overwork your horse.

So, dedicating yourself as a worthy leader will reap several benefits resulting in a horse that trusts you and that you can depend on when needed.

If you have dreams of stardom within the competitive equestrian community, remember the most important thing is always to be your horse’s friend.

The Evolution of Equestrianism

The Evolution of Equestrianism

Equestrian sports have been evolving for thousands of years. The first sporting event “dates back to 682 BC with a four-horse chariot race during the 25th Olympiad in Greece.”

The term equestrianism refers to various skills and activities orchestrated together between a horse and its owner. If you want to trace the history of equestrian sports further, you will notice a riding customs trend that has remained throughout the years.

People enjoy equestrian sports worldwide, and its hold on tradition independent of location is a testament to the discipline of the sport. For your interest, I would suggest performing a simple Google search with the following keywords: Equine clubs and associations in [name of your country].

Each country has a unique equine authority, organizations, and clubs that sponsor the sports we are about to uncover.

#1: Dressage

This sporting event requires a combination of skill, strength, and balance on your horse’s behalf. If you are new to horse sports and do not have the opportunity to travel to an equine event, I recommend watching this video to garner the visual respect that this discipline deserves.

Dressage is commonly referred to as the ballet of the equine world as horse and rider perform the rhythmic movements to music. In the arena, competition may require the pair to complete a predetermined list of exercises, or it could be freestyle.

Judges are keen on seeing a horse calmly and effortlessly perform the various maneuvers. Horsey Hooves reports that “it can take 10 years to work up through the scales of training to the top level of the sport.”

#2: Driving

Competitors mount a carriage-style vehicle pulled by either a single, a pair, or a team of four horses. The fitness and agility levels of the horses that enter this sport are incredible.

Driving can occur in three very distinct formats. First, like a dressage event, the driver and horse must perform a set pattern of movements by memory within a specified space. The second format occurs in a narrow track environment where the driver-horse duo must successfully clear many coned obstacles within the allotted time.

The final driving format is commonly known as the marathon. It may be the most extreme form of driving as the competition can include navigating across hazardous obstacles, sharp turns, steep hills, and more.

This third driving format requires quick reflexes, coordination, fitness, and agility to complete the course. This is a spectacle to see horses and drivers completely in-tune with each other during this Spartan-type event.

#3: Jumping

#3 Jumping

In the equine world of competition, men and women both enjoy the sport of jumping. During these competitions, the rider must guide their horse over a series of jumps.

Jumping competitions test the precision and agility of the horse and rider as they attempt to clear a set pattern of 10-13 obstacles of varying difficulty.

Each duo is marked a penalty point if the horse’s extremities knock over an obstacle. Competitors may win the competition in three ways, including the most points earned, fastest time, or by least penalty points accrued.

#4: Vaulting

Although vaulting dates back to Roman games, equine historians trace its modern-day roots to Germany, searching for a way to involve children in the world of equestrianism.

Vaulting is a form of horseback gymnastics where riders and horses demonstrate balance, quality, consistency, and flexibility throughout their routine.

This extreme yet classy style of equine gymnastics requires the horse to maintain a smooth and consistent gait to give its rider the stability to perform various movements upon its back.

Judges are looking for riders whose routine encompasses the entire length of the horse’s back and one that has them change their facing directions. Usually, during competition, performers must complete both a “compulsory routine and the freestyle.”

To get a better idea of what this dancing art looks like, please feel free to watch this video from the FEI World Equestrian Games.

#5: Reining

If you are a true Western enthusiast, then the sport of reigning should have you excited. So as I watched Jason Vanlandingham and his horse known as A Vintage Smoke win the 2021 National Reining Breeders Classic, I could not help but stare at every move.

Reining is the pinnacle of Western horsemanship and showcases the horse’s and rider’s ability to perform various stylistic and technical movements that a working ranch horse exhibits in the field.

#6: Endurance

Endurance

I the equestrian world, the sport of endurance is similar to a runner’s ultramarathon. Horses and riders seek to find the most challenging and stunning landscapes to test their endurance and speed.

Endurance competitions usually are either 50 or 100-mile distances. They will test its competitors’ physical and mental fortitude as they challenge charge towards the finish line in one or multi-day events.

#7: Eventing

#7 Eventing

For those competitors that seek a triathlon-type competition, then eventing is the way to go in the world of horse sports. Eventing competitions can follow a single-day or three-day format in which judges score competitors as they perform “dressage, cross-country and show jumping.”

Eventing has been an Olympic sport since 1912. Interestingly enough, the sport began as a cavalry sport, so for this reason, it had been a prerequisite that the rider is a military officer.

#8: Para-Equestrian

Para-Equestrian

The great thing about sports is that anybody can compete, no matter their physical prowess or limitation. Riders that have a physical disability have frequented the Olympic games since 1996.

The International Paralympic Committee oversees the various Olympian-level events that include competitors with different physical and vision impairments.

The possibilities available at the Olympic stage include driving and dressage and following conventional rules and guidelines, although judging will depend on the rider’s disability profile.

#9: Showing

Showing

As an age-old sport, a horse fit for showing is a true testament to the elegance of the Equus Caballus species. Riders showcase the impressively obedient nature of these magnificent animals as they offer a spectacular performance for their audience.

Judges know how to tell the difference between loving obedience and a forceful restraint of resistance. I firmly believe that people and animals coming together is a privilege. Judges want the relationship between horse and rider to exude brilliance as the team struts around the arena.

#10: Polo

Ridden sports are a fan favorite in the equine world, so it should not be too much of a surprise to find out that horse polo dates back to the Persian empire.

The modern version of the sport gained popularity after British officers witnessed the game played in 1859 India. The exhilarating sport entails two teams of four players riding horseback at top speeds while using a wooden mallet to knock a ball through a set of goalposts.

Conclusion

This article has introduced the ten most popular types of horse sports that exist in the equine community. From showing competitions to highly-aggressive ridden sports, there is an activity available for any level of rider to participate in competitively.

Please feel free to include any questions or concerns you may have about the world of equestrian sports in the comment section below.

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