The Oh So Wonderful World of Equestrianism


Parker Smith, Writer

Equestrianism or horseback riding has many different styles, disciplines, and much more. Everyone does things a little differently, but the overarching love of horses ties the community together. Even though there are always conflicting opinions, most equestrian communities is a supportive, loving community.


The equestrian disciplines are very diverse. The two main styles are English and western. Western disciplines are derived from the cowboys and cattle ranchers. Disciplines like reining and cutting, which this article will get into later, come from neighboring ranchers competing to see who had the best horse. English riding styles came from Europe, derived from the saddles used in early wars. Now that cavalry is not used in the military, the English riding disciplines are now about the rider and the horse’s appearances, style, and grace. 

Some western disciplines are cutting, reining, and barrel racing. In cutting, the rider, and horse must track and move a cow. This is designed to demonstrate the horse’s athletism and ability to handle cows. In this discipline, the rider acts as more of a corrector as compared to giving directions. This is to show off the horse’s unhindered ability. Reining is doing complex patterns at varying speeds. In this discipline, horses do circles, sliding stops, and spins. They are judged on the cleanliness of their movements and if the movements are correct. Barrel racing is running your horse around a set of three barrels as fast as possible. It is all about precision turning and a fast horse. Riders need to have a lot of balance and be extremely confident to successfully run a set of barrels. 

Some of the English disciplines are jumping, dressage and eventing. In jumping, horses and riders are required to jump a set of obstacles in a time constraint. It is judged on the cleanliness of the jump if any poles are knocked down or not and if it is completed in a timely manner. In dressage, the horse and rider work together to perform complex patterns of specific movements in a graceful, effortless manner. It is judged on the completion of the required movements, and the position and form of the rider. Eventing is a multiple discipline event, where riders compete in jumping, dressage, and cross country.  Since I have already covered jumping and dressage, I will cover cross country now. Cross country is a timed jumping competition. It usually takes place in an open field, with big wooden jumps, water, and complex courses. Eventing usually takes place over several days and requires a well-trained horse in multiple disciplines, and a talented rider. 


Most disciplines have varying styles of saddle. The most noticeable difference is the English and western saddles. The English saddle is slim and light, it is not designed to hold the rider into the saddle. At its most basic level, the English saddle has a shallow seat, skinny metal stirrups, and multiple layered saddle pads for the horse’s comfort. The western saddle is usually much heavier than the English one, as it is made entirely of metal, leather, and cloth. The western saddle is designed for long riding, so it is very comfortable. It holds the rider in place, is big and bulky, and has a horn for roping and extra grip. Both of these saddles have different variations for different disciplines but are pretty similar to the basic design. 

Horse Care

No matter what discipline you do, horse care is the same. Horses need water, grain, hay, grooming, and exercise. Grooming varies from brushing off your horse’s back to cleaning out their feet or having the dentist come to clean their teeth. There are multiple styles of brushes for different uses. Having good food and supplements is super important for any horse no matter the age. It is the same as people eating only junk food and trying to have a productive workout routine, so having good food and the proper vitamins/ supplements is important for having a healthy horse. Keeping a consistent exercise routine is very important for having a healthy horse. Having the right amount of high-intensity workouts and rest days for your horse is important because you don’t want to overwork your horse but you don’t want to underwork them either. 

Rider’s Athletism 

Although the horse does a lot of work, so does the rider. Many people, who aren’t equestrians argue that equestrianism is not a sport because the horse does all of the work. This may seem like the case from an outside perspective but it is entirely untrue. It takes a lot of muscle, body control, and balance to ride and control a horse. It is a unique balance between the horse’s and rider’s athletism. Both horse and equestrian must be physically fit and well trained. 

Overall Equestrianism is a complex sport that requires a lot of athleticism, care, time, and money. It takes a special kind of person to devote their lives to horses and their care. Horseback riding has a massive community and it’s full of contrasting opinions and ideas. However, everyone inside the community is united by the fact that they love their horses and their sport.