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Classic (English) Competition Historic Overview
Modern Classic (English) Equestrian competition came out of the 3000 year period of almost continuous warfare culminating with the European code of warfare Not unlike the Samurai Bushido code. This tumultuous period which can best characterized by the militaristic 19th century cavalry officer. These men were wealthy aristocrats; highly trained in the art of war and equally motivated. A class of professional warriors defined by this code of honor, working in partnership with an animal designed and bred for over 3000 years of almost continuous bloodshed; the war horse. Period superstars, both feared and respected, when these elite19th century warriors found themselves out of work. A tradition which began in Greece 2400 years earlier as battle preparation morphed into competitions; local and structure less at first they evolved into Dressage competitions for the aristocrats and Hunting and Carting (Driving) for the emerging middle class.
Today, what are known in the US as “English Horse Shows are held throughout the world with a remarkable variety of possible events, equipment and attire as well as judging standards are used. (Click here for more information about turn out and show attire)
Turn Out and Equitation; important tools in judging Horse Shows
Equestrianism is a demanding skill with a wide range of styles, rules and approaches with one common denominator, the relationship between rider and horse. Equitation is a tool used by Equestrian judges to measure the horse and rider as a partnership with two critical components, one visual and one technical.
The basic competition categories are: Dressage, Driving, Eventing, Hunter, Saddle Seat, Show Hack and Show Jumping.
Dressage: Dressage competitions today may begin in local communities with introductory level classes where riders need only walk and trot. Horses and riders advance through a graduated series of levels, with tests of increasing difficulty at each level, until the most accomplished horse and rider teams compete at the Grand Prix and international competition levels, such as the Olympic games.
Dressage consists of the lower levels: In the US; Introductory and Training levels then First, Second, Third and Fourth. In Europe - First, Second, Third and Fourth. In Australia the levels are as follows Prep, Preliminary, Novice, Elementary, Medium and Advanced. The FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) levels: Prix St. Georges, Intermediare I, Intermediare II and Grand Prix. (Click here for more information about Dressage)
Dressage Seat Equitation: Dressage seat equitation is a relatively new class offered at dressage shows. Unlike a dressage test, the horse's gaits are not judged, although the horse's frame is taken into consideration by the judge, but rather it is the rider who is evaluated. Also, instead of a single competitor in the ring, there are several riders in the ring at one time.
The rider is judged on a proper classical position. This includes evaluating leg position, seat, hands, balance, and rhythm. The rider is to be relaxed and not interfere with the horse's movement, but able to make full use of all riding aids. The rider and horse should have unity, and the rider should use the aids correctly and efficiently.
The United States Equestrian Federation outlines the rules for Dressage Seat Equitation
Driving / Harness Classes: Are classes where the horse is driven rather than ridden, but are still judged on presentation, manners, performance and quality. (Click here for more information about Driving)
Eventing: Eventing is an equestrian event which comprises dressage, cross-country and show jumping. This event has its roots as a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding. It has three main formats, the one day event (ODE), two day event and the three day event (3DE), which in reality now runs four days at some competitions. The sport was once referred to as "Militaire", and there is such a format that riders complete all three events in one day, called a "horse trial". Also, a "combined test" is a spin off of eventing which encompasses dressage and show jumping, but leaves out the cross country phase. (Click here for more information about Eventing)
Classic (English) In-Hand or Halter Classes
In Hand Classes (In Hand or Halter Class)
Breeding or Conformation: In Breed or Confirmation classes the horse is led by a handler on the ground and judged on conformation and suitability as a breeding animal.
Halter: In Halter classes where the horse is led by a handler on the ground and judged on the handling ability of the handler and the ground manners of the horse.
Lounging: Excellent training for beginners.
Under Saddle Classes
English Pleasure, On the Flat: Horse and rider are on the flat ground (not jumped) and judged on manners, performance, movement, style and quality. As discussed above, this is also referred to as the riders seat. Also know as: Hunter Under Saddle, Show Hack
Equitation on the Flat: On the Flat Equitation is more about the rider and is sometimes called seat and hands or horsemanship and refers to classes where the rider is judged on their form, style and equestrian ability on the flat.
Hunt Seat Equitation: The Hunt seat style of riding is derived from the hunt field. In equitation competition, flat classes (those that do not including jumping) include judging at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions, and the competitors may be asked to ride without stirrups. It is correct for the riders to have a light and steady contact with their horse's mouth the entire ride. Loss of a stirrup or dropping the reins are also faults, and may be cause for elimination.
In over fences classes (classes in which the horse and rider jump obstacles), the competitor rides over a course of at least six jumps (usually more). Fence height may go up to 3'9". Classes often require at least one flying lead change, and one or more combinations. The rider is judged not only on position and effectiveness of aids, but should also maintain an even, forward pace and meet each fence at an appropriate distance.
At the highest level of hunt seat equitation are the national Maclay finals and USEF Medal classes in the United States, and the CET (Canadian Equestrian Team) Medal in Canada. These championships and their qualifying classes may include bending lines, roll back turns, narrow fences, and fences with a long approach to test the rider. Fences must be at least 3'6" and may be up to 5' wide, and the course must have at least eight obstacles and at least one combination. However, the course may not include liver pools or open water elements. (Click Here for more information about Hunter Seat)
Over Fences - Jumping Classes: Over Fences or Jumping classes refer broadly to both show hunter (jumps up to 4’) and show jumping (Jumps and obstacles up to 6’) where horses and riders must jump obstacles or jumps.
Saddle Seat;: Saddle seat, is a primarily American discipline, though has recently become somewhat popular in South Africa, was created to show to best advantage the animated movement of high-stepping and gaited breeds such as the American Saddlebred and the Tennessee Walker. Some Arabians and Morgans are also shown saddle seat in the United States. There are usually three basic divisions. Park divisions are for the horses with the highest action. Pleasure divisions still emphasis animated action, but to a lesser degree, with manners ranking over animation. Plantation or Country divisions have the least amount of animation (in some breeds, the horses are flat-shod) and the greatest emphasis on manners.
Show Jumping - Also called Stadium Jumping: Competition over fences, jump stands and assorted obstacles. Scoring in this discipline is entirely objective and is based on the time elapsed and the number of obstacles cleared without knockdowns or in some venues; rubs. Show jumping is an internationally recognized and enjoyed Olympic competition. (Click here for more information about Jumping-Show Jumping-Stadium Jumping)