Horse Riding Disciplines

Certain breeds of the horse are often favored and are more suitable for either English, Western, or other disciplines, and many breeds have been developed with discipline-specific purpose in mind. However, as merit to the versatility of the horse, many if not most breeds are able to participate successfully in a wide variety of disciplines; English, Western and otherwise.

It isn’t necessary as a beginner rider to select a specific riding discipline. However, as you develop your riding skills you may want to know more about the many horse riding disciplines are available to you. Check out below what are the disciplines of horse riding:

Horse Riding Competition


A rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to compete a clover leaf pattern around three preset barrels in the fastest time.

CUTTING (Western)

A Western riding event where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.

DRESSAGE (English or Western)

Dressage, from the French word for “training”, is often described as the art of dancing on horseback or ballet on horseback and is often compared to the freestyle of figure skating. The art of dressage is a harmonious blend of power, beauty and precision. The sport of Dressage is designed to improve a horse’s balance, suppleness and flexibility, as well as improve the communication between horse and rider. In competition riders are required to complete predetermined movements and are judged on the accuracy, suppleness overall balance of horse and rider. The Freestyle is a class whereby riders incorporate movements to music.


Driving is the world’s oldest equestrian sport and consists of eight disciplines. The challenge of driving is that the drivers can control the horses only though their voice and hands,


An endurance ride is an event in which the same horse and rider compete together over a marked trail, within a specific maximum allowed time. There is no minimum time requirement. The horses are examined by veterinarians before the ride, throughout the competition at regular intervals, and after the ride to assure their health and safety. To be successful the competitor must have knowledge of pace and efficient and safe use of his or her horse across country.

EVENTING (English)

Eventing is often described as an equestrian triathlon, featuring three very different types of tests over three days. The Dressage test is followed by Cross-Country which is a course of solid obstacles specially constructed from materials such as wooden logs and stone walls with natural elements, including ditches and water increasing the technical difficulty.

Cross-country tests the speed, stamina and jumping ability of the horse. Penalties are incurred for refusing an obstacle and exceeding the time allowed. Jumping is held on day three which consists of a course of obstacles designed to fall down when knocked in order to test the accuracy and jumping technique of horse and rider. Traditional jumping rules apply, with penalties incurred for knocking down or refusing obstacles, and exceeding the time allowed.

HUNTER (English)

Hunter is a jumping-related discipline where performances are judged subjectively, with a variety of factors being taken into consideration, including the horse’s style, movement, jumping technique, and conformation (depending on the class). Hunter divisions include over fences classes (jumping obstacles) and hack classes (gaits, including walk, trot and canter).


A timed Western event that features a horse and mounted rider running a weaving or serpentine path around size poles arranged in a line.

POLO (English)

A team sport played on horseback on a large grass field in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long- handled mallet.

REINING (Western)

A judged event designed to show the athletic ability of a Western type horse in a show arena. In Reining, competitors are required to run one of several approved patterns. Each pattern includes small slow circles, large fast circles, flying lead changes, roll backs, 360 degree spins done in place, backups and exciting sliding stops.

ROPING (Western)

A rodeo event that features a calf and a mounted rider. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope around its neck, dismount form the horse, run to the calf and restrain it by typing three legs together in as little time as possible.


A style of riding within the category of English riding that is designed to show off the high trotting action of certain horse breed, notably the Saddlebred.


Jumping is one of the three Olympic equestrian sports. Like all equestrian disciplines, jumping is a gender neutral sport with men and women competing against each other equally. Jumping entails an exciting mix of technical skill, control and courage.Riders guide horses over a course of obstacles, designed to fall down when knocked. Faults are incurred for knocking down or refusing an obstacle, and exceeding the allotted time to complete the course. The fastest time with the least number of faults determines the winner.


The object is for three team members on horses to collect three head of cattle with the same numbers on them from a herd of 30 cattle located at one end of an arena. The team attempts to put these three head of cattle into a small pen at the other end of the arena. All this is to be done in 0 seconds or less.

THERAPEUTIC (English or Western)

Therapy in which disabled individuals ride horses to relax, develop muscle tone, coordination, confidence and well- being.

TRAIL RIDING (English or Western)

Riding outdoors on natural trails and roads as opposed to riding in an enclosed arena. Trail rides may be informal activities by an individual or small group of people, or may be larger events organized by a club. Some trail rides may even be directed by professional guides or outfitters, particularly at guest ranches. There are competitive events, which test the ability of horse and rider to navigate obstacles commonly found on the trail such as opening and closing gates, crossing streams, etc.


The performance of gymnastic and dance like movements to music on a moving horse.


A Western style of competition that evaluated horses on manners and the suitability of the horse for a relaxed by collected gait of cadence and relatively slow speed of gait, along with calm and responsive disposition.

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