The Basics of Showing in Western Pleasure

Last Updated on March 2, 2022 by Allison Price

Most breed and open-circuit horse shows include Western pleasure classes. Pleasure classes are a popular choice for horse owners who want to have more fun riding their horses. New exhibitors often feel confused or disappointed when they fail to succeed in their first class. These are the basic rules of Western pleasure competition. The judge also looks for certain qualities in the winner.

Western Pleasure is not as Simple as Many Believe. Horsemanship is very similar to other sports such dancing and gymnastics. You won’t be able to tell the difference between couples dancing on the floor and gymnasts doing their floor exercises unless you have spent a lot of time studying them. Judging a class such as Western pleasure, which is simple, can be quite difficult.

Each horse and rider team must perform three gaits in a Western pleasure contest. They first have to go one way, then they need to reverse the order and repeat the same three gaits. They will eventually be asked to back up. There are three types of gaits: lope, jog and walk. It is not difficult to score this feat.

Western Pleasure

Western pleasure can be quite technical. Many Western pleasure riders don’t understand the criteria used by the judges to select the winners or place the riders in the order they want. Only the horse’s performance in pleasure classes is considered, and not the rider. Horsemanship and equitation classes are where riders will be judged.

These are some questions that a judge will ask about each horse’s performance in the pleasure class. It is unlikely that your horse is performing well if you don’t know what each question means. Ask someone to explain the topic to you.

What the Judge Looks for in a Winner
Are the horse’s gaits correct? Does the horse show ‘lift’ in its shoulders Are the horse’s strides consistent? Is the horse calm and collected? Is the horse a happy picture? Does it have a steady frame and natural head carriage that is not too high or low? Are the gaits slow and natural, or are they manufactured?

It is much easier to judge a group of outstanding exhibitors than a single winner. How do you judge between horses that don’t follow the required gaits or those that try to run away with their rider? Which horse should be placed first? Sometimes, a person’s manners can make the difference between winning a fourth-place ribbon or a first-place trophy.

While it is important to know the rules, it is not enough to win. Have fun. Participate in a few practice shows. Offer to be a judge at an open local show as a ringsteward. The beginning was where every world champion began. Enjoy your journey and good luck!

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!