Equestrianism relates to the riding of horses. This broad description includes both riding horses for practical purposes such as in police work or for controlling herd animals on a ranch, as well as recreational and sporting aspects such as horse riding sports, dressage, show jumping, eventing, vaulting and polo. Other horse riding sports include horse-racing, hunting, fox hunting, rodeo, barrel racing, pole bending, flag racing, western and hunter pleasure, western and hunt-seat equitation, trail class, showmanship, horsemanship, reining, roping (heading and heeling), park, English pleasure, country English pleasure, saddle seat equitation, endurance racing, jousting and cavalry. Often, horses are used for casual or rigorous recreational riding (also called trail riding or hacking).
Recreational riders often hunt, pack, and camp using horses, mules, and donkeys. There is public access to horse trails in almost every part of the world; and many parks, ranches, and barns offer guided and independent trail riding.
In former times equestrianism was closely associated with the military: medieval knights were equestrians, as were their military successors, the cavalry. However, the horse and horseback riding have had an important part in all times and places, from the times of the Roman empire, to medieval knights, to genghis khan and his armies, to the streets of London, to the farms and frontiers of the United States, to the luxury barns and fast-paced horse show world of today.
Horses are used in various sport disciplines, such as horse-racing, dressage and Show jumping.
Humans have always had a desire to know which horse (or horses) could move the fastest, horse-racing has ancient roots. Today, several categories of racing exist:
Races subject to formal gambling
Amateur races without gambling
Thoroughbreds have a pre-eminent reputation as a racing breed, but Arabians, Quarter Horses, and Appaloosas also race on the flat in the United States. Quarter Horses traditionally raced for a quarter mile, hence the name. Steeplechasing involves racing on a track where the horses also jump over obstacles. It occurs most commonly in the United Kingdom. Standardbred trotters and pacers race in harness with a sulky or racing bike. In France they also race under saddle.
The traditional competitions of Europe
The three following count as Olympic disciplines:
Baltic Cup Shannon Mejnert - Sandy
Found in the United States
Dressage, jumping and cross-country offer forms of what Americans refer to as 'English riding' (although the United States has a strong following of riders in those disciplines). Western riding evolved stylistically from traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish, and its skills stem from the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. A main differentiating factor comes from the need of the cowboy to rope cattle with a lariat (or lasso). The cowboy must control the horse with one hand and use the lariat with the other hand. That means that horses must learn to neck rein, that is, to respond to light pressure of the slack rein against the horse's neck. Once the cowboy has twirled the lariat and thrown its loop over a cow's head, he must snub the rope to the horn of his saddle. For roping calves, the horse learns to pull back against the calf, which falls to the ground, while the cowboy dismounts and ties the calf's feet together so that he can brand it, treat it for disease, and so on. Working with half-wild cattle, frequently in terrain where one cannot see what lurks behind the next bush, means the ever-present very great danger of becoming unseated in an accident miles from home and friends.
These multiple work needs mean that cowboys require different tack, most notably a curb bit (usually with longer bars than an English equitation curb or pelham bit would have) which works by leverage, long split reins (the ends of which can serve as an impromptu quirt) and a special kind of saddle. The Western saddle has a very much more substantial frame (traditionally made of wood) to absorb the shock of roping, a prominent pommel surmounted by a horn (a big knob for snubbing the lasso after roping an animal), and, frequently, tapaderos ("taps") covering the front of the stirrups to prevent the cowboy's foot from slipping through the stirrup in an accident and resulting in a frightened horse dragging him behind it. The cowboy's boots, which have high heels of an uncommon shape, also feature a specific design to prevent the cowboy's foot from slipping through the stirrup.
Technically, fewer differences between 'English' and Western riding exist than most people think.
The outfit of the competition Western rider differs from that of the dressage or 'English' rider. In dressage all riders wear the same to prevent distraction from the riding itself. But show -- in the form of outfit (and silver ornaments on saddle and tack) -- forms part of Western riding. The riders must wear cowboy boots, jeans, a shirt with long sleeves, and a cowboy hat. Riders can choose any color, and optionally accoutrements such as chaps, bolo ties, belt buckles, and (shiny) spurs.
Competitions exist in the following forms:
The haute école ("high school") is a highly refined set of horseback skills.
Leading haute école démonstration teams include:
Other horse sports
The Chiddingly Horse Show and Gymkhana is now in its 54th Year. A Gymkhana (derived from the Urdu word for "racket court") is an Indian term for a place where sporting events take place and refers to any of various meets at which contests are held to test the skill of the competitors, such as in the sports of equestrianship, gymnastics, or sports car racing.
In the United Kingdom, the term gymkhana now almost always refers to an equestrian event, often with the emphasis on children's participation (such as those organised by the Pony Club), although in the past the word was sometimes used for motorsport events.
In equestrian competitions, gymkhana classes are timed speed events such as barrel racing, keyhole, keg race (also know as "down and back"), and pole bending. The Chiddingly event includes: Jumping, Showing, Novice Corner & Gymkhana Events, Working Hunter, Mountain & Moorland, Handy Pony, Clear Round, Fancy Dress, Pleasure Driving and Cones Driving
Criticism of horses in sport
Most animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which advocate against animal ownership, target wilder horse "sports", with claims of animal cruelty. Horse racing and rodeo are more easily targeted because of their extensive use of animals in sport. It is difficult for people to differentiate between normal equine abilities and actual abuse.
One problem is a disagreement about terms like abuse. Animal rights activists have a strict idea of what animal abuse is, and prefer nothing is done against the will of the animal in question.
Many people are less concerned with the free will of horses, and are worried that sports may cause injuries to horse athletes, just as they do for human athletes. Those in favor of using horses in sport point out that horses in nature are injured much more often and more severely than those in sport. This brings a dilemma: If a horse gets an injury while competing, is this immoral? If a horse slips in its pasture while playing, is this OK? Animal rights activists believe that the injury in a pasture is self inflicted and natural, where as injuries from sport are forced upon horses by humans, and an unnecessary part of the horse's life, making injury from sport immoral.
Rodeos claim that an injured horse is less profitable than a healthy horse. Activists claim rodeos turn a blind eye to minor injuries which do not impair performance. They also cite psychological harm, poor living conditions, forced breeding, and the killing of unprofitable horses as forms of abuse. Many horse owners that compete in sports, however, do not force-breed, kill unprofitable horses, or have poor living conditions for their horses. Contradictory evidence is often provided by opposing sides, which may lead one to believe that while select few horse breeders can be considered inhumane, the majority are not. Sports like rodeo and racing are closely monitored by veterinarians to prevent and treat injuries if they occur. Animal living conditions vary, but many rodeo stock live on open ranches when not working on the weekend. Horse professionals claim they know better what is best for horses than rights activists that live horseless lives and are easily influenced by propaganda. Rights activists claim that horse professionals are biased on the matter of what is best for horses for their own personal gains.
Many horse owners are interested in the well being and welfare of horses, and are allied with animal rights advocates and animal welfare advocates in believing that genuine abuse of horses should end.
International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) official homepage
E-Equestrian Horse Forum Equestrian Community dedicated to all aspects of riding disciplines and horsemanship
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