Horseback Riding

Equestrianism, more often known as riding, horseback riding (American English) or horse riding (British English), refers to the skill of riding, driving, steeplechasing or vaulting with horses. This broad description includes the use of horses for practical working purposes, transportation, recreational activities, artistic or cultural exercises, and competitive sport. Horses are trained and ridden for practical working purposes such as in police work or for controlling herd animals on a ranch. They are also used in competitive sports including, but not limited to, dressage, endurance riding, eventing, reining, show jumping, tent pegging, vaulting, polo, horse racing, driving, and rodeo. (See additional equestrian sports listed later in this article for more examples.) Some popular forms of competition are grouped together at horse shows, where horses perform in a wide variety of disciplines. Horses (and other equids such as mules and donkeys) are used for non-competitive recreational riding such as fox hunting, trail riding or hacking. There is public access to horse trails in almost every part of the world; many parks, ranches, and public stables offer both guided and independent riding. Horses are also used for therapeutic purposes, both in specialized paraequestrian competition as well as non-competitive riding to improve human health and emotional development. Horses are also driven in harness racing, at horse shows and in other types of exhibition, historical reenactment or ceremony, often pulling carriages. In some parts of the world, they are still used for practical purposes such as farming. Horses continue to be used in public service: in traditional ceremonies (parades, funerals), police and volunteer mounted patrols, and for mounted search and rescue. Riding halls enable the training of horse and rider in all weathers as well as indoor competition riding.

Humans appear to have long expressed a desire to know which horse (or horses) were the fastest, and horse racing has ancient roots. Gambling on horse races appears to go hand-in hand with racing and has a long history as well. Thoroughbreds have the pre-eminent reputation as a racing breed, but other breeds also race.

Types of horse racing

Under saddle:

  • Thoroughbred horse racing is the most popular form worldwide. In the UK, it is known as flat racing and is governed by the Jockey Clubin the United Kingdom. In the USA, horse racing is governed by The Jockey Club.
  • Steeplechasing involves racing on a track where the horses also jump over obstacles. It is most common in the UK, where it is also called National Hunt racing.
  • American Quarter Horse racing—races over distances of approximately a quarter-mile. Seen mostly in the United States, sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association.
  • Arabian horses, Akhal-Teke, Appaloosas, American Paint Horses and other light breeds are also raced worldwide.
  • Endurance riding, a sport in which the Arabian horse dominates at the top levels, has become very popular in the United States and in Europe. The Federation Equestre International (FEI) governs international races, and the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) organizes the sport in North America. Endurance races take place over a given, measured distance and the horses have an even start. Races are usually 50 to 100 miles (80 to 161 km), over mountainous or other natural terrain, with scheduled stops to take the horses’ vital signs, check soundness, and verify that the horse is fit to continue. The first horse to finish and be confirmed by the veterinarian as fit to continue is the winner. Additional awards are usually given to the best-conditioned horses who finish in the top 10. Limited distance rides of about 25–20 miles (40–32 km) are offered to newcomers.
  • Ride and Tie (in North America, organized by Ride and Tie Association). Ride and Tie involves three equal partners: two humans and one horse. The humans alternately run and ride.

Show Jumping:

  • Show jumping is when a horse carries a rider over an obstacle also commonly known as a jump. There are usually multiple jumps in a show and if the horse hits the jump then they will get points deducted in a show.

In harness:

  • Both light and heavy breeds as well as ponies are raced in harness with a sulky or racing bike. The Standardbred dominates the sport in both trotting and pacing varieties.
  • The United States Trotting Association organizes harness racing in the United States.
  • Harness racing is also found throughout Europe, New Zealand and Australia.