Equestrian 101: Horses for dummies

By Alexa Brackin
News Editor

The Baylor equestrian team is coming off of a National Championship last season and the win of their first event of the 2012 season, The Willis Invitational. With all of their success, it is only appropriate that Baylor Nation is educated on what exactly it is that the team does. The team rides in both Western and English styles, competing in two events from each category.

Western horsemanship is an event in which not only the skill of the rider is tested, but the degree of training of the horse is judged as well. Riders are given a pattern of seven to nine maneuvers and are judged on their ability to control the horse while performing these moves as well as their ability to maintain the correct riding position. The rider is expected to exhibit confidence on horseback as well as poise and balance. Horsemanship is based primarily on precision, requiring the horse and rider to be in unison while the rider executes each movement using subtle aids. The horse and rider are judged on maneuvers such as walk, jog, trot, lope, extensions of these gates, pivots, lead changes, counter canter and riding with no stirrups. The rider starts at a base score of 70 and points are added or removed based on its performance. Very good, +1; good, +.5; average, 0; insufficient, -.5; bad, -1; and very bad, -1.5. Penalties are also considered at the judges’ discretion for major errors.

Reining is the second event in the Western style category. In this competition, riders perform a pre-selected pattern of speed control, lead changes, sliding stops, baking up, rollbacks and spins. This event is judged on the rider’s ability to administer precise technical application of natural aids as well as the horse’s willingness to perform all of these movements. The scoring for this event is the same as that of Horsemanship.

Hunter Seat Equitation on the flat is an English event in which riders are judges on their ability to control the horse while maintaining the correct riding position. Judges focus on the rider’s body position, use of aids, precision and accuracy of the movements, leg strength and riding style. The rider is expected to perform a pattern made up of nine maneuvers such as extended trot, work without stirrups, halts, backing up and lateral work. Each maneuver is scored on a scale from one to ten, with the final score being a collective mark.

Hunter Seat Equitation Over Fences is the second English event in which a rider jumps a predetermined course of eight to ten jumps at a height of 3’ to 3’6”. Riders are judged on position on their position on the horse as well as consistency of pace throughout the course and accuracy. Judges score based on the rider’s ability to position the horse correctly before a jump and not interfere with the horse’s natural movement while maintaining a smooth, clean ride. This category is judged on a scale from one to one hundred, ending in a collective mark.

Equestrian events are head-to-head format competitions, where one rider from each team competes on the same horse. The rider that earns the highest score on that horse wins points for her team. The horse and rider matchup is determined by random draw. Before the competition, a horse’s name is pulled from a hat along with a draw of a name from each team.

If you have not been exposed to equestrian, it is a great time to do so. The Western events are more upbeat and great to watch if you like a more exciting competition, while English events are more quiet and precise. If you haven’t been to a Baylor Equestrian event, I highly suggest you do so. Whether it be to see the horses or the horsemanship, the riders and the horses are true athletes.