Saturday, July 18, 2015

Breakdown of Breed Showing: AQHA-Style

The Quarter Horse circuit doesn't even know what's coming.
 The plan has been made to attend a locally sanctioned Breed Show in early August since I haven't really attended any of the 'fun days' or shows I set out back in January. I don't find it to be a big deal, as I traded those dates for other things such as Spud's Driving Clinic and a a few Karen Lessons with Suzie. It's been worth it.

In any case, this will be my first Breed Show and in an effort to educate myself, I've decided to compile a list of classes I think I'll be entering and dissecting them down for information sake.

Long-time readers will notice that I have chosen mostly English-orientated classes as opposed to Western ones. There is a good reason for that, I assure you. I've decided to enter the English classes because:

 A) The friend that will be competing with me is only doing English (the in-hand, English, and Reining classes are all on Saturday while the Western classes are Sunday and ain't nobody wanna compete alone).

B) Suzie was a bit hot/fractious at our last show while in the show pen. I feel like having more contact on the reins (if necessary) would be more acceptable in the English division rather than in Western where they would want to see draped reins.

C) There really isn't much difference (to me, anyway!) in the way of going for the horses (someone is going to slap me for that, I'm sure).

Without further adieu, let's get started and of course, since Suzie is a Quarter Horse, I will be utilizing the AQHA rulebook to assist.


Pretty common in the QH world and most will automatically think of Impressive and the influence he had on the Halter horses of today. Thankfully, the trend of HYPP horses is starting to phase out and is much less prominent at smaller venues.

In any case, Halter is the evaluation of the horse's conformation and how it relates to the ideal Quarter Horse. All horses are to be shown in a leather halter as per AQHA regulations and are to show soundness as well as structure. The class is split up into different divisions - Yearlings, Mares, Aged Mares, Stallions, etc. The winners from each division are awarded Champion status. All the Champions from the separate divisions end up combining for a Grand Champion class.

Essentially, Halter is pretty easy to do and so long as your horse doesn't try to kick/bite the Judge, you shouldn't get DQ'ed.

You will typically see more "Western-type" horses in these classes, coupled with handlers in bright/ sequiny clothing or wearing suits.


This is kind of like Halter on steroids in a sense. There is no separate division for Mares, Geldings, Stallions, etc - they are grouped according to competitor status (most commonly Youth and Amateur). All Showmanship classes are pattern-orientated and most have cones set out to show where a next maneuver is required. Generally speaking, the pattern will include jogging/trotting, a 180 degree turn, backing, and "standing up" for inspection.

The inspection is a pretty important part of the ordeal, as the Judge will literally walk all around your horse from all angles. Most 4-H kids will remember the "four quadrants" of the horse and that whenever the judge moves to a different side of the horse, the handler is to move so as to give the judge the best possible viewing of the horse. This class is about precision and showing off your pony.

Faults are accumulated according to the degree or frequency of the infraction. Some faults which are considered 'no nos' in the Showmanship world include: touching the horse, going off pattern, knocking over the cone or "splitting the cone", handler not utilizing the "four quadrants" during inspection, break of gait at the walk or jog/trot, sliding the pivot foot during the 180 turn.

Again, most handlers will be in suits or flashy Western clothing. Hair is usually styled in a cowboy hat, but some have gone in helmets.

Sidenote: that horse is a MONSTER. Either that, or
his rider is tiny.
Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat

If you've ridden Eq classes in the past, this one isn't much different. All Hunt Seat Eq classes are pattern-orientated and are to evaluate the ability of a hunter rider (that's you!) on the flat. Once the pattern is completed by all competitors, they are normally put back out onto the rail to perform various gaits. Patterns are short - usually with 3-4 maneuvers and may include sitting trot, posting, hand gallop, simple changes, etc with cones to depict the change of maneuver.

Severe faults include: touching the horse, grabbing the saddle, loss of iron, wrong lead/diagonal, knocking over the cone, going off pattern, horse's head too low/ too high, over or under turning.

A similar class to this is Hunt Seat Eq over Fences, which is (you guessed it!) a jump course consisting of a minimum of 6 fences. Again, the class is mostly judging the rider's ability rather than the horse's.

In terms of turn out you will see plain tack (no bling), shaped saddle pads, hunt caps (they are not mandatory, altho they are a fad) and close contact saddles. Banding or braiding is acceptable.

Hunter Under Saddle

The purpose of this class is to present a horse who shows potential of being a working Hunter. A free-flowing gait which is ground covering is most valued. In most AQHA World shows you will see Quarter Horses 16hh and taller in the show pen, as Reining-sized Quarter Horse's simply do not have that reach and "flowyness". Think Warmblood-type, hokey-pokey Hunter and you have your next AQHA winner.

This class is judged on the rail and will consist of walk, trot, canter, hand gallop and backing. There is no jumping in this class, as it is only to show the potential of being a working Hunter. This is also the class you typically see horse's with their nose poked out and severely on the forehand (mostly applicable to World shows).

Severe faults for this class include: breaking gait, wrong lead, excessive speed/ slowness, head carried too high/low, stumbling, excessive nosing out (the irony here), failure to maintain contact with horse's mouth, showing too far off the rail.


  1. I've never done a breed show either but would love to try an Arab show one day... Sounds like a great opportunity for you and Suzie!

    1. The Breed shows are a whole 'nother fish to fry, IMO. We'll see how to goes... I'm actually really nervous already LOL

  2. Good luck to you and Suzie! Have fun.

  3. Breed shows are intense in my area! The competition is no joke. But you will have tons of fun :-)