Reviewing the Law

Class Guide

Looking at a class list for a prospective show can be dizzying!  How do you know what classes are best for you?  Learn more about what the divisions, classes, and terms mean below.

Overview

Classes may be divided by many different types of criteria, including: size of the horse, horse and/or rider age, horse and/or rider sex, rider professional status, rider ownership status, horse and/or rider championship history, horse and/or rider competition history, horse and/or rider competition status, and more.  The name of the class often includes key terms indicating what the requirements are.  Below we go into some of these terms and definitions.

 

The below material is for overview reference only.  Always discuss any class details with you trainer, and refer to the United States Equestrian Federation Rule Book for exact information.

American Saddlebred Classes

Five-Gaited

The five-gaited horse is one that displays show-stopping beauty, brilliance, and power.  The judges look for an animated form and speed.  Horses are shown with a full mane and tail.  The entries are asked to show at all five American Saddlebred gaits: walk, trot, canter, slow gait, and rack.  The ability to perform these gaits is a genetic trait that is perfected in training. 

Three-Gaited

Beauty, grace, and elegance define the three-gaited horse.  They perform their three gaits - animated walk, park trot, and canter - with high action and precision.  To highlight their elegantly arched necks, they are shown with a roached main, which means it is clipped very short against their necks.

Park

Horses showing in Park division are bold, showy horses that tend to have more power than show pleasure horses, but less refinement than those in three-gaited divisions.  This division demands extreme natural action and animation.  While manners are highly favored, they are less important than in the Pleasure divisions.  Horses are shown at an animated or flat walk, park trot, and canter.  Rider wears informal Saddle Seat attire in morning and afternoon classes, and formal or dark Saddle Seat attire for evening. The Park division offers five-gaited, three-gaited, and driving classes. 

Park Pleasure

Horses showing in Park Pleasure division are powerful animated horses.  Horses are shown with plain shoes and have a full mane and tail which is either natural or enhanced with tailsets or bustles.  Entries are asked to show at a flat walk, trot, and canter.  Entries are judged on manners, performance, presence, quality, and confirmation.  Horses must respond promptly to cues and must stand quietly on the rail.  Rider wears informal Pleasure Division attire.  The Park Pleasure Division offers three-gaited and driving classes.

Pleasure Classes

In Pleasure classes, horses are judged first and foremost on their manners and obedience; they should appear to be a pleasure to ride.  They perform their gaits promptly when asked, present themselves in a comfortable manner, and perform a true, flat walk while remaining alert and responsive.  Horses are light in the mouth and allow the riders to relax into an easy posture.  Transitioning easily from one gait to the other without side-stepping illustrates the horse is not anxious or rushed.  The high stepping action favored by other divisions is less important in Pleasure divisions.

English Show Pleasure 

An English Show pleasure horse has less animation than the Three-Gaited and Five-Gaited horse, but is alert and responsive.  High, natural, free-moving action is desirable.  Horses are shown with a full mane and tail, which is either natural or enhanced with tailsets or bustles.  Entries are asked to show at a flat walk, trot, and canter.  As a Pleasure class, the horse must appear to be a pleasure to ride as they are judged heavily on their manners.  Transitions between gaits should be smooth, walk should be a true flat walk, horses must stand quietly in the line-up, and must not pull, toss  their heads, switch their tails, or display any laboring action. Rider wears informal Pleasure Division attire.  Show pleasure division offers three-gaited, five-gaited, western, and driving classes.

English Country Pleasure

An English Country Pleasure horse is less flashy than the English Show Pleasure horse, and demonstrates remarkably easy action.  The horse's easy way of going should give the impression that it would be a pleasure to ride outside of an arena.  Horses are unshod or shown with plain shoes and have a full mane and natural tail with no enhancing devices. Entries are asked to show at a flat walk, trot, extended trot, and canter.  Entries are judged heavily on their manners as a pleasure mount.  Transitions between gaits should be smooth, horses must respond promptly to cues, the walk must be a true flat walk, horses must stand quietly on the rail and in the line up.  Head tossing, pulling, tail switching, and other displays of laboring action are penalized. Rider wears informal Pleasure Division attire. English Country Pleasure division offers three-gaited, five-gaited, western, and driving classes.

 

Western Country Pleasure

The Western Country Pleasure horse is allowed to have a less elevated head carriage than other divisions.  Horses are unshod or shown with plain shoes and have a full mane and natural tail with no enhancing devices.  Entries are asked to show at a flat walk, jog, and lope, and the rider is to use a reasonably loose rein, held in one hand.  As all Pleasure classes, entries are judged heavily on their manners as a pleasure mount.  Transitions between gaits should be smooth, horses must respond promptly to cues, the walk must be a true flat walk, horses must stand quietly on the rail and in the line up.  Head tossing, pulling, tail switching, and other displays of laboring action are penalized.

Class Terms & Definitions

Eligibility Requirement Terms

  • Age of Horse - For competitions, horses are considered to be one year old on the first day of January following the actual date of foaling (some breed exceptions apply)

    • Junior Horse -  Horse that is four years of age and under (some disciplines define three or five years)

  • Age of Rider - The age of an individual on December 1 will be maintained throughout the entire competition year.

    • Adult/Senior - An individual who has reached his 18th birthday as of December 1 of the current competition year.

    • Junior Rider - An individual who has not reached his 18th birthday as of December 1 of the current competition year

    • Young Rider - Individuals are eligible as Young Riders or Young Drivers from the beginning of the calendar year in which they reach the age of 16 until the end of the calendar year in which they reach the age of 21

  • Rider Status - The USEF membership level and class eligibility based on an individual's involvement in equestrian business activities.

    • Amateur - Regardless of one’s equestrian skills and/or accomplishments, a person is an amateur if after his
      18th birthday he has not engaged in any of the activities identified in the professional status definition. (Refer to USEF Rule Book for detailed descriptions and exceptions.)

    • Professional - A person is a professional if he has received remuneration and rides, exercises, drives, shows, trains, assists in training, schools or conducts, clinics or seminars, gives equestrian lessons, trains horses, or provides consultation services in riding, driving, showmanship, equitation, or training of horses, and more. (Refer to USEF Rule Book for detailed descriptions and exceptions.)

  • Height of Horse - The height of all animals is stated in hands. A hand is 4”.

    • Horse Height - Horses must be over 14.2 hands (some breed exceptions apply)

    • Pony Height - Ponies are 14.2 hands and under.

 

Class Type Terms

  • Maiden - Class open to entries which have not won one first place ribbon at regular competitions of the USEF in the particular division or level in which they are shown. (Breed and division exceptions apply)

  • Novice - Class open to entries which have not won three first place ribbons at regular competitions of the USEF in the particular division or level in which they are shown. (Breed and division exceptions apply)

  • Limit - Class open to entries which have not won six first place ribbons at regular competitions of the USEF in the particular division or level in which they are shown. (Breed and division exceptions apply)

  • Open - Class open to all horses and ponies of any age, size, or sex, regardless of previous awards received, in accordance with division rules.  There is no qualification for the rider except as specified in division rules for the particular category or level of classes.

  • Ladies - Class open to Adult/Senior riders who identify as female

  • Gentlemen - Class open to Adult/Senior riders who identify as male

  • Horsemanship / Equitaition - Class where the rider is being judged, not the horse

 

Judging Terms

  • Manners - A horse's willingness to work and agreeable disposition in the show ring

  • Performance - A horse's suitability for the type of class and execution of the class requirements

  • Presence - Style and presentation

  • Quality - Finesse

  • Conformation - The build of the horse as compared to the ideal specimen of its specific breed.

Equine Terms:

  • Mare - A female horse over the age of four.  Under four years old referred to as a Filly.

  • Gelding - A gelded (castrated) male horse. 

  • Stallion - An intact (un-castrated) male horse. Under four years old referred to as a Colt.

  • Sire - The male equine parent of offspring

  • Dam - The female equine parent of offspring

  • Foal - Young horse of either sex under the age of one year

  • Yearling - Young horse of either sex between the ages of one and two years