Like all sports, horse riding can provide a huge amount of fun and exercise. Within the equestrian world there is a myriad of different sports. So it doesn’t matter if you are a weekend pleasure rider or a serious competitor, a thrill seeker or a nervous Nelly, there is something for just about everyone.
Generally speaking horse sports are divided into categories. There is western riding, Olympic disciplines, endurance, pleasure riding, novelty, horse racing, rodeos, team sports and carriage driving. Of course, there are also a few obscure sports like, vaulting, le trek and camp drafting. Within these categories there are a variety of different sports again.
Western riding originated in America in the early frontier days; horses were the only way of herding and sorting cattle. It is best known for the sports of cutting, reining and western pleasure. Appaloosas, Quarter horses and paints are the main breeds used in Western.
The Olympic disciplines involve the art of dressage, show jumping and eventing. These had their beginnings in military warfare as a way of training both the horse and rider to become agile and adept to help overcome enemies on the battlefield. Over the years a variety of breeds have been popular for these sports. Today the Warmblood is the most preferred breed.
Endurance riding is a race over long distances under controlled conditions. Arabs and Arabian derivatives are the most prominent breed used in this discipline due to their stamina. The sport of endurance racing was invented as a military test for cavalry mounts, where horses had to go on a 5 day 485km (300 mile) ride carrying around 100kgs (200lb) in weight.
Novelty riding includes mounted games and races, most popular at pony club level. Many games involve the horse and rider racing against the clock to get around a course. The most well known of the novelty riding sports is probably barrel racing which is often seen at rodeos. A variety of breeds are used for these, with ponies being very popular.
Rodeo riding involves a variety of sports, including, team roping, bronco riding, barrel racing and breakaway roping. In Australia, rodeos usually involve a day of camp drafting competition as well. Like western riding, camp drafting had its origins in early Australia probably around 1880’s to 1890’s, and involves cutting a cow or steer from a herd in a “camp”, and then navigating the beast around a cloverleaf shaped course. The Australian stock horse is the prominent breed used for this sport although quarter horses also do well.