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Equestrianism (or horse riding) is the sport of riding a horse. It is a popular sport in countries like the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. Horses are used in many different competitions.
Within the sport, there are several types of riding, such as English and Western. In English riding, there are three Olympic events: cross country, dressage and showjumping (in which competitors ride horses over obstacles). There are no forms of Western riding in the Olympics.
Show jumping is where a rider rides a horse over a set course of horse jumps while being timed. The horse and rider must also try not to knock down any of the jumps. Riders win by having the fastest time without knocking any jumps down. There are many types of horse jumps such as the vertical (a jump with only height), oxer (a jump with height and width), and combinations (2 or 3 jumps put right after each other).
Not every type of horse can jump well, just like not all horses are able to do well at horse racing or farm work. Most horses seen in show jumping competitions are warmbloods, a type of horse that was bred for equestrian sports. The riding has been popular since 1900.
Dressage is an event where horses do not jump, but must be very obedient to their riders. There is usually a sequence that the horse and rider must complete. Letters are placed around an arena to show where movements should happen. In dressage the horse and rider can also perform a freestyle, which is also known as "Dancing on Horseback". Dressage riders usually wear tight pants called breeches, as well as a blouse, a top coat and a top hat. The moves the horse performs are very graceful and fun to watch. Horses that compete at the olympics in dressage have had many years of training to learn all the moves they must do for the competition.
Eventing combines Dressage, Showjumping, and the horse version of Cross Country into one sport. This Combined Training is based on the old military tests of the cavalry where the rider's life depended on the horse listening to what the rider told it to do. Cross country makes this sport different from the other equestrian sports. It requires the horse to gallop at a high speed over jumps that will not fall down. These jumps may be logs, stone walls, water, ditches, or banks. The cross country course is very long, and at the Olympics it may take as long as 10 minutes to gallop the course.
The dressage test makes sure that the horse is listening to the rider. It tests that the horse is very well trained. The cross-country course makes sure that the horse is fast and brave, since cross-country fences may be very scary. The show jumping makes sure that the horse is in good shape, since he must do it the day after running over the long cross country course. If the horse is too tired, he will hit the show jumps and make it harder for the rider to win.
Stock work began when horses were ridden on a ranch to round up cows, sheep, or other animals. Today, horse shows also have competitions for horses to show these skills. Like Cutting, Reining, Barrel Racing, Cattle Penning, Calf Roping, Pole Bending, etc.
Driving in the horse world means that a horse is pulling a type of wagon. It knows where to go by a person sitting on the wagon that tells them which direction they should turn. A horse used to pull a wagon is usually bigger and heavier than most other horses. The hooves are also much larger than a racing horse. Large horses are calm, trustworthy and good-natured. Types of heavy horses are: Belgians, Shires, Clydesdale, Friesian horse, and Gypsy Vanners. Also a beginner is able to communicate with these well tempered horses.
Barrel racing is a sport where the rider rides the horse in a pattern around 3 barrels. The rider must be able to turn the horse very quickly around the barrels. The horse that does the pattern the fastest is the winner.
Pleasure riding is riding for enjoyment, not for awards. People ride horses on trails in the forest, along quiet roads, or in an arena near their homes or barns. Horse back riding lessons could be considered "Pleasure Riding". Pleasure riding can be called trail riding. Pleasure riding does not have to be for any specific reason, just for fun and enjoyment. Riding in a horse carriage may also be for pleasure.
Racing tests the speed of a horse. Different breeds do different types of races. The most popular type in the U.S. is Thoroughbred racing, where only horses of this breed can participate in galloping around a track. There are also endurance races, trotting races and steeplechases (horses galloping around a track with jumps). Most horses that are used for racing are ridden by professional riders called jockeys. Usually the people that own or train the horse do not ride it in the races.