A few years ago, it seemed like suddenly being a ranch horse was the “new thing”. The American Quarter Horse Association added Ranch Riding to their schedule of classes. The goal is for the horse to look and act as if it was working on the ranch. It’s a pattern class similar to horsemanship, but with a “ranch-y twist.” Patterns include walk, trot, extended trot, lope, extended lope, turns, rollbacks, and lead changes. The gait transitions are one of the most distinguishing parts of the ride. In some patterns, there are also trot or walk over poles, side passes, and gaits to open. The horse and rider are judged on how precise the maneuvers in the pattern are and the movement style of the horse. The desired look, is a horse that is easy to ride and has a forward moving pace. This class became very popular, very quickly. Riders began to really dress the part. It’s the style to wear looser shaped hats, wild rags, chinks, carry ropes, and use ranch style tack. The rule book discourages silver on saddles and clipping the inside of the horse’s ears.
The class started as a relaxing break from other more competitive classes. Now, ranch riding is one of the top participated in classes. I believe this class became so popular because it’s perfect for those horses that might be considered “ring sour” or a way to prevent that from happening. Having to do different gaits and maneuvers keeps the horses alert and keeps their minds fresh. My family really benefited from this class because a lot of our reining horses are not top of the line and excel in these types of events. Other associations such as the American Stock Horse Association, American Ranch Horse Association also revolve around the versatility of the ranch horse. AQHA has even opened a branch called the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse and it has its own world championship show.
I strongly encourage everyone in the horse show world to check out a ranch style class, I am sure you would enjoy watching and even competing in it! This growing sport is going to continue growing!
written by: Ashton Williams