What Equestrian Discipline Suits You?

What Equestrian Discipline Suits You?

English style riding is renowned for its elegance and style. But there’s more to it than just the right tack and a smart outfit. If you’re considering stepping up your love of riding to the show level, you should familiarize yourself with the different disciplines within the larger category of English riding.



Dressage comes from the French word for "training." It demonstrates the grace and skill of the horse and rider as they perform set tasks. Beginning with walking, trotting, cantering, halting, and circles, the tasks get more difficult as the levels increase, up to extensions, medium gates, flying changes, lateral work, and pirouettes.

Show Jumping

show jumping

Show jumping assesses the horse and rider’s combined ability to perform tight turns and maintain sufficient speed. It takes place on a course, inside a ring, with jumps set at various heights, constructed from wooden bars, barrels, and other objects. As the competition increases, the jumps’ heights are raised.

Cross-country Riding

cross-country ridingCross-country riding also tests stamina and fitness, as well as bravery. It takes place over a larger course covering a long distance. The course usually involves navigating over logs, streams, and large ditches, and through banks and drops, and gets more difficult as it progresses. The entrants are judged on speed, and must complete the course in the correct sequence.

If all of those sound interesting, consider eventing, which combines all three disciplines into a single competition that takes place in a single day or over three. Dressage is first, to highlight the rider’s communication capabilities. Next is the cross-country course, followed by show jumping to test stamina.

Hunt Seat

hunt seatHunt seat, or hunter/jumper riding, is descended from the British fox hunt tradition. The competition involves three categories. Show hunters are judged for poise and presentation over a flat course, show jumpers must navigate fences at the fastest speeds with the fewest errors, and equitation focuses on the rider’s form.

While each of these disciplines are part of the English riding tradition, they do have further difference. You should consider the equipment and tack you’ll need, as well as the condition, age, and breed of your horse. Also, not all of these disciplines might be available in your area, so take into account the time it will take to travel to and from lessons and competitions.

  • Published:
  • Updated: 6/12/2018: 9:01:39 AM ET
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