A new year means it is the perfect time to try new things. Some horse owners would love to have a go at showing, but either don’t know where to start or don’t feel they can. Some simply believe it isn’t for them. Here, we cover some of the basics so those who want to can have a go. For those who don’t think they want to: Give it a go, you never know!

But I’m not competitive
There are many more reasons other than winning prizes to attend a horse show. Some of us just aren’t competitive and don’t feel the need to compare ourselves to others – and that is completely fine. However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing horse shows can offer you. Showing under a judge offers you the chance to get valuable feedback on your and your horse’s progress. You can practise refining your training and get an expert opinion, without worrying about where you will place. Shows also offer a fantastic opportunity to socialise and make new friends. There is more to shows then rosettes and winning, but, equally, you never know where the journey may take you.  

Unaffiliated and All Breed
Unaffiliated and all breed classes provide something for everyone. These classes are great for those starting out or who don’t want to spend out on membership fees. It also means you don’t have to have a particular breed of horse to enjoy showing. They are the perfect opportunity to have a go. An unaffiliated class is not affiliated to a particular breed, association or organisation. This means your horse does not need to be a particular breed, does not need to be registered and you don’t have to be a member. However, unaffiliated classes can often still be found at affiliated shows, opening it up to more people. Often, they may be run under the rules of a particular organisation, as far as judging is concerned. They are also a great stepping stone for those who wish to compete affiliated, but want to have a go first. 

Walk jog
Walk jog classes are a fantastic way to get into showing. Walk jog classes are completed entirely in two gaits, either walk or jog. These classes provide an environment in which people can feel confident to have a go. Whether it is because you or your horse are new to showing, inexperienced, young, green or simply lacking in confidence, a walk jog class could be perfect for you. There are also those, both equine and human, who may not physically be able to do more and these classes mean they don’t miss out. They provide a great entry point for many, and those who don’t feel they wish to progress to more advanced classes can still take part. 

Breed Associations and Organisations
Breed associations and organisations have a lot to offer. There are various associations; those for different breeds, those for all breeds and those with a more specific purpose or discipline. These shows can often be larger and have more classes at different levels. Also, they sometimes offer the chance to show under some high-profile judges, giving the potential for some very useful feedback. However, these shows often require a greater financial contribution. Associations and organisations often provide high point awards, which reward consistency as much as winning.   

Breed associations and organisations have a lot to offer those who want to step up their showing or take it more seriously. Equally, don’t be intimidated. There is still something for everyone. There is competition ranging from entry level for novices and beginners (including walk jog), to the open classes at which you can see the best riders show their skills.

One of the main things associations and organisations have to offer, and something that is appreciated the most by their members, is community. Socialising with like-minded people is an attraction for many and lifelong friends can be made. Don’t be intimidated. You will often find people are excited to welcome newcomers and offer help and support.


Some of the associations and organisations in the UK are:  

  • Western Equestrian Society (WES)

  • American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)

  • American Paint Horse Association (APHA)

  • British Reining (BR)

  • Nations Reining Horse Association (NRHA)

  • UK Barrel Horse Association (UKBHA)

  • Western Horsemans Association (WHA)

Basic Equipment
Different organisations may have different rules on equipment and attire and you should always be sure to check which rules you are competing under before attending a show. This can also depend on the level of competition. However, there are some basics that are a common theme at most shows and if you just want to have a go, attire rules aren’t restrictive. Show holders want to encourage everyone to have a go and would hate to think people weren’t because they don’t have a top dollar show wardrobe. Although you don’t need to splash out on expensive equipment to show, try not to sacrifice safety for economy. 

Some basic attire/equipment includes:

  • Hat – either a western hat or hard hat

  • Heeled boots

  • Long-sleeved shirt

  • Jeans or show pants -- many also like to show in chaps

  • Usually western tack – there are some exceptions; for example, the hunter classes and some unaffiliated shows may be more lenient

Class Overview

The wide range of classes means there is usually something for everyone. These include:

  • Halter

  • Showmanship

  • Horsemanship

  • Trail 

  • Western Pleasure

  • Ranch Riding

  • Western Riding 

  • Reining 

  • Hunter Under Saddle

  • Hunt Seat Equitation

  • Barrel racing and speed games