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11 Different Horseback Riding Styles To Try

by ihearthorses

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You probably know that horseback riding is generally split between Western riding and English riding, with the saddle itself being the biggest difference between the two. But how many other horseback riding styles are there? Here we list some of the different riding styles practiced today.


The purpose of dressage is to develop a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to work, which is supposed to make them calm, supple, and attentive to the rider. An extreme form of dressage is the famous Lippizaner stallions from Vienna, Austria. 

horseback riding styles dressage


Eventing is a competition that includes dressage, cross-country riding, and stadium jumping, usually over the course of 3 days.

Young female jockey on dapple gray horse jumping over hurdle in the open arena.

Show jumping

Show jumping is divided into 3 different classes: hunter, jumper, and hunt seat equitation. Hunters are judged by how closely they meet an ideal standard of manners and style. Jumpers are scored objectively in a timed trial with faults for failing to clear an obstacle. Hunt seat jumping judges the rider’s ability on flat ground as well as over fences.

show jumping - woman and horse horseback riding styles

Western pleasure

In Western Pleasure competition, horses are evaluated on the quality of their movement while traveling the perimeter of the arena with other contestants. They follow the judge’s directions to walk, jog, lope, and reverse directions.  

A father and young son brie horses in a rodeo arena.


Often described as the Western version of dressage, in reining competition riders guide horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. In this horseback riding style, work is done at a lope (a more relaxed version of a canter) or a gallop (the fastest horse gait). The horse should be controlled with little or no apparent resistance.

horseback reining


Cutting is a rodeo-style event in which horse and rider work together to demonstrate the horse’s ability to herd and single out cattle. This was a necessity on ranches to single out cattle for branding or other veterinary interventions.

Photo of a Rodeo cow-girl, and her horse competing in the cattle cutting competition.

Barrel racing

In barrel racing, a horse and rider attempt to complete a pattern around barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena in the fastest time.

Interested in trying barrel racing? Check out our popular article Barrel Racing For Beginners: The Basics.

A teenage cowgirl barrel racing with her beautiful horse.


Endurance rides put an emphasis on the overall health of a horse with a ride that is between 25 and 500 miles. There are health checks every 25 miles or so to ensure the health of both the horse and the rider.

Am Strand von Lokken DAnemark


Gymkhana is timed obstacle riding on horseback with a variety of different individual and team events which display the speed, agility, control, and responsiveness of the horse.

young rider appraising gymkhana course


Saddleseat competition was designed to show off the high trotting tendencies of breeds such as the American Saddlebred, Morgan, and Arabian. The horse is judged on its elegant movement at a walk, trot, and canter.

Young rider woman on bay horse performing advanced test on dressage competition. Equestrian event background with copy space


Racing is one of the richest sports in the world and is often referred to as “the sport of kings.” Jockeys have to be very fit both physically and mentally to stay atop an animal moving at 44 miles per hour.Horse race in Pyatigorsk,Caucasus,Russia.

This list was neither exhaustive nor detailed, but it gives you an idea of the wide variety of ways in which people get pleasure from riding horses.

Did we miss any horseback riding styles? Let us know in the comments below!

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