Horse shows and equestrian contests have been popular forms of entertainment for centuries. There are many types of horse contests to choose from, each focused on different rubrics and classes for judging competitors. The International Equestrian Federation (Fédération équestre internationale or FEI) provides the rules and regulations which govern international competitions. Participants from all nations can enter these contests and take part in the shows. National, regional, and local competitions, however, are not subject to the rules provided by the International Equestrian Federation.

horse and jumper

According to the FEI, there are ten internationally recognized disciplines that can be incorporated into competitions. FEI establishes the rules and regulations that need to be followed when judging contestants in any of these categories. The disciplines FEI governs and recognizes are:

  • Dressage –is an equestrian sport that requires the horse and the trainer to perform a series of predetermined movements from memory during an exhibition and competition.
  • Endurance Riding –is an equestrian sport that is based on long-distance horse races. It is comprised of two types of long-distance riding: endurance riding and competitive trail riding. Endurance riding races can vary in length but they rarely extend to more than 100 miles.
  • Eventing –is a competitive sport in which a single horse and rider team compete against other teams in three disciplines: cross-country, dressage, and show jumping.
  • Combined Driving –is a sport that involves carriage driving. The driver sits in a carriage drawn by a single horse, a pair or a team of four. There are three stages in this type of competition: dressage, cross-country marathon, and obstacle cone driving.
  • Horseball –is a game played on horseback in which players ride on horseback and score points by shooting a ball through a 1-meter diameter hoop. The sport is a combination of basketball, polo, and rugby.
  • Para equestrianism –is an Olympic equestrian sport for athletes with disabilities.
  • Reining –is a type of western riding competition in which riders guide horses through several movements, patterns, and circles.
  • Show Jumping –is an equestrian event that is commonly featured in equestrian shows worldwide. It is also known as stadium jumping and requires riders to guide horses in jumping over several obstacles.
  • Tent Pegging –describes a set of mounted cavalry games that usually require the use of weapons to hit targets or game while on horseback.
  • Vaulting –is a form of gymnastics performed on horseback. It can be displayed as a form of entertainment or as a competitive sport.

closeup of horse

Horse Shows in the United States

In the United States, rules and rubrics can vary from one contest to the next and the United States Equestrian Federation regulates most aspects of modern equestrian sports. The federation approves and licenses most of the equestrian competitions that take place in the United States every year, regardless of whether they are organized at a local, regional, or national level. Overall, the federation recognizes 2.800 competitions in the United States each year. The USEF is also responsible for assembling, training, and funding the United States Equestrian Team for high-profile international competitions such as the Olympic Games.

Top 5 Horse Contests to Watch

For the top horse contests listed here, we will be looking at heritage competitions that the USEF recognizes and licenses. These are contests that have been established for a long time and that, according to the federation, have substantially contributed to the promotion and development of the sport. Depending on each horse show, the equine disciplines featured in both exhibitions and competitions can vary.

1.      Washington International

The Washington International Horse Show was established in 1958 and it takes place every year in Washington D.C. It is one of the most high-profile horse shows in the U.S. and it takes place between the 25th and the 30th of October this year. It’s a metropolitan indoor show that features junior and senior competitions in different disciplines. It’s a great option for families and first-time show-goers because it offers a wide range of activities, contests, and shows so it has something for everyone. The event is focused on hunter and show jumping contests and classes.

2.      The Hampton Classic

The Hampton Classic is only the second U.S. horse show to receive the USEF Heritage Competition status. It is one of the largest outdoor horse contests in the country. Now in its third decade, the show features Jumper and Hunter divisions for different ages and competing levels. It takes place every year in Bridgehampton, NY. This year it will begin on the 28th of August and end on the 4th of September and feature a series of competitions, including a Grand Prix Ring show.

3.      The Devon Horse Show

The Devon Horse Show is one of the oldest horse contests in the country, with a wide range of equine disciplines featured each year. It takes place over the course of five days in September and features equitation, hunters, jumpers, coaching, carriage marathons, roadsters, saddlebreds, and more. I was established in 1896 and offers year-round events as well.

4.      The Germantown Charity Horse Show

Starting its 67th edition between the 7th and the 11th of June this year, the Germantown Charity Horse Show has evolved into a high-profile competition featuring the Hunter, Jumper, and Breeds classes. It takes place every year in Germantown, Tennessee, and it organizes charity shows as well as competitions for several age groups and levels. This will be the 16th time that the horse show will be helping raise funds for the Exchange Club Family Center, a charitable organization that fights to prevent child abuse.

5.      Dressage at Devon

Dressage at Devon has been a popular North American equestrian event since 1975 and features a variety of competitions and exhibitions every year. The show takes place on the Devon Horse Show Grounds just west of Devon, Pennsylvania. The popular event has horse contests for the Dressage and Breed divisions. It also includes exhibitions and training classes. It will take place between the 27th of September and the 2nd of October this year.

Picture Sources: 1, 2.