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Why Such A Lack Of Interest?

by Leeann Mione

Earlier this summer, Saddle Horse Report was asked by some prominent trainers/instructors in the equitation ranks to help find a way to get some feedback from trainers, instructors, exhibitors and parents regarding the state of the equitation division today. The purpose of the request was to gain insight into why the numbers in the equitation division continue to decline in many sections of the country.

Saddle Horse Report came up with the questionnaire “The State Of Equitation – Where Are We Now?” which posed several questions and invited responses from any and all who cared to participate. The questionnaire ran in the Aug. 21 issue that was passed out at Louisville. In addition, the questionnaire was put on our web site and was published again in Saddle Horse Report in the Oct. 2 issue.

At press time, we had received only a small number of responses and none from any of the instructors that asked for the feedback in the first place. It seems that like so many other issues that face our industry, it’s easy to complain about the problems but hard to take the time to do something that may help solve them. Is that because people are afraid of reprisal? Is it because people have given up and feel like it won’t do any good anyway? Is it because they don’t care when it really comes down to it?

This is yet another case where anyone and everyone who wanted to speak out and make their voice heard and share their two cents worth was provided with an easy way to do that. Yet, few people chose to participate. Within a few weeks this questionnaire and topic will be forgotten and whether or not people participated will be forgotten. We’ll go to the UPHA convention in 2007 and equitation will be discussed, but without much input from all those parents, riders, trainers and instructors who should care a whole lot about the future of equitation and where it is going.

We did our part. . . did you do yours?

Editor's note: The survey is repeated at the bottom of this news item.


Here are comments we received:


I believe equitation has a very large impact on a person’s riding ability and their ability to allow the horse to work happily. Equitation is the art of riding with correct form and the form of the rider is of utmost importance.

The correct position of the leg keeps the horse in forward motion and the rider balanced. The hip position is soft and weight is distributed evenly keeping the horse straight and working evenly from both sides. The hands should be soft and ahead of the rider, not in their stomach. This form benefits the horse and allows it to focus on working its best instead of how far the rider’s legs are on its shoulders or how intense the hands are.

The better the rider’s form is on a horse, the more complete the whole picture is. I do believe that in the case of two horses working at equal performance levels, the one with the more equitated rider could make a tie-breaker. My instructor has incorporated equitation and patterns into riding from day one. I have noticed if my legs are not in good position or my hips are not soft, the horse I am riding will not perform as well.
- Lauren Hogge


I believe it is the state of Saddle Seat riding that is the problem – not Saddle Seat equitation. We have allowed saddle seat to take a back seat to hunt seat and dressage, and we are now in the bad position of having to try to make up the ground we have lost.

If we don’t promote Saddle Seat riding, with equitation being just a small part of that style of riding, where are we going to get our future juveniles, amateurs or for that matter, professionals? We have pockets of the country where Saddle Seat riding is strong, yet we have states where not one Saddle Seat program is to be found. What has happened in those states is that there are also no Saddle Horse trainers, no Saddle Horse breeding farms and no horse shows for our breed.

I don’t think we are alone in this problem; the Saddle Seat portion of Morgan and Arabian shows also has fallen in numbers, which means everything I mentioned above probably relates to those breeds.

Is there an answer to this problem? I believe there is but it is going to take real cooperation among the various breeds, professional horsemen and others to have a rational talk about the problem and create a game plan that will help put Saddle Seat riding back on the map. We have to think outside the box and more importantly take our blinkers off and get creative about attracting people to the sport of Saddle Seat riding.
- Judy Werner


Thank you for putting this topic out there. The academy division is so large but no one wants to push into the equitation division. Why? Between academy and equitation all basic riding skills are learned to help further a rider’s ability to perform on any horse, no matter what breed or discipline. It is an area of riding where not only the rail is important but riders get to show off other skills with patterns. For us, we love it because it provides a rider’s mind and body a real challenge with two living and thinking beings (the rider and the horse).
- Liz McBride Jones


I am an adult rider who rides Morgans and also hunter/jumpers. I show adult equitation over fences on my hunters and I love it. I find trying to master the technical aspects of equitation both interesting and challenging and it definitely has made me a better rider. Adult equitation at most hunter shows is well supported and at most larger shows the entries are robust enough to be broken down into three age groups: 18-34, 35-46 and Over 46.

However, even if it was offered, I wouldn’t ride equitation at the breed shows in its current format. Far too often it seems the prettiest rider and not the most skilled rider is chosen the winner. There is a certain look, body type, posture, etc., that is prevalent in the winning ranks of equitation. This is not to take anything away from the hard work of the winning riders, or the skills of the current judges.

The typical format of trot in, walk, canter, reverse, walk, trot, canter and line up doesn’t allow riders to show off the depth of their skills, and doesn’t give the judge much to evaluate other than a fixed position.

I think if we asked equitation riders to do more things such as reverse at the trot, drop your irons, turn on the forehand while working on the rail, it would give judges more to evaluate. Also using quick simple patterns more regularly would do the same without adding much more time to the show.
- Chris Phaneuf


Like many others, I started my showing career in walk and trot equitation. After my walk and trot career was over, I showed one full season of 13 and under equitation. I now show in performance and pleasure classes, but occasionally at shows I will show in equitation for extra practice.

I believe showing in equitation teaches the correct way to sit while riding a horse. It also can teach you to have a great memory. Being able to take a complicated pattern and break it down to where you can easily execute it is no easy task. I also feel that having a background in equitation may make you more competitive while showing in other divisions.

What I would like to see improve in the equitation divisions in the future is better judging. Nothing bothers me more than when I am watching an equitation class and there is a rider who is on a “push button” horse and is just posing. Or maybe they are on a horse that looks like it swallowed a board and are still just posing. They are not trying to set their horse’s head, but are worried about keeping their chin up. Then there is a great rider that may not have perfect equitation, but has their horse bridled well and under control. It seems in most cases the judge will pick the rider that has better equitation over the rider that shows horsemanship.

I recently went to a show where this wasn’t the case. I was watching a 14-17 equitation class and the girl who won had okay equitation but showed great horsemanship. When the horse that she was on would jump off his feet, she would reach up and touch the horse to settle him. Second direction the girl’s horse started to nervously jump up and down before the canter. Instead of doing nothing, she would reach up with one hand and touch the horse and say “wup.” The girls who got second and third had good equitation but no horsemanship. I was very impressed by the judge’s decision and would like to see more of the same decisions made in the future.
- Krystal Murphy

The State Of
Equitation – Where Are We Now?


Editor’s Note: This survey is intended to provide feedback about the equitation division. We are soliciting your comments and encourage owners, trainers, instructors and exhibitors to respond. Selected comments will be published in a future issue of Saddle Horse Report.

The Saddle Seat Equitation and Pleasure Equitation divisions are ever-changing. In many areas of the country, both divisions are consistently well-filled, while in others, entries are often very light.

Many of today’s amateurs and professionals got their start in equitation and benefited greatly from that experience.

1. Do you feel that having an equitation background provides an edge in competition in the performance division and/or has any bearing on a person’s future success in the industry?

2. Are there things about equitation that should change?

3. If you are not currently involved in equitation would you consider becoming involved in the future? Why or why not?


We’d like to hear from even more people.


Please mail your comments to:
Saddle Horse Report,
PO Box 1007, Shelbyville, TN 37160


Or e-mail your comments to

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