Content watched by Skip to Content

13 Types of Horse Events

Sharing is caring!

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details.

People around the world are passionate about horses, and they use shows to perform and exhibit the animals they love.

The world of competitive horse events is big business. There are millions of dollars involved, and people still participate in a range of competitions and shows.

Competitive horse racing is likely the most popular horse event in the world. However, there are also Olympic sports that involve jumping, and here in the United States, we have traditional rodeos, dressage, and other events that are regular family fun.

Jockeys Riding Horses At Competition

The relationship between horses and humans is alive and strong. For thousands of years, humans have used horses for sport, work, and more.

There are still a lot of great events where people can show off incredible animals with careful breeding. Farmers, breeders, and passionate riders put their hard work and dedication to their horses on display.

How many types of equestrian events are there? Quite a few.

We’ve compiled a list of thirteen famous horse events and what’s involved. Knowing what type of equestrian events and shows are out there can help you choose where to go, whether you’re interested in participating or simply want to watch.

1. Dressage

female jockey riding her horse performing advanc dressage test

Dressage is a horse event where riders can show off how well-trained their horses are. The whole point of dressage is how responsive a horse is to commands.

A rider and their horse go through a series of tests outlined in the event. They’re each scored on a scale, and the winner wins prizes and money.

Judges are most interested in calm, smooth movements in dressage shows. However, good horses require years of training to win competitions.

2. Polo

Players with their horses fighting for the ball in a Polo event

Polo is a traditional equestrian sport where riders carry long poles with mallets and hit a ball into a goal.

Polo is a team sport with two teams of four riders and their horses. Each game is about two hours long, with periods called chukkas.

Polo is a very fast game that requires intense cardiovascular strength from a horse.

As a result, it’s normal for riders to change horses during a match, sometimes even switching multiple times before it’s over.

Playing polo requires years of training and a high level of athletic ability from riders. As a result, polo is widely regarded as an elite sport. It’s common in countries with rich equestrian traditions like Argentina.

3. Jumping

Man riding his horse jumping on hurdle at jumping horse event with crowds on the background

Horses are incredible animals. People have ridden horses during hunts and across rough terrain for generations, so it’s no wonder jumping is a popular horse event to this day.

In jumping, event organizers arrange a series of obstacles that look like what a horse may jump over in nature.

Things like hedges, fences, short walls, and gates are placed in a ring. The horse and its rider must navigate the course in a specific order to win points that ultimately lead to placement.

Points are awarded or deducted based on how quickly the horse completes the course, whether jumps are clean, and other factors.

4. Horse Racing

Horse race final rush on horse racing competition

Racing is the most popular horse event today.

Several countries are famous worldwide for elite horse racing shows that draw tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars in gambling money, prizes, and race-related events.

The United States, for example, has the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. These three races represent what is known as the Triple Crown of global horse racing, and riders and horses come from around the world to compete.

There’s a lot at stake with high-level horse racing.

The winner of the most prominent races can charge enormous sums for stud rights after a victory.

People love going to gamble on horse races for the chance to win big on a ticket.

5. Cutting Events

Cutting is what horse riders refer to as movements needed to split cows away from the herd.

Cutting is a challenging horse event because cows often react in sync to rancher movements when they’re on horseback. So riders must strike moves precisely to cut a cow away from the herd.

Cutting is now a popular rodeo event in the ranching community. Riders are timed and judged based on how well they cut.

6. Barrel Racing

Cowgirl participating in a barrel racing competition in the clark county fair in Nevada

Barrel racing is a U.S. rodeo mainstay horse event that families love to watch. Kids and adults who live and work on ranches race their horses around a course with barrels in certain configurations.

The rider must go around the barrels in a certain order and then race to the finish line, earning them a place in the standings.

The fastest rider and horse win the competition as long as they move through the barrels in the proper order.

There are penalties for hitting a barrel or failing to go entirely around it.

7. Showing

Showing is another horse event where people love to show off impressive high-end thoroughbred horses.

Think of showing as a dog show but for horses.

In a typical showing event, the horses are ridden and inspected by hand by the judges. There are riding criteria, and the horses often must perform some sort of routine before they’re examined without their saddle and other tacking.

Each category earns the horse points, and the horse with the highest total at the end wins.

8. Eventing

Woman and her horse jumping over an obstacle in an horse eventing

Eventing is a summer Olympics event that combines dressage, cross-country jumping, and show jumping. It’s one of the highlights of the games.

This was originally a competition designed to test horses trained for military operations. Eventually, the standards in eventing became popular among horse breeders, competitive riders, and hobbyists.

Now, you can attend eventing in many places in the United States and other countries.

9. Hunting

hunting horse event, hubertus ride in fall, hunting of fox

Hunting is becoming less common, but plenty of people still love participating in hunting events on horseback.

In traditional hunting events, hunters on horseback follow hounds and other dogs as they chase foxes through rough terrain like hills, forests, etc.

These days, hunting is treated as an aristocratic tradition in places like the United Kingdom, though some places in the United States put on hunting events.

10. Endurance Racing

Participatns riding their horses while participating in the endurance  horse race contest in Malaysia

Though the quarter mile and other short-distance races are more popular, some enjoy breeding and racing horses for endurance. At many events, these races are typically very long, like 100 miles or more.

Endurance racing requires unique breeds of horses and highly experienced riders to get from start to finish.

Courses usually take the animals and their riders through picturesque vistas, mountains, plains, and more terrain.

Making it to the finish line requires pacing, horse upkeep, and plenty of training before the race.

11. Steer Wrestling

Rodeos are a popular American horse event where, besides barrel racing, riders and their hoses participate in various minor events.

You’ll likely see some steer roping, bronco riding, and team roping at a rodeo. The events require the rider and their horse to work in sync, sometimes as part of a team of multiple riders.

In steer wrestling, riders must ride a horse at a full sprint to catch up to a running steer, lasso it, and then jump off the horse and wrestle the steer to the ground.

Some events are exciting, and riders frequently put themselves at risk by riding at high speeds and jumping from moving horses.

12. Cattle Drives

Herd of Historic longhorn cattle drive

Ranch owners are capitalizing on regular people’s desires to experience life on horseback.

Many ranches in the United States, in places like Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, offer multi-day or week-long experiences where riders can come and participate in a cattle drive.

A cattle drive involves moving a herd of cattle from one location to the next. Traditionally, cattle drives moved herds to more suitable pastures as the weather and seasons changed.

Now, however, smaller working ranches are rarer, as is the need for real-life horseback cattle drives. People still want the nostalgia of spending days in the saddle with a team moving herds, so it’s a popular tourist experience.

13. Reining

Rear view of a rider in jeans on a reining horse slides to a stop in the red clay arena

Reining is another popular rodeo event that involves high speeds and responsive training.

Typically, the rider will spend years working with their horse to train them to respond to rein movements instantly.

These are some of the best-trained horses you’ll ever see.

During the event, riders and their horses sprint across the field or venue, stopping at certain points to perform turns and other moves.

Final Thoughts

People love horses and use shows to test their training and hard work. It’s a fun time for families, athletes, and horse lovers to come together to watch and participate in great horse events. 

If you’re interested in participating or attending horse events, check out some listings in your area. They’re most common when the weather is good, so summertime is your best bet to catch a great show.

Horse events usually have great live music, delicious food, and people dressed in their best for the fun. It’s a great time with friends or family, so bring everyone out to see what the riders can do with their amazing horses!