What is Western Pleasure?

By: Paige O.

Western Pleasure?

Western Pleasure is a style of Western riding that is not as well know but should be! Its a way of riding unlike barrel racing or anything the "average Joe" would know about. Its collected and slower and makes the horse move so gorgeously that you could just melt right into the rhythm.

Take a look

VS Code Blue - Jr. Western Pleasure - 2011 AQHA World Show

Nothing like this.....

barrel racing cowgirls - 93rd Falkland Stampede 2011

Something to make clear

Both Western Pleasure and Barrel Racing do take skill and training to do well in, horses that you see in Western Pleasure you will NEVER see Barrel Racing. The horses for Barrel Racing need to be hot and fast and light on their feet. While Western Pleasure horses need to be muscled and petite with a calm personality. Also, don't think that any old horse you pay $100 dollars for can do either of these things like these $25,000 horses can. These horses are bred and trained to be as good as they are.

VS Code Blue

VS Code Blue is an amazing stud and bred well. VS Code Blue is the Western Pleasure horse you saw in the clip above. He is an outstanding mover and shown nicely by the female rider.


Western Pleasure is not the only thing that is shown at most shows. There will be an English section of Hunter Under Saddle & Hunt Seat Equitation. The Western events will include Showmanship, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship and Trail. Halter is another class that will happen on the ground being judged on conformation of the horse. This smore will only give info about the western events.


Showmanship will show off how great of ground manners your horse has. You will be given a pattern at the beginning of the show when you register for your classes. You will be expected to memorize the pattern and present it to the judge when your class is called. Here is an example of a Showmanship pattern:

Western Pleasure

In a Western Pleasure class you will go on the rail at the walk, jog and lope both directions then called to the middle to back for the judges. The placing will be called out and hopefully your name will be called. The key to winning is to have a nice drape rein and have your horse move nicely and slowly along the rail to draw the judges attention in a good way. The class is more focused on how the horse moves rather than how the rider is doing. Both are important because if the rider is calm and looks nice the horse probably will too along with making the horse just appear better because the rider is so good.


Horsemanship and Showmanship are similar because they are both pattern classes but in Horsemanship you will ride the horse at a walk jog and lope around cones. The pattern again will be given to you at registration and you are expected to know the pattern to present it to the judge. This class is more focused on judging the riders ability to make the horse maneuver the pattern and still have nice form while executing the pattern.


The first thought many have of Trail is like trail riding but that is not the same as Trail at a horse show. There will be longs, fake gaits, cone formations and other things like that set up for the horse and rider to go over and around to do the pattern. The pattern again will be gotten at registration and will expected to be memorized to execute for the judge. Here is a pattern and video of Trail Class:
2012 AQHYA Trail World Champion

Horse Shows!

The Western Events at Horse Shows are so fun and teach riders and horses so much! Going to a show is exciting but make sure that yourself and your horse are ready to compete. Maybe starting out at open shows near your town are better than trying to go straight to AQHA or APHA shows. Good Luck!