An Introduction to Horse Riding: Equitation, Hunters, Jumpers, Dressage & More

Horse riding is a complicated sport to understand and master. In this post, we’ll discuss each discipline and the difference between them all.



Equitation is at the core of any good horse rider. Equitation is judged more on the rider and their position and form. Judges like to see the the riders hands and legs still and the horse being controlled effortlessly and listening to the riders aids. The horse is typically moving forward but at steady pace and balanced with the rider. Some of the best junior riders compete at equitation championships every year, including the ASPCA Maclay or the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal. Previous medal finals winners, such as McLain Ward and Kent Farrington have gone on to be national and international champions and even competed in the Olympics. Some other notable medal finals winners include George Morris, Brianne Goutal, Jessica Springsteen, Victoria Colvin and Lillie Keenan. Watch Lillie Keenan’s near perfect equitation round at the 2013 Maclay finals below:

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Unlike equitation, the hunter discipline is judged on the movement and style of the horse, as well as the horses form over fences. Judges typically like to see a consistent and forward round with the horses knees tucked high over the jumps. Some of the top hunter riders include Kelley Farmer, Liza Boyd and Victoria Colvin. Watch Victoria Colvin’s winning round with Private Practice, 2018 WCHR Hunter of the Year:

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Jumper classes are based solely on speed and how fast the horse and rider can jump around the course. If the horse knocks down a rail they incur a time penalty. The fastest round usually wins the class. Watch a Grand Prix jump off below:

Grand Prix

The Grand Prix is the highest level of international show jumping. The horse and rider must jump a course with 10-16 jumps with heights up to 1.6 meters and spreads up to 2 meters as fast as they can without any refusals or knocking any rails down.

The courses are built to be more challenging and include tight twists and turns, which are meant to test the horse and rider to their limits. Training for the Grand Prix typically takes many years, and the best of the best riders compete to win. Some grand prix competitions include the Olympics, World Cup series and Nations Cup series. Watch a Grand Prix jump off below:

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Dressage is perhaps one the most artistic and exquisite disciplines to watch. The word “Dressage” comes from the French term called “training”, which is meant to strengthen and supple the horse while maintaining a calm and attentive demeanor. In a modern dressage competition, successful training at the various levels is demonstrated through the performance of “tests”, which are a prescribed series of movements that must be performed by the horse and rider.  Each movement is scored by a judge on a scale of 0-10. Special tests are also written for musical freestyle, sport horse breeding and performances incorporating multiple horses and riders. The degree of difficulty increases from the Training (beginner) to Fourth Level, USA National levels to the Federal Equestrian International (FEI) levels, which are the same tests performed in every nation worldwide. Watch Charlotte Dujardin’s world record breaking freestyle below:

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Cross-country jumping is an endurance test when the horse and rider must jump a series of obstacles and jumps as quickly as they can. A cross-country course can range from one to four miles (6 km) long and can include twenty-four to thirty-six fixed and solid obstacles. Obstacles usually are built to look “natural” (out of logs, for instance), however odd materials and decorations may be added to test the horse’s bravery. Obstacles can include all those that might be found if riding across the countryside, including water, trees, logs, ditches, and banks. Watch a cross-country round from Badminton Horse Trials below:


Eventing, also known as three day eventing or horse trials, is when a single horse and rider compete in dressage, cross-country and shop jumping competitions. The competition may take place as a one-day event (ODE), where all three events happen in one day (dressage, followed by show jumping and then the cross-country phase) or a three-day event (3DE), which is more commonly now run over four days, with dressage on the first two days, followed by cross-country the next day and then show jumping in reverse order on the final day. You can read more about eventing and the history here.

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Whether you are looking to get into the sport or just researching for fun, we hope this brief introduction to horse disciplines helps you in understanding the sport a bit more.

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About Get My Horse:

Get My Horse offers a modern and efficient platform for buying and selling horses online. Get My Horse specializes in equitation horses for sale, hunter/jumper horses for sale and eventing horses for sale.


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