The National Collegiate Equestrian Association tests five riders from each team in head-to-head competitions.  Five horses are selected for each event. Each rider is paired with one of the five horses in a random draw before the competition. She is able to watch the horse warm up and receives four minutes to practice on her assigned mount before competing.  Riders from opposing teams compete on the same horse in the head-to-head competition.  Each rider receives a score, and the rider with the highest score receives one point for her team. In NCEA competition, the level of difficulty is demonstrated by the accuracy of the pattern and how the competitor uses the horse that she draws to the best of her ability.

Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences - The judges evaluate the rider’s position, consistency on course, smoothness, flow from jump to jump, the number of strides (steps taken by the horse) in a line and the rider’s plan to complete the course. Scoring for the event is out of a perfect score of 100.

Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat - The riders have to perform a flat test on their horses in a 40 x 20 meter arena. The test consists of nine movements to be judged on accuracy, smoothness and overall position of the rider. Each movement receives a score from 1-10. The 10th score judges the position and seat of the rider and the correctness and effectiveness of her aids. The score is out of a perfect score of 100.

Western Horsemanship - This event is designed to evaluate the rider’s ability to execute a prescribed set of maneuvers with precision and smoothness while maintaining a balanced, functional and fundamentally correct body position. The ideal horsemanship pattern consists of seven to nine maneuvers and is extremely precise with the rider and horse working in complete unison, executing each maneuver with subtle aids and cues. Exhibitors are scored for each sequence of maneuvers with a -1.5 to +1.5 score for each maneuver with a base score beginning at 70.

Western Reining - This is a class based on set patterns and a precise scoring system. Within these patterns the horses’ and riders’ athletic abilities are tested in a series of maneuvers including spins, stops, flying lead changes and circles with changes in size and speed. In collegiate competition, the rider must perform one of the set National Reining Horse Association (NHRA) patterns. There are a total of eight parts to a reining test with each individual maneuver judged from -1.5 to +1.5 with a base score beginning at 70.

Key Terms

Reining - Western riders perform an assigned pattern from memory, demonstrating a variety of stops, turns and figures at various speeds. The emphasis is on precision and technical application of the rider’s ability to handle unfamiliar horses.

Aids - A rider communicates to her horse through leg and rein aids.

Combination - A series of jumps set one to two strides apart from one another.

Course - A predetermined series of 8-12 jumps that must be completed in order without major penalty.

Equitation - In riding competitions, this indicates that riders are being judged on their ability to control the horse while maintaining the correct riding position.

Gaits - Starting from slowest to fastest, gaits include the walk, jog, trot, lope, cantor and gallop.  Riders may be asked to vary each gait by shortening or lengthening the horse’s stride.

Roll Back - A turn performed in equitation over fences to show control of the horse and rider’s ability to maintain a position throughout a turn. In Western reining, a rollback is a 180-degree pivot with speed after a halt.

Sliding Stop - A stop in which the horse balances on the back feet while continuing to move the front feet.