New Kids on the Block

New Kids on the Block

Learn more about two new AQHA classes: ranch trail and working hunter under saddle. 

AQHA's two newest classes are ranch trail and working hunter under saddle, illustrated here at the 2021 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show. Shane Rux Photography.

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Holly Clanahan for The American Quarter Horse Journal 

A Quarter Horse that knows how to do his job and is a pleasure to ride while doing so? Yes, please! That’s what AQHA’s two newest show classes reward, although they are in two very different disciplines. Read on to find out more about ranch trail and working hunter under saddle. 

When these classes debuted as Level 3 world champion classes at the 2021 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show, The American Quarter Horse Journal wanted to provide some additional insights for exhibitors and fans. Don’t miss the Judge’s Perspective videos the Journal produced for each of these new AQHA classes. 


Ranch Trail 

The AQHA Handbook of Rules and Regulations says this class tests a horse’s ability to negotiate a pattern of obstacles typically found during everyday ranch work. The horse-and-rider team is judged on correctness, efficiency and pattern accuracy, and the attitude and mannerisms of the horse. The ideal ranch trail horse is well broke, responsive and well mannered, with a natural ranch horse appearance from head to tail. 

Horses competing in ranch trail cannot also enter traditional trail. 

The courses must have between six and nine obstacles, with a large number of possibilities for show management to pick from. Mandatory obstacles and maneuvers include walk-, trot- or lope-over logs; gate; bridge; back-through; sidepass; and a drag (excluding youth classes). Optional obstacles can include a small jump, mailbox, slicker, crossing natural ditches or riding up embankments, throwing a rope at a dummy steer head, ground tying and more. 

Points are deducted for each penalty, fully described in the rulebook, but which include hitting logs or other components of an obstacle, failure to open and shut the gate, or other incorrect or incomplete attempts at negotiating obstacles. 


Working Hunter Under Saddle

According to the AQHA Handbook of Rules and Regulations, the purpose of this class is to exemplify a horse doing its job in the hunting field and to promote correct natural appearance and forward movement in all gaits. Horses should be shown with active, working and energetic ground-covering gaits at the walk, trot and canter. The gaits should be comparable to a horse performing a working hunter course.

In order to compete in working hunter under saddle, the horse must also be shown in at least one over-fences class (hunter hack, equitation over fences, working hunter or jumping) in any division at that show. Horses are not allowed to enter both working hunter under saddle and the traditional hunter under saddle class. 

Horses should back easily and stand quietly. For some more challenging maneuvers, the judge may call for a canter from the flat-footed walk; horses may be asked to lengthen their stride at the walk, trot or canter; and they may also be asked for a hand gallop of no more than 12 horses at a time. 

Faults in this class include excessive speed or slowness in any gait; head carried too high or too low, as well as behind the vertical; quick or short strides, breaking gait; or cantering on the wrong lead. 

For full rules, download a copy of the 2021 AQHA rulebook.