Try Something New in 2021: Equestrian Bucket List

Try Something New in 2021: Equestrian Bucket List

The new year is the perfect time to try something new with your horse. Here are some creative ideas.

Cindy Hale shows JB Habanero Whiz to win the inaugural Ranch Trail Stakes at the 2020 AQHA World Show (Credit: Shane Rux Photography)

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As riders, we love to challenge ourselves and learn new skills on horseback. It’s a never-ending journey to improve our skills and better our horses. Need some inspiration? We’ve come up with a few fun activities and challenges that can help you and your horse grow in new and exciting ways. You may just want to add these to your riding bucket list!

Enter Your First Horse Show

If you’re new to horse showing, here are several steps to get you started.

Step 1: Visit

An AQHA Professional Horseman who can help you navigate uncharted waters. AQHA’s Find a Trainer service is a great place to start. Find trainers by state and discipline, and rest assured that you’re working with pros who have demonstrated the highest standards of personal and professional integrity.

Step 2: Meet with prospective trainers and audit a lesson.

Make sure their teaching style is compatible with yours. 

Step 3: Discuss your goals and pick the events you want to show in.

Your trainer can help you pick the shows in your area that are right for you. 

When you compete at AQHA shows, you’ll need to make sure you have your horse’s AQHA registration certificate, as well as a current membership.

Remember, when showing in amateur or youth divisions, horses exhibited must be owned by the contestant or the contestant’s immediate family, with the exception of leased horses. 

Step 4: Develop a training plan based on your show dates.

now that you’ve picked your show dates, work backwards to develop a training plan. You’ll need to determine if you’re going to train your horse yourself or if you want your trainer to ride, as well. According to Sharon, it usually takes six to 12 months to prepare for a show. This varies depending on the horse, rider and goals.

Step 5: Prepare mentally.

a trainer can help you get in the right mindset for a show. The key is not to go to a show with the goal of winning. Instead, the focus is on riding every step as you would at home. Winning just happens to be icing on the cake.

Step 6: Know the rules.

A trainer can also help you look the part during your first show, including class rules, tack, grooming and apparel guidelines specific to your chosen disciplines.

Guide to Showing American Quarter Horses

If you want to learn more about how's there's a level, division and class just for you, download the free Guide to Showing American Quarter Horses.

Try a New Class

Ranch Trail

A new class in 2020, ranch trail tests the ability of an American Quarter Horse to negotiate obstacles that might commonly be found on ranches. Maneuvers include riding over obstacles, opening and closing hinged gates, riding across bridges, backing, sidepasses and dragging objects.  

Learn more about ranch trail.

Working Hunter Under Saddle

Another new class in 2020, working hunter under saddle tests the suitability of an American Quarter Horse competing in over-fence classes as a horse to ride on the flat also. Horses entered in this class must have completed a course in at least one over-fences class at a show. At most shows, the class is contested after the end of over-fence classes.

Learn more about working hunter under saddle.

Western Dressage

Western dressage joined the line-up of AQHA-approved classes in 2020. The class uses the principles of classical dressage to showcase American Quarter Horses in traditional western saddles in a harmonious partnership with the rider. Lightness and harmony are emphasized as the horse completes a pattern based on its level of training.  

Learn more about western dressage.

Cowboy Mounted Shooting

“It’s the funnest thing i’ve ever done on a horse!” says competitor Lindsey Baranyk.

She’s referring to mounted shooting, the fast-action timed event where contestants blaze through a patterned course and attempt to shoot their targets (10 balloons) with two .45-caliber revolvers loaded with blanks.

Lindsey started mounted shooting when a friend invited her to enroll in a clinic. 

“By the end of the day, I was shooting a gun on the back of a horse,” she says. “That was the first time I ever shot a gun.”

Mounted shooters use .45-caliber single-action revolvers. Ammunition consists of black-powder blank cartridges that can pop a balloon up to about 20 feet but are incapable of inflicting damage beyond this distance. 

Learn how to get started in cowboy mounted shooting. 

Go On an Unforgettable Trail Ride

You don’t have to compete to have an incredible time with your American Quarter Horse.

We rounded up several trail ride destinations suggestions for you and your horse. View our list of Epic Trail Rides for 2021.


No matter which new adventure you choose, you'll want your horse feeling his best.

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