Equitation is a discipline judged completely on the rider. Unlike hunters, Equitation requires no circles or headsets, along with tighter and neater turns. Unlike show jumping, a slow horse is required. Any speed from 6-8 blocks per second is accurate, as the horse needs to make tight and neat turns with room before the jump to adjust. The judge is looking to see the rider’s headset (which should be looking straight ahead) and to see how well they manage their space. Flat classes consist of sitting trot, turn on the forehand, counter canter, and a quiet rider with a steady headset.
~Equitation: The show ring~
When attending an equitation show, there are a few things to know. First and foremost, the rider must be well turned out. White or tan breeches, strictly black or navy show coat, black or dark boots, and a dark helmet. This is so the judge can focus his attention to only you without being distracted by a green or white show coat. From the minute you walk into the show ring, your head should be straight ahead and you should be cantering to your first jump. There is no half seat in equitation unless asked to hand gallop a jump. A rider must sit the full course. After your first jump, you should already be on a neat track to your next. The judge wants to see your horse listening to the cues you give and make them invisible. For example, no sudden changes in track to a jump, no long and weak distances, nothing that makes you look messy.
Often in an equitation medal, a judge will take back the top 5 riders and have them “work off”. This can be in the form of a flat or jumping class. Most often it is in a jumping round. A rider needs to have their course memorized jump by jump. When called back into the ring, they will line up at one end. The judge will say “Canter jump 7, trot jump 4 backward, hand gallop jump 11, halt, and sitting trot back into lineup” --Or something to the effect of that. Riders get to hear the course twice and then will be called in reverse order of scores back to compete.
When you are judging equitation rounds, look to see who did the job best. He made neat turns and had good distances but maintained the same level headset and had the smoothest round.