Ranch Horse Pleasure – What’s All the Hype About?

aqha ranch riding

Ranch horse pleasure, also known as ranch riding, was released as a class in the American Quarter Horse Association back in 2012. The class quickly became popular and was picked up by multiple other breed associations.

So, what is ranch horse pleasure exactly?

In its simplest form, ranch horse pleasure takes us back to the foundation of the working ranch horse. This class strips away all the glittering saddles and show shirts, the neatly banded and polished horses, and allows for the natural beauty of the horse and rider to shine through. The class is meant to exhibit the versatility and natural movement of a working horse.

The class takes horse and rider back to the basics. The focus is no longer on slow, nose-to-ground collection, but rather having a natural, flowing gait. In the American Quarter Horse Association, the ranch pleasure is a pattern class that includes extended gaits, stops, a back-up, turns, and walking and/or side passing over logs. All three of the horse’s gaits should have more forward movement and the horse should hold a more natural head-set. The horse and rider should demonstrate smooth transitions between all the gaits and always maintain a controlled, forward movement. All these aspects reflect the original purpose of the ranch horse; to have the endurance and versatility to work on a cattle ranch all day long.

Ranch horse pleasure has also become extremely popular because it is economically friendly and allows for horses of different disciplines to be entered. You do not have to invest money into a nice, silver show saddle and bridle and a sequin-covered show shirt. In fact, according to the AQHA rule book, any type of silver décor is frowned upon, and you are not allowed to band your horse’s mane, polish their hooves or put in a tail extension. For anyone who knows the western pleasure world, this saves you quite a bit of time and money. And any style of working horse such as cutters, reiners, ropers, etc. can enter into the class.

This new class has opened a whole new door in the working ranch horse world, and has seemed to boost show attendance quite a bit. It is refreshing to finally have a class that almost anyone can participate in, and where it is actually accepted and expected for your horse to move in his own natural way.

I had never heard of such a thing as a ranch horse pleasure class until I started riding on the University of Findlay’s Ranch Horse team. I grew up showing among all the glitter and gold in the Western Pleasure world, but after a while I grew bored of the same-old horseshows. I decided to join the Ranch Horse team so that I could do something different and learn new styles of riding. One of the biggest classes our team competes in, among the cutting and the reining, is the ranch horse pleasure class.

Steve Brown, head coach of our Ranch Horse team and an instructor at the University of Findlay Western Farm, described the class in a way that all of us team members will never forget: “checking the fence.” He explained to us that we needed to imagine that we were out west on a ranch. He told us we had hundreds of acres of cattle fence to check before the day was over. He said that when you have all that fence to check with a limited amount of daylight, plus the other chores that need to be done, you most definitely do not want your horse to be moving like a pleasure horse across that land. You should always be “checking the fence.”

And so, if you have a horse that doesn’t quite meet the western pleasure standard, or have a ranch horse that you want to try something different with, then this class would definitely be for you! The number of entries into these classes are continuously growing, and without a doubt will be popular for many more years to come. All you have to do is throw on your nicest button up and pair of jeans, throw your everyday tack onto your horse and go start “checking the fence!”

Written By Lexi Dasson. Photo Credit AQHA Journal. Share this on Facebook if you love Ranch Horse Pleasure!