Equitation is the art of riding a horse. In horse shows, equitation classes focus on the skills of the rider, rather than the talents of the mount, and many beginning riders like to start out in equitation classes so that they can master the art of riding before progressing to more challenging styles of riding. Most of the top riders in the world have excelled in equitation classes, using their training as a groundwork to master dressage, jumping, eventing, and other demanding equestrian skills.
In an equitation class, judges look at the form of the rider, paying close attention to his or her seat, how the reins are handled, how riding props such as crops are used, and to the level of communication between horse and rider. The rider is typically asked to go through a series of moves to demonstrate different riding skills, showcasing skills at different gaits and over jumps as well as on the flat. To allow plenty of room for judging, riders in an equitation class usually proceed one at a time, so that the judges can focus.
A variety of horse breeds can be used in equitation. Most riders prefer to use calm, well-trained horses which will highlight their skills, and hot blooded breeds may be avoided so that the horse does not act up in the ring. Equitation can be done in English or Western tack, depending on the show, and the tack is usually kept simple, as is the horse's grooming, so that all of the focus is on the rider.
The correct garments for equitation again vary, depending on the show, but they are usually kept simple and neat. While riding, the rider is judged on his or her performance and control of the mount; if the rider appears to be struggling, for example, he or she will be marked down. Points are also taken away for extraneous movements, confusing commands, over-use of props, and lack of composure in the saddle.
Training in equitation is concentrated on forming a relationship between horse and rider, so that the two work as a team. While the rider is in control, he or she also listens to the horse, and tries to meet the needs of the horse before they become an issue. Through training in equitation, riders become more confident and secure in the saddle, and they often get to know their horses much better. Equitation can also be used to improve a horse's training, encouraging the development of good manners and a responsive attitude.