Horsemanship pattern for judging




The western riding class is one of flying lead changes. It is a combination of control and skills, mixing techniques from trail, reining, and equitation. This judged event is not timed.

The horse is judged on these criteria:

  • Quality of gaits
  • Lead changes at the lope
  • Response to the rider
  • Manners and disposition

Different associations provide multiple patterns. Pattern II of AQHA is displayed below.

Western Riding Pattern

Lead Changes

  • Must be done in a collected and controlled manner.
  • Change precisely and simultaneously front/hind at the center point between markers.
  • Lead change locations must be consistent in their location and centered in between each cone.
    • View penalties for more information on lead change locations.


This event is scored on a basis of 0 to 100, with 70 as an average performance.


  • Penalties range from ½ point, 1 point, 3 points, 5 points.

Western Riding Penalty areas








  • Maneuvers are scored independently of penalty points.
  • Points are added or subtracted from the maneuvers on the following basis, ranging from plus 1.5, to minus 1.5:
    • -1.5 extremely poor, -1 very poor, -.5 poor, 0 average
    • +.5 good, +1 very good, +1.5 excellent


  • Being collected/controlled
  • Accuracy and smoothness
  • Steadiness
  • Even cadence/pace throughout the class
  • Response to rider
  • Manners and disposition
  • Relaxed head carriage
  • Light contact or reasonably loose reins


  • Uncollected/uncontrolled
  • Excessive open mouth
  • Anticipating signals/changes
  • Stumbling


  • Illegal equipment
  • Willful abuse
  • Off course
  • Knocking over markers
  • Completely missing log
  • Major refusal
  • Major disobedience or schooling
  • Failure to start lope prior to end cone
  • Four or more simple lead changes and/or failure to change leads (except for Novice classes)
  • Over-turn of more than 1/4 turn
  • Failure to start lope within 30 ft. of designated area in pattern
  • Head carried too low or over-flexing or straining the neck in most severe conditions should also receive a score of 0.

Here is a narrated PowerPoint on How to Judge Western Riding:

Example of a Western Riding Class