By Taryn Young
Adult equitation. You may be wondering – what is it? I found out in September 2019, as I packed my bags, loaded my horse, and arrived at the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 4 Championships in Cumming, Iowa. I had qualified for the Third Level and Third Level Freestyle classes, but I also found that I could compete in the USDF Adult Amateur Equitation Regional Final. I figured – why not? It offered one more chance to compete, but I knew nothing about it. I entered the class, submitted my entry, and began studying.
The USDF Regional Adult Amateur Equitation Program recognizes the AA division and promotes correct seat, position, and the use of aids in dressage. I thought ‘Finally! A class that focuses on rider correctness and the overall picture.’ I was sold. An Adult Amateur can qualify by either earning a 70% or higher in any Dressage Seat Equitation class (except for walk-trot), or by qualifying for any regional championship classes (aside from Freestyles).
As an equitation class rookie, I learned quickly that you wear a number tied around your waist, properly displayed on your back. I also learned that you may be required to ride a pattern for the judge individually and in my case, I was able to pick up the suggested pattern the morning of the class. The pattern required a leg yield, a canter, and trot transitions and lasted no more than a minute or two. Exercises found in Training First level may be required, so I instantly felt relieved since Rayne was a Third Level horse. Whips and spurs are allowed, and horses should be shown in a plain snaffle. There can be up to 25 riders in the class, but stallions cannot be ridden.
I hopped on my gelding, Rayne, and made my way over to the ring. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous. It felt like the entire show was watching and cheering us all on. It was a fun group of 13 horse and rider duos ranging from Training level to Intermediate I, and we were put into two groups.
One group was asked to walk, sit the trot, post the trot, and canter in the ring all together. The other half stood with their horses outside of the ring, and then we then switched. After consideration, the judges (Lilo Fore and Janet Foy) dismissed about 5 riders and the remaining were asked to individually execute the pattern. One by one, we completed the pattern and the judges deliberated. As we all stood inside the ring, 8th place was announced and so on. When they announced 2nd place, I realized Rayne and I had won, and I instantly grinned from ear to ear.
As a dressage rider, we are accustomed to pretty ribbons as a reward, but in the AA Equitation Regional Final, the champion wins $100 to Big Dee’s Tack & Vet Supply, a beautiful commemorative trophy bowl, and a lovely neck sash. However, the most rewarding part was the feedback given to me directly from well-respected judges with constructive criticism regarding rider positioning and correct use of aids. I earned an 85%, and I still smile when I see it on my show record.
If you’re on the fence or planning to compete at your regional championships as an Adult Amateur – sign up for the Adult Amateur Equitation Regional Final! It is great experience for both you and your horse, and it adds some fun and camaraderie to the weekend.
Still want more? Key differences between judging a dressage test and an equitation class can be found here:
About the Writer: Taryn Young is an advertising executive by day and an avid equestrian by nights and weekends. She is the founder of the equestrian lifestyle account – @WarmbloodsandWine – and resides in St. Charles, IL. She’s a USDF Bronze medalist who competes in recognized dressage shows with her gelding, Rayne Dance, regularly, and enjoys family, fitness and her corgi Derby. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @WarmbloodsandWine on Instagram.