Making A Show Of Yourself – Part 1 – Types of ridden showing classes

Working Hunter

This series is based on a guide I drew up a few years ago ahead of a clinic I delivered to novice adults and children. There are a wealth of showing experts out there and I will not pretend to know as much nor more than any of them. This guide is not intended for experts, it is intended to give showing novices (and parents!) some sound and basic advice on how to understand what ridden showing is, what the different ridden classes are and what their horses and ponies might be eligible for. I have been showing as an amateur for years and really enjoy it but will admit when I first started, especially when showing Connemaras, I didn’t really know what was right or expected so I needed and sought expert advice. Given how often I hear people asking what is allowed, what type their horse is and how to get started at showing, I believe this document might provide some help to anyone looking to go showing for the first time. I have also tried to include tips and tricks I learned along the way. This chapter looks at the different types of classes and horses. The next chapters to follow will cover class formats, turnout and a guide for grooms.

Sidesaddle, lightweight hunter and working hunter champion mare – Grainne Alexander’s Killmac Z with whom I had the priviledge to earn many rosettes.

Types of ridden showing classes

Showing classes are run at a variety of competitions. Some of these will be specific horse or pony shows and may be either unaffiliated or run by a specific association or society (Irish Pony Club / Irish Pony Society / Association or Irish Riding Clubs for example). There are also a big volume of argi and country shows held throughout the Summer that usually hold showing classes.

All classes will be categorised and listed on a show programme based on the type of horse, pony or rider they apply to. Where competitions are held by a society or association being part of that association and meeting their criteria may also be essential in order to take part.

Dublin Side Saddle champions Cheryl Power & Whitfield Jack of Hearts in action

General classification of showing classes:

  • Hunter classes. These will usually be broken down into weight classes for horses above 15.2hh / 158cm ( these weight classes are lightweight, mediumweight, heavyweight) and small hunter for horses up to 158cm / 15.2hh. Classes offered may vary at shows.

Hunters should be well built animals, strong-limbed, capable of carrying weight and crossing country. A hunter should be workmanlike with good forward going paces and a good gallop.

  • Cobs – Short, stocky horses with a large neck and back end, capable of carrying weight. Cob classes will be defined as lightweight, heavyweight, maxi cob and traditional cob. Classes offered will vary at shows.
  • Riding horses. Riding horses are typically lighter than hunters, should be pleasant to look at (more ‘pretty’ than hunters) and should at all times be mannerly. Riding horses will often be divided by height – under and over 15.2hh / 158cm.
Champion small riding horse – Dermot Kane’s Choice Rose
  • Coloured horses classes – only open to coloured horses (piebald, skewbald, blue and white etc)
  • Breed classes – Connemara, Arab, Irish Draught classes
  • Side saddle – may be a general side saddle class or a ladies hunter class. Must be ridden side saddle
  • Pony classes – IPS and Irish Pony Club classes. These will usually be divided by height (158 / 148 / 138 cm for example) and by type (hunter / show hunter etc) and by breed (mountain and moorland / Connemara / Welsh for example)
  • nora2
    Connemara mare Nora Lee during the in hand phase of a breed specific class
  • Working hunter – open to hunter horses who will jump a round of rustic and natural fences with a selection being called back to ride as a group.
  • Performance hunter – riders complete a small show piece and then complete a round of rustic and natural fences with the judges deciding placings.
  • Rider based classes – class based on rider ability (intro or novice classes) or age (veteran classes). A mixture of horse types will be seen.
  • Ex Racehorse or Racehorse to riding horse classes – these are for thoroughbreds and depending on the class will have specific criteria for entry.
festival 9
Lightweight Hunter

In all cases, if you are unsure of the rules of a class, read the details in the show programme and contact the show organisers in advance. You won’t be the only person asking questions and it is better to know in advance what you are eligible for and what restrictions there are. For example, some classes confided to 15.2hh / 158cm and under will require you to have a height cert for your animal. Some classes may require you to hold membership of an organisation to take part.

If you are unsure what class your horse is most suited to, I have a tongue in cheek guide that may help which I will add below. On a serious note, if you are unsure I would suggest to contact a local showing judge or showing expert to get their advice on suitability.

Connemara pony Stoneybog Stripes showing in a breed specific class


General rules can be described in this series or articles but remember rules for animals and riders will be set by governing bodies (riding club / pony club / Irish pony society / Connemara society / Irish Draught Society / Side Saddle Association and so on) so always always read the programme and the rules and ensure you know what tack is or is not permitted, what is mandatory for riders etc. if in doubt always contact the organisers and ask in advance.

Small Hunter & Working Hunter – DBS Second Chance


If a horse or pony is showing in a breed class e.g. mountain and moorland, Connemara performance, Welsh, arab showing etc, then they are shown as per the breeds standard. So for example this means that in a breed class, Connemaras are shown unplaited in natural state complete with feathers and whiskers. Each breed society will have guidelines on how the native breed should be shown.

If a breed is shown in a non-breed class, then the horse or pony complies with the turnout guidelines for the class. For example a Connemara pony would be shown unplaited and untrimmed in a Connemara working hunter but would show plaited and trimmed in a small hunter or generic working hunter.


Guide to know which showing class to enter:




All content produced on this site is my own original content. please do not reproduce in any form without my express prior permission. Thanks, L 


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