What is English Pleasure?
This is a term used in the horse industry and is easily misinterpreted, or confused. So to clear things up, even a bit, this is a brief covering of the matter. Remember within every breed, the fine points are up for debate.
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Some horse people are confused by this term, if you are not a horse person, you for sure are confused by the term. Even within the horse industry there are different definitions and understandings of this term, which really is merely a way of describing a horses type. The confusion really exists between different breeds, but is a real problem in advertising where people describe their horse as English, or at Open Horse shows where many breeds compete against one and other. There are many different disciplines within the category of English horses. Dressage, hunter, jumper, park (which is an extreme version of English Pleasure), English Pleasure, and so on, even racing.
Often when people talk about their horse, they say it goes English or western, but generally all this means is what kind of saddle has been put on its back. In reality they need to consider their horses way of traveling, an English horse, for the most part, picks its feet up higher, covers more ground with each step, and holds its head higher. Also what kind of bridle is the horse used to, a snaffle, a curb, bosal, a double bridle, and so on.
Some breeds lend themselves more to being a true English Pleasure horse than do others, these breeds include Arabians (as in the photo), Saddlebreds, Morgans, and Andalusians, for example.
You will see in the photograph the horses head is up, and well above its withers. The bridle being used is a double bridle, horses who are young may be shown it snaffles but once they are adults (age may differ in each breed) they must be shown in double bridles. The rider holds his or her hands higher than in most other English disciplines, and certainly higher than the western riders. They use a saddle called a “cut back” saddle that seats them further back on their horse. At shows they wear an outfit called a “Saddle Suit” and a bowler hat.
Typically, at horse shows, the English pleasure class starts with horses entering the ring at a trot. The specialty of this class is when the judge calls for a “strong trot”. Depending on the breed, this generally means their knee is lifted nearly as high, or as high, as their elbow. A true sight to see. The crowds roar and cheer the horses on.
I have seen problems occur at some Open shows where they do not distinguish the difference between a hunter type and a pleasure type of horse. Judges who are used to seeing only quarter horses are quite taken aback when a Saddlebred comes trotting into the ring at an open show. Judging the two against each other is nearly impossible, and I wish that open shows would distinguish between the classes better, perhaps have an English Pleasure class, and a Hunter Hack class, and not allow horses to cross enter into both.
Most people, who are not horse people, will not be familiar with English Pleasure horses, they are not often on television, in fact, hunters are not often on television either. Usually what you see are “Jumpers”, horses going over high fences at fast speeds. If you ever get a change to attend a horse show for a breed like those I mentioned earlier, be sure you look for the English Pleasure class, a true sight to see, and please roar loudly when your favorite horse preforms the strong trot and is directly in front of the judge.