Activities ridden in Western tack (see Western under “Types of Riding”) include many different disciplines or sports. All trace their heritage to the ranching traditions of the American cowboy and the Latin American vaquero before him.

The primary purposes of many of these disciplines are to test the skills, agility, speed and “cow sense” of the Western horse and/or the ability of his rider.

Many of the best-known Western riding activities are connected to the rodeo tradition, which started as competitions between ranches and led to the modern rodeo sports of tie-down ropingteam ropingsteer wrestlingsaddle bronc and bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing (see Barrel Racing under “Horse Activities). Many of these are exciting timed events that take typical activities with ranch livestock to a new level.

Breakaway roping, pole bending and goat tying are sometimes contested at rodeos, as well, depending on the governing organization and the location. A number of regional and national organizations oversee rodeo sports, including those for youth riders, collegiate riders, amateur riders and professional riders.

Related Western riding activities might involve actual trail or cattle work, while still others test a horse’s training and a rider’s skill through patterns, courses and judged movements at horse shows, fairs or gymkhanas. These might include, but are not limited to:

  • cutting
  • reining (see Reining under “Horse Activities”)
  • Working/Reined Cow Horse
  • Western Pleasure
  • Horsemanship
  • Western Trail
  • Western Dressage
  • Versatility
  • Western Showmanship
  • Ranch Horse events
  • mounted drill
  • ranch sorting
  • team penning
  • Cowboy Mounted Shooting