Extra Credit Should Be Given If...

Rein contact is steady but gentle at all times. It is referred to as 'direct contact' On a model entry this can be achieved by using sticky wax and makes the rein go in a direct straight line from the bit to the rider's hand with no slack in the rein.

Bight (Excess rein) of rein is draped on the right.

Entry Number is shown on saddle blanket or on rider's back.

Points Should be Deducted If...

Model is on the wrong lead.

Model appears to display a slowness in any gait or loss of forward momentum resulting in an animated and/or artificial gait at the lope.

Rider touches horse or saddle with free hand.

Model's head is carried too high.

Model's head carried too low tip of ear below the withers.

Model is overflexed or has a strained neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical.

Model displays excessive nosing out.

Model displays an opening mouth excessively.

Rider uses spurs forward of the cinch.

Model appears sullen, dull, lethargic, emaciated, drawn or overly tired.

Model appears agitated has ears back, tail twirled, etc.

Model displays quick, choppy or pony strides.

Reins are draped and not a direct contact.

Set-Up Options

Arena Fencing Required:
Indoor or Outdoor Arena

Types of Fencing Allowed
Painted or Natural

Post and Rail

Post and Plank

Chain Link

Solid Plyboard

Plyboard with Top Rail

Post with Drape Rope

Stock Tube Pipe Rail

Interior Arena Wall

Footing Required:


No rock base

Backboard or Natural Setting:



IMEHA offers 8 classes in the Saddleseat Division:
Saddleseat Gaited Horse American Saddlebred
Saddleseat Gaited Horse Missouri Fox Trotter
Saddleseat Gaited Horse Tennessee Walking Horse
Saddleseat - Arabian, Morgan & Non Gaited Light Breeds
Saddleseat - Low Action Horse
Saddleseat Equitation
Saddleseat Bareback Equitation
Saddleseat Bareback Pleasure

American Saddlebred

There are five different event types for showing American Saddlebred: Five Gaited, Three Gaited, Show Pleasure, Country Pleasure and Park. An entry into the Saddleseat Gaited Horse American Saddlebred class may depict any of these events.

Five Gaited

Entries to be shown with a full mane and tail. Braids are permitted in the forelock and front of mane. Horses are shown at the walk, trot, slow gait, rack and canter both ways of the arena. Horses are judged on brillance of action, with energy directed toward speed in an animated form. Pads, weighted shoes are permitted, hoof length unlimited. Standing horses are "parked out."

Although not required nearly every five gaited horse wears quarter boots on the front legs. This is for protection at the rack. Braids usually match the browband, which is usually a conservative color. Girths are almost exclusively white, and tack coloris deep chocolate brown but other tack color acceptable.

Three Gaited:

Gaits are collected, with energy directed toward animation and precision. Shown with a roached mane and tail. Horses are shown at a animated walk, trot and canter. Standing horses are "parked-out."

Braids usually match the browband and are of conservative color. Girths are almost exclusively white, tack color is deep chocolate brown but other tack color acceptable.

Current Trend
Showing a 3 gaited horse with a full tail. There is no crossover between Park and the regular 3 and 5 Gaited Performance and Pleasure Classes.

Show Pleasure

A show pleasure horse should be a typical Saddlebred with appropriate style, conformation, with presense and prompt, comfortalbe gaits, giving the distinct impression that it is a pleasure to ride. Easy-going, ground-covering action is desired. The horse generally has less animation than the 3 or 5 gaited horse. Shown at a walk, trot, canter plus a slow gait and rack in the 5 gaited pleasure class. Special emphasis on a true flat walk. Shown with a full mane and unset tail. Horses are shown in either 3 or 5 gaited pleasure classes. Quarter boots permiited only in the 5 gaited pleasure class. Pads and weighted shoes permitted.

Shoe bands and pads are permitted. Previously set rails are permitted but unset tails are preferred. Braids permitted.

Stallions; professional riders (Amateurs and juniors only), All artifical devices such as chains etc.

Braids usually match the browband and are of conservative colors. Girths are almost exclusively white and tack color is deep brown but other colors acceptable.

Country Pleasure

Note country pleasure classes for 3 and 5 gaited horses generally use the same style rider attire and tack. Horses are less showy than the Show Pleasure Horse but are still good representation of the breed, style, conformation and presence. The following are classes for the Country Pleasure division.

3 and 5 Gaited English Country Pleasure:
Shown at the flat walk, trot and canter, plus a slow gait and rack in the 5 Gaited Class. Quarter Boots only in the 5 gaited class.

Missouri Foxtrotter

MFT's are primarily judged on the proper execution of their natural gaits. Foxtrotters perform three gaits; the flat wlak, the fox trot and the canter. The walk is performed as a true, four beat gait, with the hind legs overstriding the tracks made by the front legs. When foxtrotting the horse will walk in front and trot behind. There is sliding action of the hindquarters along with a great reach in each stride. They do not high step and in any gait the head and tail are gracefully arched while there is a noticable bobbing of the head with each stride. The canter is performed in a collected manner with a rolling motion. MFT's are shown naturally with plain shoes and without artifical devices. The The S-curb of the walking horse may be used on the headstall with the addition of colored browbands and cavesson bands fronts. Shoes are to be natural and not weigh over 22 ozs. THE MFT ribbon is also placed in the mane, one in the forelock and at the top of mane both drape long with white is the most seen color. Forbidden are pads, action devices, false tails, switches, tail braces.


Morgans are bred for a wide variety of disciplines and as a result their conformation will vary depending upon the Morgan's breeding. Morgans bred for western performance tends to be stockier overall with lower motion although the headset will still be higher than that of a stock breed. There are three types of saddleseat Morgan, each with its own equivalent in harness class. Each type wears the same style tack and rider the same attire. The difference is the action of the gaits. In each type of class the horses are shown with a long mane and unset tail. Horses are shown at the walk, pleasure trot, road trot (stronger, extended trot) and a smooth collected canter.

Classic Pleasure

Resembles the Saddleseat Country Pleaure horse, flat-shod, and with low action. In Morgan shows only amateurs are allowed in show classic pleasure Morgans.

English Pleasure

Morgans that are high action fit in this class and are usually shown in pads. They are flashier than their classic counterparts. They are shown in a walk, pleasure trot, road trot, and smooth collected canter. Standing horses should be "parked -out".

Saddleseat or Park Morgan

The elite of the saddle seat Morgan. Extremely high action and flair are their trademarks. These classes tend to be very small as true park Morgans are very rare! The classes consists of park walk, park trot (true animated, square and balanced) and a smooth, collected canter. Standing horses should be "parked-out".

Saddleseat or Park Arabian

The Saddleseat or Park Arabian Walk is a true, cadenced, four-beat walk, with horse collected. The motion should be brisk and vigorous with the horse showing animation and brilliance.

The Saddleseat or Park Arabian Trot is animated, natural and cadenced, with impulsion and power from behind, the front airy and light. The animated natural trot is extremely bold and brilliant, characterized by free shoulder action. The trot should appear effortless and be executed willingly with apparent ease. The horse to have leg flexion with extension, (foreleg extending fully forward at full stretch with airy motion combined with hock action that is powerful and well raised, the hind leg being brought forward with a driving stride). The action should be balanced and cadenced. Loss of form due to excessive speed shall be penalized. The trot should be a true two-beat diagonal gait. Mixed gaits, pacing or racking must be considered major faults.

The park or saddleseat Arabian canter is a true, collected, animated, smooth and unhurried. The movement light and airy with more elevation than in English Pleasure classes. The horse to be balanced, supple and mobile. To be straight on both leads. Loss of form due to excessive speed would be penalized.

Saddleseat or Park 'Other Non Gaited Park Breeds'

Other Non Gaited Light Breeds will more than likely not show the amount of brillance or extention in their gaits as do the Arabian or the Gaited Morgan horse. The walk should however be a cadenced, four beat with the horse on the bridle and collected.

The trot should be natural for the breed and it's conformation, it should show flexion with as much extension as the conformation will allow. It should exhibit hock action, engagement and natural animation.

The canter should be straight and true with whatever the animation the non light breed conformation may be expected to exhibit.

Tennessee Walking Horses

There are four different event types for showing TWH's in Saddleseat: Show Pleasure, Park Pleaure, Flat Shod Pleasure and Big Lick. IMEHA considers the Big Lick and it's use of soring, chains, pads and some of the action devices as cruel and inhumane. However it does offer a Historical class for the Big Lick models.

An entry into the Saddleseat Gaited Horse Tennessee Walking Horse class may depict any of the three other classes: Show Pleasure, Park Pleaure or Flat Shod Pleasure. The primary difference is the shoeing and the artificial devices allowed. Three gaits are performed the flat walk, the running walk and the canter. The flat walk is a bold, four cornered and the head nods with each stride. The hind legs remain close to the ground and over stride the front tracks. The running walk is an accelerated version of the flat walk with more pronounced nod and over stride. The canter is performed with a rolling rocking chair motion. In all gaits the horse should be flexed from the poll and the muzzle slightly tucked. The horse should perform gaits smoothly and rhythmically without stiffness or without tendency towards racking or pacing. Standing horses are "parked-out". Championship classes may have the horse stripped for conformation inspection.

Show Pleasure

The show pleasure TWH performs the above three gaits. These horses perform the same exaggerated gaits of a big lick and must show on a light rein. Show Pleasure horses are shown padded. No use of braces or humane tail sets. Rhinestone or sequined browbands and cavesson fronts are prohibited.

Park Pleasure

The Park Horse classes is described as above with the exception of the action devices and the tail set. There is added emphasis on manners and there is less animation of the gaits. Park Pleasure horses are padded. There are no use of braces or humane tail sets or use of any action device. Rhinestone and sequined browbands and cavessons are also not allowed. Horses to be ridden with alight rein in all gaits.

Flat Shod Pleasure

These are the natural Walking Horses and are shown without pads, action devices and set tails. They perform the same three gaits listed above. They are however asked to back. This division is split into Plantation Pleasure and Lite-Shod Pleasure. Plantation Walkers may be shown with a thicker shoe (up to 1 and 1/8" including the shoe and the caulk) and display more ring presence. Lite-Shod Pleasure has a lighter shoe (up to 7/8" thick including the caulk) and perform and more relaxed fashion. Lite-Shod Horses are asked to stand quietly and to back on command. Pads and action devices are prohibited. The ends of the shoe must not extend past the bulb of the horse's heel and the use of hoof bands are prohibited. Gag bits without shanks are not allowed as well as severe bits. No bit with shanks exceeding 9 and 1/2" allowed. Australian stock saddles not allowed. Colored browbands and cavesson fronts are perhaps seen more in this division as well as breastplates. Flat Shod Pleasure is further subdivided by into Plantation Walker and Lite-Shod depending upon the weight of the shoe.

Big Lick - Historical

These are the TWH that are shown having padded shoes with chains or other action devices and set tails. Pads must not exceed 50% of the length of the natural hoof and can be made of leather, plastic or other pliant material. A rubber foundation may be used instead of a shoe. Metal hoof bands may be used to anchor the pads and shoes so long as they are placed at least one half inch below the coronet band. Action devices may be woren on the front pasterns only. Permissable devices are boots, collars, chains or rollers. Chains must be single links fastened by a strap of soft leather, nylon or cotton. Double links or twister chains not allowed. Rollers may be of hardwood, stell or aluminum and must have no corrosion or rough edges. There may not be used any combination of action devices. Braces for the tail, caps and switches are allowed. Forbidden equiptment are severe bits, any dangling length to the action devices, blinders , names of horses, stables, trainers or exhibitors on the equipment are prohibited within the show ring. Whips may be no longer than four feet, including the snapper. Although not required it would be unheard to use anything other than a cutback saddle. Breast collars are usually used. A standard Walking Horse bridle with a single rein and a S-shaped bit is used. Tack is nearly always black or dark brown and girths are most often white. Colored browbands are common and colored cavesson fronts and breast bands less so but still occasionally seen. Braids are usually straight plaits, the butterfly braid is considered dated back to 1970's. Boots are also outdated but since the class is concerned historical they may used. However most entries will be more likely wearing chains.

Low Action Horse

This class is for all Horses, Mules, Donkeys, or any other with no high action of the front leg nor engagement of the rear leg. Rider Attire, Tack are the same as other saddleseat classes but the horse or mule displays a less energetic profile. Horses to be shown at a walk, trot and canter both ways of the ring. To stand quietly and back readily. Horses must be brought to a flat-footed walk before changing gaits. The trot should be brisk, smart, cadenced and balanced without loss of form. Smoothness is more essential than extreme speed. An extended trot may be called for at the judge's option. The canter should be smooth, collected and straight on both leads with the ability to push on if so required. Light contact with horse's mouth must be maintained. Horses to perform with natural animated, cadenced motion under moderate collection; extremely high artificial action will be severely penalized. Horses not to be stretched while parked. Horses should be obedient, alert, responsive and move freely; Horses to be judged on performance with emphasis on presence (style), quality (fineness), suitability of purpose and brilliance.

Saddleseat Equitation

Requires a rider. Judged 80% on the rider and 20% on the horse.

Riders should convey the impression of effective and easy control. Hands should be held in an easy position, neither perpendicular nor horizontal to the saddle, and should show sympathy, adaptability, and control. The height the hands are held above the horseís withers is a matter of how and where the horse carries its head. The method of holding the reins is optional, except that both hands shall be used and all reins must be held up at one time. Bight of the rein should be on the right. To obtain proper position, rider should be place with a slight bend at the knees but without use of irons. While in this position, adjust leathers to fit. Irons should be placed under the ball of the foot (not under the toe or Ďhomeí), with even pressure on the entire width of the sole and center of the iron. Foot position should be natural (neither extremely in nor out).

Basic Riding Position:
The rider should sit in a comfortable, balanced, and relaxed manner while maintaining an erect upper body with eyes up and looking forward.
The riderís legs should have a slight bend and hang beneath the rider such that when viewed from a profile, a straight line (approximately) can be drawn through the riderís ear, shoulder, hip and heel.
The irons should be placed under the ball of the foot and not under the toe or against the heel.
Foot should be held in a natural position, neither too far out nor in.
Arms and hands should be held in a comfortable, relaxed manner with upper arms in a straight line with body. The elbow is bent such that the lower arm and hands are in a straight line to the bit. The height the hands are held above the withers is determined by how and where the horse carries its head.
The method of holding reins is optional; however, both hands must be used, and all reins must be picked up at one time. Bight of rein must be on the off side.

Position in Motion:
At the walk, there is slight motion in the saddle with body remaining vertical.
At the trot, there is slight elevation in the saddle.
At the canter, rider should have a close seat, moving with the horse.
Slow Gait: steady in saddle, no slap nor twist; legs straight down, intermittent calf pressure permissible; hands slightly raised, flexible contact, no sawing.
Rack: seat smooth in saddle; legs down and slightly back, not thrust forward; hands low in motion with gait, not sawing but placement optional to individual rider and horse.

Class Routine:
Class to enter the ring, turn to the right and proceed in a counter-clockwise direction. Class shall proceed at least once around the ring at each gait, and on command, reverse and repeat. The order to reverse may be executed either toward or away from the rail. All gait transitions are to be executed from the walk. After the rail work, exhibitors shall line up on command and execute a pattern. No markers (cones) will be used during Saddle Seat pattern work.

Scoring and Penalties:
Wrong lead or break of gait
Being on the wrong diagonal
Stopping rough or crooked
Imprecise pattern work or rough transitions
Showing resistance when cued or reined
Stiff, artificial or unnatural body, leg, arm, and/or head position
Poor position of exhibitor in saddle
Loose leg with open knee, legs too far forward or back
Toes pointed down
Shoulders held crooked or arms held in a straight unbent position
Reins too long, too short, or uneven
Touching the saddle

Saddle Seat Tests:
Tests may be performed either individually or collectively, but no other tests may be used.
1. Address reins.
2. Back for not more than eight steps.
3. Performance on rail.
4. Performance around ring.
5. Feet disengaged from stirrups. Feet engaged.
6. Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals. Unless specified, it may start either facing the center or away from the center. If started at the center, it must be initiated from a halt. At left diagonal, the rider should be sitting saddle when left front leg is on the ground. At right diagonal, the rider should be sitting saddle when right front leg is on the ground. When circling clockwise, rider should be on the left diagonal. When circling counter-clockwise, rider should be on the right diagonal.
7. Figure eight at canter on correct lead demonstrating simple change of lead. (This is a lead change where the horse is brought back into a walk and restarted into a canter on the opposite lead.) Unless specified, the figure eight may start either facing the center or away from the center. If started facing the center, the figure eight must be initiated from a halt. The figure eight should begin in the center of two circles so that one lead change is shown.
8. Execute serpentine at a trot and/or canter on correct lead demonstrating simple change of lead. (A series of left and right half circles off center of imaginary line where correct diagonal or lead must be shown.)
9. Change leads down the center of the ring or on the rail demonstrating simple change of lead. Judge will specify exact lead changes to be executed as well as the beginning lead.
10. Ride without stirrups for a brief period of time, no more than one minute at the trotting phase.

Saddleseat Bareback Equitation

Requires a doll rider of which 80% is on the rider and 20% on the horse. Use the same equitation seat information as above but remove the saddle.

Saddleseat Bareback Pleasure

No doll rider class. Horse is 100% of the score and requires only the bridle. But since this is a two handed rein the challenge is setting up the reins to look as though they are being held by hands. Bight is on the right. Use sticky wax and do not just lay the rein over the model's withers.

For additional helpful hints for Saddleseat read: IMEHA - The Double or Full Bridle

Examples of the Saddleseat:
Photo Credit:
Saddleseat - Low Action Horse

Hawkins shown as a Black Gaited Mule John and is a Stone TWH CM. Shown by Sue Sudekum with the comment: Saddleseat Pleasure, low action.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Gaited Horse American Saddlebred

Impulsive shown as a Black Tobiano American Saddlebred Gelding and is a Haute Aire by Nandell. Shown by Andrea Robbins

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Gaited Horse American Saddlebred - 3 Gaited

Stonewalls Good As Gold shown as a Palomino Saddlebred Gelding and is a Trad. AR Haute Aire. Shown by Donna Miller - Shannon with the comment: Saddleseat: Three-gaited class (park trotting); daytime class.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Equitation

Splash Dance, shown as a black tobiano NSH mare, is a CM Breyer NSH by VonMayr. Shown by Andrea Robbins with the comment: On the rail in a Saddleseat Equitation class. The rider displays alignment of ears - hips - heels as is desirable for this equitation event.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat - Arabian, Morgan & Non Gaited Light Breeds

Lujayn shown as a Dapplegrey National Show Horse Mare and is a CM Breyer Rejoice . Shown by Donna Miller - Shannon with the comment: Saddleseat English Pleasure.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat - Arabian, Morgan & Non Gaited Light Breeds

Moravyah shown a Grey Arabian mare and is a PAM cm by K. Maestas. Shown by Kim Jacobs with the comment: PARK; Doll by L. Jacobs; Props, tack, photo by K. Jacobs.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Bareback Pleasure

Lippitt Ethan, shown as a Dark Bay Morgan Stallion is a OF Peter Stone Morgan. Owned and shown by Dianne Teachworth with the comment: English bareback pleasure at a halt on the rail.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Gaited Horse Tennessee Walking Horse

Moonshine Fandango shown as a Palomino Tobiano TWH is an OF PS TWH. Owned and shown by Mona McGraw with the comment: Horse is competing in a Flat Shod Walker Saddleseat Pleasure Class. Horse is on the rail.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat Gaited Horse Missouri Fox Trotter

KR Spot To Trot, shown as a Tobiano MFT Gelding is an OF Breyer MFT. Owned and shown by Veronica Geddie with the comment: Spot shows off his Foxtrot in the Open Amateur Division.

Photo Credit:
Saddleseat - Arabian, Morgan & Non Gaited Light Breeds

Magic Spell shown as a Silver Bay Morgan Mare is a Lakeshore Collection Miz Charisma mold Custom Glaze by Karen Grimm. Owned and shown by Cathy Hagen. Halt on the Rail.

Doll Rider Correct Seat and Hold the Reins Correctly:
Photo Credit:

Correct Saddleseat Seat.

Photo Credit:

Double Bridle Reins - 2 and 2 Method. Most common handle hold in model horse hobby. It is advised that you put in your comment line what hold your set up is so that judge's know you understand the three styles on holding the reins.

Photo Credit:

Double Bridle Reins - 3 in 1 Method. A true challenge for model horse hobbyists and doll rider's with razor cut slips in the fingers of the hands. Left side curb goes directly back to hand and enters under ring finger with the left snaffle rein coming directly back and entering under the pinky finger with rein crossing over the curb rein. Right side curb rein goes directly back and enters under the middle finger of the left hand with all three reins coming up thru hand and out over the of the index finger with bight cascading down the right side. The right side snaffle goes directly and enters the hand under the ring finger, up into the hand and out over the top of the index finger with the bight draping down the right side. The look gives an 'X' to reins the left side of horse's neck but a two independant rein look to the right side but only one rein going into the right hand. Very tricky set up.

Photo Credit:

Double Bridle Reins - Fillis Method. The Fillis method of holding the reins is when the curb reins enter the riderís hand from the bottom, around the little fingers and up to the second joint of the index fingers while the snaffle enters the fist from above over the index fingers. Each hand holds two reins.

Required Tack:
A double bridle consisting of a snaffle and curb bit is preferred. The saddle should be a flat English type with a web or leather girth. Quarter boots are permitted in Five-Gaited classes (only) to protect the bulb of the heel of the front legs.

A single curb bit is used for gaited horses such as the Tennessee Walker and Missouri Fox Trotter. The shanks of the curb bit are often longer (S-Bit) than those found on the Weymouth style double bridle used in dressage, often 7 inches in overall length (some breeds have length limits in the rules). Prohibited:
Breast plates, tie-downs or martingales, use of a snaffle bridle only.

Informal dress is required for morning and afternoon classes. Dark saddle suits may be worn in the evening. Solid colored suits or conservation pinstripes in shades of black, gray, navy, brown or beige are customary, some women's suits may show a little more color. Gaudy colors should be avoided. A saddle suit consists of Kentucky jodphurs, jodphur boots, a saddlecoat and vest. Men's style shirts with a tie and vest are customary, shirts are typically white or pastel colored. Men also wear a snap brim hat or derby hat while the women wear a homburg or saddle derby. Women's Hair must be neat wear and is normally pulled back in bun or very small conservative braids tied up. Gloves are preferred on riders. A competitor may carry or use a whip not exceeding 6 feet including lash.

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Updated: July 17, 12014