What is a park horse exactly? I kind of have an idea, but what are park classes?
Park and English Pleasure are Saddle Seat divisions with certain gait and way of going requirement.
Park: where horses are shown at a walk, trot, and canter, judged on their brilliant, high action.
Park Harness horses are driving horses with high action and a fancy way of going. They are often shown with a Viceroy.
Here is the Wikipedia article on Saddle Seat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddle_seat.
Saddle Seat was developed as a style of riding "gaited" horses in order to show them off to their greatest advantage. "Gaited" horses include such breeds as American Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Rocky or Kentucky Mountain Horses. Arabians and Morgans can also be ridden in the saddle seat style.
Saddle seat riding and the breeds associated with it were for the most part, developed in the United States by plantation farmers; the horses and method of riding them had to be comfortable enough to spend hours in the saddle overseeing plantations, but also showy enough to take to town. Over the years, Saddle Seat has evolved as the best way to compete with those breeds of horses as well as proving to be a comfortable way to ride at any time.
Saddle seat saddles have a cutback pommel to make room for the horse’s withers, and are placed so that the flap sits behind the shoulder and the seat is horizontal on the horse’s back. Riders carry their hands much higher than other styles of riding; in order to achieve the proper balance in accordance with the high head set desired in the show ring. Saddle seat show horses may be specially shod by farriers to complement their brilliant movement.
Saddle seat competition is divided into divisions which can be outlined by rider age, horse age and experience, the number of gaits performed (either three gaits or five) or such designations as Open or Pleasure. The different breeds have their own distinct divisions. Arabians can show as Park, English Pleasure or Country English Pleasure. Morgans can show as Park, English Pleasure or Classic Pleasure. Saddlebreds can show as Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Show Pleasure or Country Pleasure. Tennessee Walkers can show as Plantation Pleasure or Performance.
Within each division, dependent upon the breed of horse, riders can be asked to show at a variety of gaits. Arabians and Morgans show at the walk, trot and canter. For Arabians, the trot can be broken down into Normal trot and Strong trot (which is faster and stronger than a Normal trot). Morgans can be asked to perform at the Trot or Park trot (which generally shows animation, collection and balance), and the Road trot, which shows balance and ground covering action with extreme speed to be penalized.
Saddlebreds can show at the walk, Trot or Park trot (which has the same requirements as the Morgan division), and the Extended trot (which should be faster, stronger, bolder and show extension), as well, Saddlebred five gaited horses are required to perform the slow gait and the rack.
The slow gait is "developed from the pace to be a four beat gait with each of the four feet contacting the ground separately. In the takeoff, the lateral front and hind feet start almost together but the hind foot contacts the ground slightly before its lateral forefoot. The slow gait is highly collected gait with most of the propulsion coming from the hindquarters, while the forequarters assist in the pull of the final beats. The slow gait is not a medium rack."
The rack is "a four beat gait in which each foot meets the ground at equal, separate intervals. It is smooth and highly animated, performed with great action and speed, in a slightly unrestrained manner. Racking in form should include the horse remaining with a good set head. It should be performed by the horse in an effortless manner from the slow gait, at which point all strides become equally rapid and regular."
The Tennessee Walking horse performs at the running walk, the flat walk and the canter. The "walking" gaits are basically the same, but with a noticeable difference in the rate of speed between the two.
The Rocky or Kentucky Mountain horses are shown at the Mountain Show Walk (a collected 4 beat gait like the Rack, showing moderate speed), the Mountain Saddle Gait (same as the Show Walk but with more speed), and the Walk (a true relaxed walk demonstrating minimal contact on the reins). There should be a noticeable difference in the speed of all gaits, but collection should not be sacrificed for speed.
I know what saddle seat is I ride it, that's why it came up. I was in a lesson and a girl just noticed the horse I was riding and observed that I wasn't riding a park horse. I wasn't sure what she ment. Thanks though!
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