Ranch Pleasure

Learn more about one of AQHA’s new classes, ranch pleasure.

Learn more about one of AQHA’s new classes, ranch pleasure.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted February 2012. As of January 1, 2015, the class is now referred to as “ranch riding,” and judging criteria can be found in Rule SHW416 of the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations.


I was really intrigued when I heard that AQHA is going to be offering a ranch pleasure class, but what really is ranch pleasure? How is it judged? What is the horse and rider required to do? And what makes it “ranch” pleasure?


Ranch pleasure is a class designed to showcase the movement and versatility of ranch style horses. It will be an open, individually worked, scored class, similar to the ranch riding class in versatility ranch horse competition. This means that the horse and rider enter the pen and compete individually from other horse and rider teams.

There will be a pattern determined by the judge. The pattern will consist of specified gaits, the walk, the trot, extended trot, lope, extended lope along with three of the five optional maneuvers and a change of director somewhere in the pattern.

The five option maneuvers are sidepass; turns of 360 degrees or more; change of leads (simple or flying); walk, jog or lope over pole(s); and any other reasonable ranch maneuver.

What are AQHA judges looking for in western pleasure? Learn how western pleasure horses are evaluated from Alex Ross, AQHA executive director of judges, in “Showing to Win: Western Pleasure.”

AQHA is including sample patterns in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations, but judges will be able to draw their own as long as they include the required gaits and three of the optional maneuvers.

The horse and rider will be scored on movement, which is cadence and rhythm of gaits, smoothness and consistency in performance, along with ow they perform the optional maneuvers. Then the score sheets will be posted for the exhibitors’ benefit.

It’s called ranch pleasure. The horses should not perform the gaits as they do in traditional western pleasure classes. This is ranch pleasure and they should be presented in a more forward-moving style than the typical western pleasure horse.

–Alex Ross
AQHA Executive Director of Judges

Want to learn more about ranch horse pleasure? Read “A New Pleasure” on Page 176 in the February 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

23 thoughts on “Ranch Pleasure”

  1. I was so excited to learn about the Ranch Pleasure. I would love for my students to be a part of this class. It reminds me of when we showed back in 1977. Thanks Libby Phillips Shackelford

  2. Hopefully, the judges will be educated so they judge this class correctly, and not as a slightly-altered version of Western Pleasure. If the judges don’t judge it properly, it will not at all serve its true purpose. If it is judged too much like Western Pleasure, it will only alienate a huge number of people like the Performance Halter situation, where the horses look just like the winners in the regular Halter classes.

  3. I really hope it is a true RANCH HORSE competition. It is very disheartening when you work and work with your horse only to find the rules are just a little bent so the Western Pleasure look is still dominate. We learned how the look was to be only to find silver and gold on these horses and the exhibitors.

    I hate to see young exhibitors fail because a judge can only see Western Pleasure!!!!!!

  4. I got to where I quit altogether watching the western pleasure classes because they look so NOT NATURAL to me….
    …..this might be a lot of fun to see the horses going somewhere and doing things that one actually needs….like those all around horses used to be……..HOPEFULLY the judges will also look for clean workmanlike tack and not like the EQUITATION saddle that has been stored in my craftroom for awhile now and which I keep forgetting to sell

  5. Please Judges look at this as an opportunity to reward sound Riders and classically trained horses. Otherwise, what’s the point?? I am so excited about participating in this event!

  6. Wow, finally a class for REAL horses and for REAL riders. I have watched a few videos on You Tube for Ranch Pleasure and there are WP types with their sick, lame, drugged and beaten down types in there masking as Ranch Pleasure horses!! I hope that they are not placed and ruin a good thing for those who have REAL horses and can ride!!! AQHA needs to change and this I hope will be an avenue for those who choose to train and ride a horse the way they used to fifty years ago!! If it doesn’t weed out the WP types then I am afraid they will see the numbers dwindle on the Q horse breed and those who show as well. I for one will never ride a horse like a WP show horse. It makes me sick to see that kind of riding and knowing what it takes to make a horse go that unnatural is a shame on the AQHA!!!!!

  7. I so agree with all the comments made here. The judges must be singing off the same page when it comes to this class. Even in the HUS classes, not all the judges comply . Some are still judging by the old rules… None of them are consistant. It is very frustrating.

  8. So sad that there even has to be a class for a horse that moves naturally and “forward”. Yet, perhaps this will help. The pleasure industry and the artificial movement has created a generation of unsound horses in many instances. Even with the rules, will the judges get it? the current WP rules call for a penalty of a head set below the withers, but we still see peanut rollers winning over a good movement, level head set. Set the bar, get it right, for the good of the horse.

  9. I showed in the Ranch Pleasure class in Las Vegas this month. I can assure you, it’s not Western Pleasure. Far from it. And, the judges are on top of it, and truly are looking for forward moving ranch-type horses. I think it helps the judging that there is a scoresheet for the judges to work from (like reining and cowhorse).

    It was neat for all of us to show together: from trainers down to rookies and horses that would not normally compete against each other all in the same class. And, most importantly, it’s low pressure and fun! Give it a try!

  10. I have been following this class since the start to see how the judging was going to be handled. I work my horses on a ranch and have never needed to slide stop or rapidly spin my horse. a good hind quarters stop and being able to turn 360 in a tight spot yes. so please leave these in the reining pen don’t make this into just another reining class.

  11. Like most comments, we are hoping this class will stay “Ranch” and “Pleasure”. My recent experience at Sun Circuit was that huge sliding stops and fast spins were rewarded under some judges. It is a perfect class to bring a Reiner or Cow Horse to work on show ring jitters, though clearly many of the horses are NOT a pleasure, they can barely contain themselves to walk and don’t know how to trot out. Welcome them to the class, just don’t reward “reining maneuvers” over a pleasurable working ranch horse. While they are very talented and fantastic in their reining and cow horse classes, they would not be desirable to ride on a day to day basis completing tasks on the ranch.

  12. Several of us want to show in it, however knowing that we will be disqualified if our horses are banded or braided, deters us from showing. I’d like to see those horses have a penalty, but not be disqualified.

  13. I have seen the video of the current World Ranch Horse Pleasure winner and was very disappointed! Reining sliding stops and fast spins are what this class is turning into? You have to have sliding shoes on to do that safely. What has this got to do with a RANCH HORSE !!! You can’t ride out on the range or back country in sliding shoes!! Most horses I know who where slider shoes are kept stalled 24/7 because they can’t go out with sliding shoes on without the worry they will hurt themselves. That is not a RANCH HORSE!!!! Ranch horses do not do sliding stops and fast spins. They are working horses and using up their legs for flashy moves is a waste of a good horse. I hope AQHA gets this class right and does not let the Reiners come in with sliding shoes and do all the ‘wow shit’ and ruin a friggin good class for friggin good horses that actually ‘do’ something for a living!!! Can they for once get it right!?!?

  14. I agree with Anne and some of the others, that the sliding stops and wicked fast spins are not typical of a working ranch horse. Being able to move a horses body parts in a tactical, yet natural manner, is. As well as needing to get from point A to point B, at what ever speed is asked, and being able to stop nicely when asked.

    With that in mind, I am entering my first Ranch Pleasure Class this weekend in a local open show. My horse is a former ranch horse and he does not do sliding stops or the fast spins. He does stop (well most of the time) and he will do a 360 turn. I can move his shoulders and his hips in any direction, and I can side pass him as far as you want him to go in any direction. Lets face it, he is just amazing! (yes I might be biased)

    I know that we cannot compete with most of the horses in there, they have years of professional training, and we are just an old woman and an old horse out to have some fun. And that is what we are going to do, have some fun. Truthfully I’m just taking it as training for what I really want to do, Ranch Versatility.

  15. I am happy to see many smaller open shows are now recognizing ranch horse as a separate class away from the dreaded “western pleasure” classes. What I am starting to see now is the class name going from working ranch horse to ranch horse pleasure. These are not pleasure horses, these are good old regular horses that can do it all (except for western pleasure). These are the horses that takes you on trail, work cattle and move at regular gates and having flowing manes and real tails. IT seems some of the pleasure riders are starting to migrate into these classes. I would like to see two separate classes stay separate. At a recent show a pleasure horse took 1st. I hope the judges can stay true to judging the ranch horses at their free flowing gates and not recognize slower gates and heads down low.

  16. Keep the low dead-headed fake-tailed skinny-legged tropers out of our ranch classes please! Ditto with the glitter and silver. FQHR of Michigan doesnt not allow the bling and silver in their shows, thank goodness.

  17. I agree with Anne! I am so stick and tired of showing up to an AQHA show and having the Ranch class coincied with the Reining!!!! Get that crap out of there!!!
    This class has become a glorified Reining class. The real ranch horses that are there working one hell of a patten correctly are getting hammered by the judges and the reiners with sliders on!
    Its disheartening and sickening. I have noticed less and less actual Ranch horses taking part in the class due to what happend last year with the lack of knoweldge from judges placing the ‘show ponies’ over what the class was ment for… The Ranch horse!

    I do disagree that placing this class with the Reining classes and Speed Events is a good thing.
    This class should stay with the rest of the pleasure classes especially when you are at a multiple day show. It should not be put next to the reining away from the other pleasure classes.

    This will help keep the reiners out of the Ranch Class. They are sneaking the Ranch class in with the Reining classes in the state of UTAH! And it is B.S.!!

  18. Wow…lots of bitterness. All pleasure horses are not as described above. If pleasure were judged as the rule book describes, it would be more natural! Negative pleasure comments aside…I agree that Ranch Classes should remain purely RANCH classes. Of course Pleasure should be pleasure- NOT lame!

  19. I think it’s great that this class exists. I’m looking forward to taking my mare in the class this year. She had a severe injury to her hind leg as a yearling, and she can’t carry herself with the super slow WP lope. She loves to have a job, and this class will be perfect for her natural gait. She’s a great showmanship horse, so I have to get stuff to get the hoof black off, or just figure out how to make her feet shine for showmanship since Ranch doesn’t allow for hoof black, but I think it’s great. And so glad that no fake tails are allowed. Doesn’t bother me that some reining horses will be going in the class doing sliding stops or fast spins. We’re up for the challenge of getting our pivots faster, but we’ll never perform a sliding stop due to her leg injury. It doesn’t ask for a sliding stop, just a stop, so I’m not sure why anyone is complaining. Yes, I’ll be using my only show saddle (silver and all), but I don’t have another saddle to show in, but I’ll balance it out with my clean work bridle and no bling shirt. Yay! No bling. The point is, my horse and I will have fun in a class that fits her pleasure style and her working capability after coming back from an injury that was potentially life threatening. Kind of puts everything in perspective for me. Life is good, I not only get to ride my horse, but there’s a pleasure class I can comfortably show her in too. Thanks AQHA!!

  20. Seems to me its the judges that have to be educated. If they followed the rules there would be no problem….maybe -1 for a sliding stop if that was not what was asked for. Judging sets the standard, or should.

  21. I am really excited to see this new class as WP never attracted me, too much fake for my taste , this new way is more open minded and real. More people will be able to work their horses towards this new class, more will participate in my opinion. But I do agree that if sliding stops are being done and rewarded, its wrong, cus all know that yes to have a good efficent stop is sometimes needed on a ranch with a fast turn around but not sliding as the ranch grounds would make it unsafe and not having sliders would make it very hard, so why not just make it a disqualification to have sliders on, and loose points for long sliding stops, and spins more then 360 degrees????? (Just a thought)
    If the judges and AQHA, keep a tight grip on this new discipline it will grow to be really likes by many, but if not it will dwindle down entries and turn out to be a waste of time and hope for many.

    Looking to competing in Ranch Horse Pleasure (if all stays RHP) 🙂

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