Equestrianism (from Latin equester, equestr-, equus, 'horseman', 'horse'),  commonly known as horse riding (Commonwealth English) or horseback riding (American English),  includes the disciplines of riding, driving, and vaulting. This broad description includes the use of horses for practical working purposes, transportation, recreational activities, artistic or cultural exercises, and competitive sport.
Horses are trained and ridden for practical working purposes, such as in police work or for controlling herd animals on a ranch. They are also used in competitive sports including dressage, endurance riding, eventing, reining, show jumping, tent pegging, vaulting, polo, horse racing, driving, and rodeo (see additional equestrian sports listed later in this article for more examples). Some popular forms of competition are grouped together at horse shows where horses perform in a wide variety of disciplines. Horses (and other equids such as mules) are used for non-competitive recreational riding, such as fox hunting, trail riding, or hacking. There is public access to horse trails in almost every part of the world; many parks, ranches, and public stables offer both guided and independent riding. Horses are also used for therapeutic purposes both in specialized para-equestrian competition as well as non-competitive riding to improve human health and emotional development.
Horses are also driven in harness racing, at horse shows, and in other types of exhibition such as historical reenactment or ceremony, often pulling carriages. In some parts of the world, they are still used for practical purposes such as farming. 
Horses continue to be used in public service, in traditional ceremonies (parades, funerals), police and volunteer mounted patrols and for mounted search and rescue.
Riding halls enable training of horse and rider in all weathers as well as indoor competition riding.
Though there is controversy over the exact date horses were domesticated and when they were first ridden, the best estimate is that horses first were ridden approximately 3500 BC. There is some evidence that about 3,000 BC, near the Dnieper River and the Don River, people were using bits on horses, as a stallion that was buried there shows teeth wear consistent with using a bit.  However, the most unequivocal early archaeological evidence of equines put to working use was of horses being driven. Chariot burials about 2500 BC present the most direct hard evidence of horses used as working animals. In ancient times chariot warfare was followed by the use of war horses as light and heavy cavalry. The horse played an important role throughout human history all over the world, both in warfare and in peaceful pursuits such as transportation, trade and agriculture. Horses lived in North America, but died out at the end of the Ice Age. Horses were brought back to North America by European explorers, beginning with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493.  Equestrianism was introduced in the 1900 Summer Olympics as an Olympic sport with jumping events.
Humans appear to have long expressed a desire to know which horse or horses were the fastest, and horse racing has ancient roots. Gambling on horse races appears to go hand-in hand with racing and has a long history as well. Thoroughbreds have the pre-eminent reputation as a racing breed, but other breeds also race.
Equestrian events were first included in the modern Olympic Games in 1900. By 1912, all three Olympic disciplines still seen today were part of the games. The following forms of competition are recognized worldwide and are a part of the equestrian events at the Olympics. They are governed by the rules of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI).
The additional internationally sanctioned but non-Olympic disciplines governed by the FEI are: combined driving; endurance; reining; and vaulting. These disciplines are part of the FEI World Equestrian Games every four years and may hold their own individual World Championships in other years. The FEI also recognizes horseball and tent pegging as its two regional disciplines.
Para-equestrian competition at the international level, including the Paralympics, are also governed by the FEI and offer the following competition events:
The haute école (F. "high school"), an advanced component of Classical dressage, is a highly refined set of skills seldom used in competition but often seen in demonstration performances.
The world's leading Classical dressage programs include:
Other major classical teams include the South African Lipizzaners and the Hollandsche Manege of the Netherlands.
Horse shows are held throughout the world with a tremendous variety of possible events, equipment, attire, and judging standards used. However, most forms of horse show competition can be broken into the following broad categories:
In addition to the classical Olympic events, the following forms of competition are seen. In North America they are referred to as "English riding" in contrast with western riding; elsewhere in the world, if a distinction is necessary, they are usually described as "classic riding":
Western riding evolved from the cattle-working and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy on ranches in the American West.
The most noticeable feature of western style riding is the western saddle, which has a substantial saddle tree that provides support to horse and rider when working long hours in the saddle. The western saddle features a prominent pommel topped by a horn (a knob used for dallying a lariat after roping an animal), wide stirrups, and in some cases, both front and back cinches. The depth of the seat may depend on the activity, a deeper seat used for barrel racing or cutting cows or a more shallow seat for general ranch riding or Steer wrestling.
Finished western horses are asked to perform with a loose rein controlled by one hand. The headstall of a western bridle may utilize either a Snaffle bit or curb bit. Bitless headstalls are also seen, such as a bosal-style hackamore on youger horses, or various styles of mechanical hackamore. In Vaquero style training, a combination of a bosal and bit, called a "two-rein," is used at some stages of training. The standard western bridle lacks a noseband and usually consists of a single set of reins attached to a curb bit that has somewhat longer shanks than the curb of an English Weymouth bridle or a pelham bit. Western bridles have either a browband or else a “one ear” loop (sometimes two) that crosses in front of the horse's ear. Two styles of Western reins developed: The long split reins of the Texas tradition, which are completely separated, or the "Romal" reins of the California tradition, which are closed reins with a long single attachment (the romal) that can be used as a quirt. Modern rodeo competitors in timed events sometimes use a closed rein without a romal.
Western riders wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants or jeans, cowboy boots, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. A rider may wear protective leather leggings called chaps. Riders may wear brighter colors or finer fabrics in competition than for work. In particular, horse show events such as Western pleasure may much flashier equipment. Saddles, bits and bridles are ornamented with substantial amounts of silver, rider clothing may have vivid colors and even rhinestones or sequins. 
Horses, ponies, mules and donkeys are driven in harness in many different ways. For working purposes, they can pull a plow or other farm equipment designed to be pulled by animals. In many parts of the world they still pull wagons for basic hauling and transportation. They may draw carriages at ceremonies, in parades or for tourist rides.
As noted in "horse racing" above, horses can race in harness, pulling a very lightweight cart known as a sulky. At the other end of the spectrum, some draft horses compete in horse pulling competitions, where single or teams of horses and their drivers vie to determine who can pull the most weight for a short distance.
In horse show competition, the following general categories of competition are seen:
Rodeo events include the following forms of competition:
Roping includes a number of timed events that are based on the real-life tasks of a working cowboy, who often had to capture calves and adult cattle for branding, medical treatment and other purposes. A lasso or lariat is thrown over the head of a calf or the horns of adult cattle, and the animal is secured in a fashion dictated by its size and age.
In spite of popular myth, most modern "broncs" are not in fact wild horses, but are more commonly spoiled riding horses[ citation needed ] or horses bred specifically as bucking stock.
There are many other forms of equestrian activity and sports seen worldwide. There are both competitive events and pleasure riding disciplines available.
Handling, riding and driving horses have inherent risks. Horses are large prey animals with a well-developed flight or fight instinct able to move quickly and unexpectedly. When mounted, the rider's head may be up to 4 m (13 ft) from the ground, and the horse may travel at a speed of up to 65 km/h (40 mph).  The injuries observed range from very minor injuries to fatalities.
A study in Germany reported that the relative risk of injury from riding a horse, compared to riding a bicycle, was 9 times higher for adolescents and 5.6 times higher for younger children, but that riding a horse was less risky than riding a moped.  In Victoria, Australia, a search of state records found that equestrian sports had the third highest incidence of serious injury, after motor sports and power boating.  In Greece, an analysis of a national registry estimated the incidence of equestrian injury to be 21 per 100,000 person-years for farming and equestrian sports combined, and 160 times higher for horse racing personnel. Other findings noted that helmets likely prevent traumatic brain injuries. 
In the United States each year an estimated 30 million people ride horses, resulting in 50,000 emergency department visits (1 visit per 600 riders per year).  A survey of 679 equestrians in Oregon, Washington and Idaho estimated that at some time in their equestrian career one in five will be seriously injured, resulting in hospitalization, surgery or long-term disability.  Among survey respondents, novice equestrians had an incidence of any injury that was threefold over intermediates, fivefold over advanced equestrians, and nearly eightfold over professionals. Approximately 100 hours of experience are required to achieve a substantial decline in the risk of injury. The survey authors conclude that efforts to prevent equestrian injury should focus on novice equestrians.
The most common injury is falling from the horse, followed by being kicked, trampled and bitten. About 3 out of 4 injuries are due to falling, broadly defined.   A broad definition of falling often includes being crushed and being thrown from the horse, but when reported separately each of these mechanisms may be more common than being kicked.  
In Canada, a 10-year study of trauma center patients injured while riding reported that although 48% had suffered head injuries, only 9% of these riders had been wearing helmets at the time of their accident. Other injuries involved the chest (54%), abdomen (22%) and extremities (17%).  A German study reported that injuries in horse riding are rare compared to other sports, but when they occur they are severe. Specifically, they found that 40% of horse riding injuries were fractures, and only 15% were sprains. Furthermore, the study noted that in Germany, one quarter of all sport related fatalities are caused by horse riding.  Most horse related injuries are a result of falling from a horse, which is the cause of 60–80% of all such reported injuries.   Another common cause of injury is being kicked by a horse, which may cause skull fractures or severe trauma to the internal organs. Some possible injuries resulting from horse riding, with the percent indicating the amounts in relation to all injuries as reported by a New Zealand study,  include:
Among 36 members and employees of the Hong Kong Jockey Club who were seen in a trauma center during a period of 5 years, 24 fell from horses and 11 were kicked by the horse. Injuries comprised: 18 torso; 11 head, face or neck; and 11 limb.  The authors of this study recommend that helmets, face shields and body protectors be worn when riding or handling horses.
In New South Wales, Australia, a study of equestrians seen at one hospital over a 6-year period found that 81% were wearing a helmet at the time of injury, and that helmet use both increased over time and was correlated with a lower rate of admission.  In the second half of the study period, of the equestrians seen at a hospital, only 14% were admitted. In contrast, a study of child equestrians seen at a hospital emergency department in Adelaide reported that 60% were admitted. 
In the United States, an analysis of National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data performed by the Equestrian Medical Safety Association studied 78,279 horse-related injuries in 2007: "The most common injuries included fractures (28.5%); contusions/abrasions (28.3%); strain/sprain (14.5%); internal injury (8.1%); lacerations (5.7%); concussions (4.6%); dislocations (1.9%); and hematomas (1.2%). Most frequent injury sites are the lower trunk (19.6%); head (15.0%); upper trunk (13.4%); shoulder (8.2%); and wrist (6.8%). Within this study patients were treated and released (86.2%), were hospitalized (8.7%), were transferred (3.6%), left without being treated (0.8%), remained for observation (0.6%) and arrived at the hospital deceased (0.1%)." 
Horseback riding is one of the most dangerous sports, especially in relation to head injury. Statistics from the United States, for example, indicate that about 30 million people ride horses annually.  On average, about 67,000 people are admitted to the hospital each year from injuries sustained while working with horses.  15,000 of those admittances are from traumatic brain injuries. Of those, about 60 die each year from their brain injuries.  Studies have found horseback riding to be more dangerous than several sports, including skiing, auto racing and football.  Horseback riding has a higher hospital admittance rate per hours of riding than motorcycle racing, at 0.49 per thousand hours of riding and 0.14 accidents per thousand hours, respectively. 
Head injuries are especially traumatic in horseback riding. About two-thirds of all riders requiring hospitalization after a fall have sustained a traumatic brain injury.  Falling from a horse without wearing a helmet is comparable to being struck by a car.  Most falling deaths are caused by head injury. 
The use of riding helmets substantially decreases the likelihood and severity of head injuries. When a rider falls with a helmet, he or she is five times less likely to experience a traumatic brain injury than a rider who falls without a helmet.  Helmets work by crushing on impact and extending the length of time it takes the head to stop moving.  Despite this, helmet usage rates in North America are estimated to be between eight and twenty percent. 
Once a helmet has sustained an impact from falling, that part of the helmet is structurally weakened, even if no visible damage is present.  Helmet manufacturers recommend that a helmet that has undergone impact from a fall be replaced immediately. In addition, helmets should be replaced every three to five years; specific recommendations vary by manufacturer. 
Many organizations mandate helmet use in competition or on show grounds, and rules have continually moved in the direction of requiring helmet use. In 2011, the United States Equestrian Federation passed a rule making helmet use mandatory while mounted on competition grounds at U.S. nationally rated eventing competitions.  Also in 2011, the United States Dressage Federation made helmet use in competition mandatory for all riders under 18 and all riders who are riding any test at Fourth Level and below.  If a rider competing at Prix St. Georges and above is also riding a test at Fourth Level or below, he or she must also wear a helmet at all times while mounted.
The idea that riding a horse astride could injure a woman's sex organs is a historic, but sometimes popular even today, misunderstanding or misconception, particularly that riding astride can damage the hymen.  Evidence of injury to any female sex organs is scant. In female high-level athletes, trauma to the perineum is rare and is associated with certain sports (see Pelvic floor#Clinical significance). The type of trauma associated with equestrian sports has been termed "horse riders' perineum".  A case series of 4 female mountain bike riders and 2 female horse riders found both patient-reported perineal pain and evidence of sub-clinical changes in the clitoris;  the relevance of these findings to horse riding is unknown.
In men, sports-related injuries are among the major causes of testicular trauma. In a small controlled but unblinded study of 52 men, varicocele was significantly more common in equestrians than in non-equestrians.  The difference between these two groups was small, however, compared to differences reported between extreme mountain bike riders and non-riders,  and also between mountain bike riders and on-road bicycle riders.  Horse-riding injuries to the scrotum (contusions) and testes (blunt trauma) were well known to surgeons in the 19th century and early 20th century.  Injuries from collision with the pommel of a saddle are mentioned specifically. 
Organized welfare groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, and animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have been known to criticise some horse sports with claims of animal cruelty.
Horse racing is a popular equestrian sport which is practiced in many nations around the world. It is inextricably associated with gambling, where in certain events, stakes can become very high. Despite its illegality in most competitions, these conditions of extreme competitiveness can lead to the use of performing-enhancing drugs and extreme training techniques, which can result in negative side effects for the horses' well-being. The races themselves have also proved dangerous to the horses – especially steeplechasing, which requires the horse to jump hurdles whilst galloping at full speed. This can result in injury or death to the horse, as well as the jockey.  A study by animal welfare group Animal Aid revealed that approximately 375 racehorses die yearly, with 30% of these either during or as a result of injuries from a race.  The report also highlighted the increasing frequency of race-related illnesses, including bleeding lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage) and gastric ulcers. 
Animal rights groups are also primarily concerned that certain sports or training exercises may cause unnecessary pain or injuries to horse athletes. Some specific training or showing practices are so widely condemned that they have been made illegal at the national level and violations can incur criminal penalties. The most well-known is soring, a practice of applying a caustic ointment just above the hooves of a Tennessee Walking Horse to make it pick up its feet higher. However, in spite of a federal law in the United States prohibiting this practice and routine inspections of horse shows by inspectors from the United States Department of Agriculture, soring is still widespread and difficult to eliminate.  Some events themselves are also considered so abusive that they are banned in many countries. Among these are horse-tripping, a sport where riders chase and rope a loose-running horse by its front legs, throwing it to the ground. 
Secondary effects of racing have also recently been uncovered. A 2006 investigation by The Observer in the UK found that each year 6,000–10,000 horses are slaughtered for consumption abroad, a significant proportion of which are horses bred for racing.  A boom in the number of foals bred has meant that there is not adequate resources to care for unwanted horses. Demand has increased for this massive breeding programme to be scaled back.  Despite over 1000 foals being produced annually by the Thoroughbred horse industry, 66% of those bred for such a purpose were never entered into a race, and despite a life expectancy of 30 years, many are killed before their fifth birthday. 
Horse riding events have been selected as a main motif in numerous collectors' coins. One of the recent samples is the €10 Greek Horse Riding commemorative coin, minted in 2003 to commemorate the 2004 Summer Olympics. On the composition of the obverse of this coin, the modern horseman is pictured as he jumps over an obstacle, while in the background the ancient horseman is inspired by a representation on a black-figure vase of the 5th century BC.
For the 2012 Olympics, the Royal Mint has produced a 50p coin showing a horse jumping a fence. 
Tack is equipment or accessories equipped on horses and other equines in the course of their use as domesticated animals. This equipment includes such items as saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, and harnesses. Equipping a horse is often referred to as tacking up, and involves putting the tack equipment on the horse. A room to store such equipment, usually near or in a stable, is a tack room.
Eventing is an equestrian event where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test that required mastery of several types of riding. The competition may be run as a one-day event (ODE), where all three events are completed in one day or a three-day event (3DE), which is more commonly now run over four days, with dressage on the first two days, followed by cross-country the next day and then show jumping in reverse order on the final day. Eventing was previously known as Combined Training, and the name persists in many smaller organizations. The term "Combined Training" is sometimes confused with the term "Combined Test", which refers to a combination of just two of the phases, most commonly dressage and show jumping.
Rodeo is a competitive equestrian sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain and Mexico, expanding throughout the Americas and to other nations. It was originally based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today, it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American-style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, and pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos. The "world's first public cowboy contest" was held on July 4, 1883, in Pecos, Texas, between cattle driver Trav Windham and roper Morg Livingston.
Bull riding is a rodeo sport that involves a rider getting on a bucking bull and attempting to stay mounted while the animal tries to buck off the rider.
Bronc riding, either bareback bronc or saddle bronc competition, is a rodeo event that involves a rodeo participant riding a bucking horse that attempts to throw or buck off the rider. Originally based on the necessary buck breaking skills of a working cowboy, the event is now a highly stylized competition that utilizes horses that often are specially bred for strength, agility, and bucking ability. It is recognized by the main rodeo organizations such as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA).
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by tying three legs together, in as short a time as possible. A variant on the sport, with fewer animal welfare controversies, is breakaway roping, where the calf is roped, but not tied.
A horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and international championships in a given discipline or breed. Most shows consist of a series of different performances, called classes, wherein a group of horses with similar training or characteristics compete against one another for awards and, often, prize money.
Equitation is the art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship.
The Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) is the national governing body for professional rodeo in Australia. Founded in 1944, APRA has been setting the standards for rodeo in Australia for over 60 years. The Australian Rodeo consists of many events some of which are junior and ladies' (open) barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, bareback bronc riding, rope and tie, steer wrestling, team roping and the steer ride. Men, women and children are involved in the Australian rodeo circuit.
Rodeos have long been a popular competitor and spectator sport in Australia, but were not run on an organised basis until the 1880s.
The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is the premier rodeo event by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). The NFR showcases the talents of the PRCA's top 15 money-winners in the season for each event.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is the largest rodeo organization in the world. It sanctions events in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, with members from said countries, as well as others. Its championship event is the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). The PRCA is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States.
FanDuel Racing is an American sports-oriented digital cable and satellite television network. It is part of the TVG Network and is owned by Paddy Power Betfair. Dedicated to horse racing, it broadcasts events from U.S. and international racetracks, as well as a range of English and Western horse competitions, news, original programming and documentaries
An equestrian helmet is a form of protective headgear worn when riding horses. This type of helmet is specially designed to protect the rider’s head in the event of falls from a horse, especially from striking a hard object while falling or being accidentally struck in the head by a horse’s hoof.
Western riding is considered a style of horse riding which has evolved from the ranching and welfare traditions which were brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, as well as both equipment and riding style which evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. At the time, American cowboys had to work long hours in the saddle and often over rough terrain, sometimes having to rope a cattle using a lariat, also known as a lasso. Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact.
English riding is a form of horse riding seen throughout the world. There are many variations, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn that are part of a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian Stock Saddle. Saddles within the various English disciplines are all designed to allow the horse the freedom to move in the optimal manner for a given task, ranging from classical dressage to horse racing. English bridles also vary in style based on discipline, but most feature some type of cavesson noseband as well as closed reins, buckled together at the ends, that prevents them from dropping on the ground if a rider becomes unseated. Clothing for riders in competition is usually based on traditional needs from which a specific style of riding developed, but most standards require, as a minimum, boots; breeches or jodhpurs; a shirt with some form of tie or stock; a hat, cap, or equestrian helmet; and a jacket.
Steer riding is a rodeo youth event that is an introductory form of bull riding for younger riders, usually between the ages of seven and fourteen. Instead of bucking bulls, the children ride steers that buck. Steers are used because they are known to have a less volatile temperament than bulls and many breeds weigh less than bulls, which makes them a perfect stepping stone to junior bulls. The steers usually weigh between 500 to 1,000 pounds. Steer riding usually follows mutton busting and calf riding as the participant ages and grows. Many young and aspiring bull riders who train in steer riding compete in the National Junior Bullriders Association.
The Heart of the North Rodeo is located in Spooner, Wisconsin. The Rodeo takes place the first full weekend in July every year since 1954, except 2020. Spooner Rodeo fans will always see a different act every night, as each rodeo is never the same. Fans from all over come to watch the professional cowboys and cowgirls compete in the 7 main events of rodeo, and even some up and coming little cowboys and cowgirls.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) is the governing body of professional rodeo in Canada. Its championship event is the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) held every November.