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About Stables and Equestrian Centers
Equestrianism refers to the skill of riding or driving horses. This broad description includes both use of horses for practical, working purposes as well as recreational activities and competitive sports.
Overview of equestrian activities
Horses are trained and ridden for practical working purposes such as in police work or for controlling... Read More
...herd animals on a ranch. They are also used in competitive sports including, but not limited to dressage, endurance racing, 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 horse perform in a wide variety of disciplines. Horses (and other equids such as mules and donkeys) 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 paraequestrian 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, 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.
The following forms of competition are recognized worldwide and are a part of the equestrian events at the Olympic Games:
· Dressage ("training" in French) involves the progressive training of the horse to a high level of impulsion, collection, and obedience. Competitive dressage has the goal of showing the horse carrying out, on request, the natural movements that it performs without thinking while running loose. One dressage master has defined it as "returning the freedom of the horse while carrying the rider."
· Show jumping comprises a timed event judged on the ability of the horse and rider to jump over a series of obstacles, in a given order and with the fewest refusals or knockdowns of portions of the obstacles.
· Eventing, also called combined training, horse trials, the three-day event, the Military, or the complete test, puts together the obedience of dressage with the athletic ability of show jumping, the fitness demands the cross-country jumping phase. In the last-named, the horses jump over fixed obstacles, such as logs, stone walls, banks, ditches, and water, trying to finish the course under the "optimum time." There was also the 'Steeple Chase' Phase, which is now excluded from most major competitions to bring them in line with the Olympic standard.
Additional events sanctioned by the FEI as international disciplines include combined driving, reining, equestrian vaulting, endurance riding and paralympic competition. While these events are recognized internationally and are all part of the FEI World Equestrian Games, none are yet part of the Summer Olympics, though some, such as vaulting and reining, are potentially on track to be added.
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:
· Equitation, sometimes called seat and hands or horsemanship, refers to events where the rider is judged on form, style and ability.
· Pleasure, flat, or under saddle classes feature horses who are ridden on flat ground and judged on manners, performance, and quality.
· Halter, in-hand breeding, or conformation classes, where the horse is led by a handler on the ground and judged on conformation and suitability as a breeding animal.
· Harness classes, where the horse is driven rather than ridden, but still judged on manners, performance and quality.
· Jumping or Over Fences refers broadly to both show jumping and show hunter, where horses and riders must jump obstacles.
In addition to the classical Olympic events, the following forms of competition are seen, called "English riding" in the United States and Canada:
· Hunt seat or Hunter classes judge the movement and the form of horses suitable for work over fences. A typical show hunter division would include classes over fences as well as "Hunter under Saddle" or "flat" classes (sometimes called "hack" classes), in which the horse is judged on its performance, manners and movement without having to jump. Hunters have a long, flat-kneed trot, sometimes called "daisy cutter" movement, a phrase suggesting a good hunter could slice daisies in a field when it reaches its stride out. The over fences classes in show hunter competition are judged on the form of the horse, its manners and the smoothness of the course. A horse with good jumping form snaps its knees up and jumps with a good bascule. It should also be able to canter or gallop with control while having a stride long enough to make a proper number of strides over a given distance between fences.
· Eventing, show jumping, and dressage, described under "Olympic disciplines," above are all "English" riding disciplines that sometimes are loosely classified within the "hunt seat" category.
· Saddle seat, is a primarily American discipline, though has recently become somewhat popular in South Africa, was created to show to best advantage the animated movement of high-stepping and gaited breeds such as the American Saddlebred and the Tennessee Walker. Some Arabians and Morgans are also shown saddle seat in the United States. There are usually three basic divisions. Park divisions are for the horses with the highest action. Pleasure divisions still emphasis animated action, but to a lesser degree, with manners ranking over animation. Plantation or Country divisions have the least amount of animation (in some breeds, the horses are flat-shod) and the greatest emphasis on manners.
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.
Though the differences between English and Western riding appear dramatic, there are more similarities than most people think. Both styles require riders to have a solid seat, with the hips and shoulders balanced over the feet, with hands independent of the seat so as to avoid disturbing the balance of the horse and interfering with its performance.
The most noticeable feature of western style riding is in the saddle, which has a substantial tree that provides greater 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), a deep seat and a high cantle. The stirrups are wider and the saddle has rings and ties that allow objects to be attached to the saddle.
Western horses are asked to perform with a loose rein, controlled by one hand. 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 and looser shanks than the curb of an English Weymouth bridle or a pelham bit. Two styles of Western reins developed: The long split reins of the Texas tradition, which are completely separated, or the closed-end "Romal" reins of the California tradition, which have a long single attachment on the ends that can be used as a quirt.
Western riders wear a long-sleeved shirt, denim jeans, boots, and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Cowboy boots, which have pointed toes and higher heels than a traditional riding boot, are designed to prevent the rider's foot from slipping through the stirrup during a fall, preventing the rider from being dragged--most western saddles have no safety bars for the leathers or automatic stirrup release mechanism. A rider may wear protective leather leggings called chaps. Clean, well-fitting work clothing is the usual outfit seen in rodeo, cutting and reining competitions, especially for men, though sometimes both men and women wear brighter colors or finer fabrics for competition than for work.
Show events such as Western pleasure use much flashier equipment, unlike the English traditions where clothing and tack is quiet and unobtrusive. Saddles, bits and bridles are ornamented with substantial amounts of silver. The rider may add a jacket or vest, and women's clothing in particular features vivid colors and even, depending on current fads, rhinestones or sequins.
Western horses are asked to have a brisk, ground-covering walk, but a slow, relaxed jog trot that allows the rider to sit the saddle and not post. The Western version of the canter is called a lope and while collected and balanced, is expected to be slow and relaxed. Working western horses seldom use a sustained hand gallop, but must be able to accelerate quickly to high speed when chasing cattle or competing in rodeo speed events, must be able to stop quickly from a dead run and "turn on a dime."
Rodeo events include the following forms of competition:
· Barrel racing and pole bending - the timed speed and agility events seen in rodeo as well as gymkhana or O-Mok-See competition. Both men and women compete in speed events at gymkhanas or O-Mok-Sees; however, at rodeos, barrel racing is an exclusively women's sport. In a barrel race, horse and rider gallop around a cloverleaf pattern of barrels, making agile turns without knocking the barrels over. In pole bending, horse and rider run the length of a line of six upright poles, turn sharply and weave through the poles, turn again and weave back, then return to the start.
· Steer wrestling - Also known as "Bulldogging," this is a rodeo event where the rider jumps off his horse onto a steer and 'wrestles' it to the ground by grabbing it by the horns. This is probably the single most physically dangerous event in rodeo for the cowboy, who runs a high risk of jumping off a running horse head first and missing the steer, or of having the thrown steer land on top of him, sometimes horns first.
· Goat tying - usually an event for women or pre-teen girls and boys, a goat is staked out while a mounted rider runs to the goat, dismounts, grabs the goat, throws it to the ground and ties it in the same manner as a calf. This event was designed to teach smaller or younger riders the basics of calf roping without the more complex need to also lasso the animal.
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.
· Calf roping, also called "tie-down roping," is an event where a calf is roped around the neck by a lariat, the horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf, throws it to the ground and ties three feet together. (If the horse throws the calf, the cowboy must lose time waiting for the calf to get back to its feet so that the cowboy can do the work. The job of the horse is to hold the calf steady on the rope) This activity is still practiced on modern working ranches for branding, medical treatment, and so on.
· Team roping, also called "heading and heeling," is the only rodeo event where men and women riders may compete together. Two people capture and restrain a full-grown steer. One horse and rider, the "header," lassos a running steer's horns, while the other horse and rider, the "heeler," lassos the steer's two hind legs. Once the animal is captured, the riders face each other and lightly pull the steer between them, so that it loses its balance, thus in the real world allowing restraint for treatment.
· Breakaway roping - an easier form of calf roping where a very short lariat is used, tied lightly to the saddle horn with string and a flag. When the calf is roped, the horse stops, allowing the calf to run on, flagging the end of time when the string and flag breaks from the saddle. In the United States, this event is primarily for women of all ages and boys under 12, while in some nations where traditional calf roping is frowned upon, riders of both genders compete.
"Rough Stock" competition
In spite of popular myth, most modern "broncs" are not in fact wild horses, but are more commonly spoiled riding horses or horses bred specifically as bucking stock.
· Bronc riding - there are two divisions in rodeo, bareback bronc riding, where the rider is only allowed to hang onto a bucking horse with a surcingle, and saddle bronc riding, where the rider is allowed a specialized western saddle without a horn (for safety) and may hand onto a heavy lead rope attached to a halter on the horse.
· Bull Riding - though technically not an equestrian event, as the cowboys ride full-grown bulls instead of horses, skills similar to bareback bronc riding are required.