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General Information
Grooming & Painting
Halter Classes
Color Classes
Performance Classes
Gait Descriptions
Trail Classes
Over Fences
Running Events

As the Registry is dedicated to the use and preservation of the American Indian Horse, the events in an AIHR approved show are designed to favor the versatile, handy, calm and capable event mount rather than an animal which has been trained to run a specific pattern as fast as possible.
Judged classes (performance and halter) favor the horse of superior ground-covering type neccesary for distance riding. Excessive fat, hoof size too small for body weight and heavy muscle are penalized in Indian Horse competition. Extreme collection is also not to be desired since Indian Horses are expected to be able to carry their riders in a smooth, comfortable manner while still covering ground as efficiently as possible.
Grooming of the Indian Horse should be kept to that necessary for cleanliness only. Clipping of hair or pulling of mane and tail is undesirable in the American Indian Horse, a breed which is shown in its natural state. However, it is not to be penalized in horses which are clipped for other open or all-breed competitions. Shoes are optional, but not necessary.
Painting of horses with Indian symbols using washable paints or natural pigments and making show halters or decorating nylon halters with Indian style ornamentation such as feathers, bells, beadwork, etc is part of the fun of Indian Horse showmanship. Paint charts are available from AIHR showing appropriate symbols and their meaning.


General Judging Criteria: Emphasis shall NOT be on modern conformation type (of any breed), but rather on soundness and stamina. Judge should place the horses as he or she believes that they would perform on a full day's ride over challenging terrain-- and then consider the animals' potential readiness to do the same day after day. Straight legs are not to be placed over serviceably sound legs, but defects causing soundness difficulties such as interference should be heavily penalized. Conformation criteria which may potentially cause soundness problems in long distance riding such as feet too small for body weight; heavy, bunchy muscling; excessive fat; and excessively wide (as opposed to deep) barrel is NOT desirable in the Indian Horse.
No particular head shape is best as the dished face of the Arabian, the ram nose of the Barb as well as a straight profile may be found in the Indian Horse, but large, wide-set eyes, full nostrils and alert ears are preferred. Parrot mouth may cause grazing problems and inefficient chewing and is highly inheritable, so such animals are penalized by AIHR judges.
Hooves may be striped, solid or white or any combination, but should be strong with well-arched soles, good heels and medium to thick walls. Hoof black, varnish or other coloring or shining of the hooves is discouraged, but hooves should be clean and in a healthy condition.


To be placed as the judge feels that an Indian warrior or shaman might choose his most honored mount. Class should be placed 50% color, 30% soundness, 20% conformation and attitude.


FRONTIER PERIOD CLASSES: Costumes shall be those appropriate to the Indian Horse from the Spanish exploration and colonial periods to the end of the frontier period. Judge shall place the class with most points given for authenticity and then for crowd appeal.

AMERICAN INDIAN COSTUME CLASSES: Costumes shall be from any tribe of North American Indians which used the Indian Horse. Judge shall place the class with most points given for authenticity and then for crowd appeal.

PLEASURE CLASSES: Gaits to be walk, trot, lope or hand gallop with the following exceptions: Papoose Pleasure is a walk, trot class only, and Youth Pleasure is walk, trot, extended trot and lope. Horses should be well in hand and working clamly, but extremely low lead carriage and extreme collection will be penalized. All gaits should be judged for suitability to distance work. A slow gaited, docile horse should not be preferred over an alert, active animal. Controlled spirit to be preferred over a "zombie-like" robotic response so long as the horse responds to rider's guidance smoothly and quickly. Ground-covering ability is desired, especially in the faster gaits, but the superior horse will have smoothness of gait as well as the ability to cover ground.

Horses may be asked to slow, stop or reverse. Horses may be required to back if the judge chooses. Mounts should stop and back smoothly, but a sliding stop is not preferred to a smooth, controlled slowing. If the judge chooses to facilitate placing the class, individual entries may be worked off, separated from the rest of the class.
Faults include breaking gait, head-tossing, chomping bit, wringing tail, wrong lead, interference in any gait, poor wind, poor physical conditioning, kicking, biting, bucking or threatening other entries, failure to follow judge's instructions or other faults at the judge's discretion. Riders whom the judge feels are not in good control of their mounts may be asked to leave the ring. Any conformation defect leading to interference should be penalized. Horses should be shown in any humane western-style bridle and saddle, but tie-downs or running martingales or other head-setting devices are prohibited. Riders should be attired in suitable western or Indian dress.


should be fast, swinging, adapted to covering ground comfortably.

SLOW TROT (jog) or easy gait --
should be smooth, controlled, affording both endurance and a pleasant ride.

EXTENDED (working) TROT or fast gait --
should be much faster, showing speed, extension, flexibility, good wind and willingness to continue for as long as desired. Covering ground shall be more desirable than smoothness but the superior horse will have both.

should be controlled, but not overly collected with emphasis on smoothness of ride and endurance. The horse should be willing to extend to hand gallop if judge requires. Horse should work on both leads.


This class is designed to show the Indian Horse's good sense, sure-footedness and willingness on the trail. Horse will be judged on its ability to negotiate a course which may include any natural or artificial obstacle which the judge may approve. Judge should look for alertness, calmness and willingness to proceed AFTER horse has looked carefully at each obstacle. Riders should be aware that each horse will be asked to cross obstacles in designated order. No live animals may be used in connection with any obstacle. The superior horse will work calmly, but MAY look at each obstacle before continuing, however balking or refusing will be severely penalized. Each horse may attempt to cross an obstacle no more than 3 times. Horses may be shown in any humane tack. Rider's attire should be suitable to tack used.


Hard hats must be worn -- no exceptions. No jumps shall be over two and a half feet or constructed so that they will not fall if hit or bumped. Jumps should be as safe as possible. Entries will be penalized for hits, knock-downs, balks, refusals. After 3 refusals of the same jump, a horse will be excused from the ring and disqualified. Excessive time at any jump will be penalized. Any humane tack and any attire suitable to tack may be used, but a saddle must be used and a hard hat must be worn.


FOREST ESCAPE: Horse and rider must weave "trees" set in random positions on alternating sides of an imaginary center line down the arena. Since trees are not in a straight line (as in pole bending), control and strategy are needed as well as speed. Each knocked-down tree will add 10 seconds to rider's time. After all turns are negotiated, the rider runs straight out. Fastest time wins.

BACKFIRING THE PRAIRIE: Brush is piled in a long stack approximately two-thirds of the way down the arena. Rider enters carrying torch and crosses over the brush, dropping the torch in or behind the brush pile and then exits the arena. The horse and rider must jump over or cross the brush pile at least once, but may cross it twice. Fastest time wins.

COUNTING COUP: Each rider has a spear tipped with a finishing nail. There is a pile of several equal-sized potatoes in a wide box filled with at least four inches of sand or dirt which sits on a barrel at the end of the arena. A tire or similar large, heavy ring lies flat on the ground near the center of the arena. Rider must spear three potatoes individually, ride back to the tire and scrape or knock off each potato inside the center of the tire. When three potatoes are within the center of the tire, rider races back to cross the finish line. Dropped potatoes may be re-speared, but no potato may be touched with rider's hands. Fastest time wins.

CHEROKEE RIBBON RACE: A team of two riders in the same age group and their Indian Horses enter the arena together, each rider holding one end of a "Cherokee Ribbon", which is 36 inches in length. The two riders must enter the arena, circle behind a barrel near the opposite end of the arena and ride back out. If at any time either of the riders drops an end of the ribbon, the team is disqualified. The team may ride at whatever speed they choose, but fastest time wins.

PONY EXPRESS RACE: A relay race for two riders and their Indian Horses. One partner enters the arena and goes to the far end where he or she waits between and behind two barrels. Second partner races into the arena and hands off the saddle bags to the partner in place who then races out of the arena. Time is stopped when the nose of the horse carrying the saddle bags crosses the finish line. Exchange of saddle bags must be made within a designated area between and behind the barrels which can be imagined as lines drawn from the outside edge of each barrel to the arena back fence. Dropped saddle bags may be picked up. Fastest time wins.

The American Indian Horse Registry
9028 State Park Rd.   Lockhart, TX 78644
tel (512) 398-6642

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