Five-Gaited horses have long, flowing manes and tails and show both ways of the ring at the walk, trot, canter, slow gait, and rack. The walk is springy and athletic. The trot is a square, bold, two-beat gait. The canter is slow, rhythmic, and must be executed on the right lead. The slow gait and rack are a four-beat gait, with each foot hitting the ground separately. It is very comfortable to ride and is performed only by the American Saddlebred. In Five-Gaited Pleasure classes, as in all Pleasure classes, horses must perform a flat-footed walk and are quieter, yet alert and responsive at all gaits. Five-Gaited horses wear protective boots called quarter boots to prevent possible injury from the hind feet when the horse is traveling fast.
The Three-Gaited horse performs three gaits both ways of the ring: walk, trot, and canter. The horse should exhibit beauty, brilliance, elegance, refinement, expression, and high action. Gaits are collected with energy directed toward animation and precision. In contrast to the long, flowing mane and tail of the Five-Gaited horse, the mane is roached (clipped) to accentuate the quality of the horse's appearance.
Fine Harness horses perform two gaits both ways of the ring: the walk and the trot. It is considered bad form for a harness horse to canter or "break;" judges will penalize this. The Fine Harness horse does an animated, springy walk. Speed is not a factor. The good performers should be beautiful, fine, alert, and airy. Like the Five-Gaited horse, the mane and tail are long and flowing, and boots are worn on the front feet. The boots of a Fine Harness horse are not needed for protection because speed is not a factor, but are traditional and add to the elegant appearance of the horse.
The Pleasure horse should be a typical Saddlebred with quality, style, presence, and suitable conformation and have prompt, comfortable gaits that give the impression of being agreeable to ride in the show ring or on the trail. Easy, ground covering action is desired and special emphasis is placed on a true, flat walk. Transitions from one gait to the next should be smooth and effortless. Pleasure horses are shown with long manes and tails.
The Equitation division offers classes for riders who have not reached their 18th birthday and are amateurs. All classes are judged on the rider's style and ability to control the horse; the horse is not judged or rated. Certain fundamentals of equitation are rigidly observed in judging. Some of the most frequently tested areas include pick up reins; figure eight at a trot and/or a canter, use correct diagonals and canter leads; ride without stirrups; and intricate workouts. Questions regarding anatomy, tack (saddle/bridle), and equitation may be asked. There are three types of equitation - Saddle Seat, Hunt Seat, and Stock Saddle, but only Saddle Seat classes are offered at the Kentucky State Fair Horse Show.
The Hackney is a breed of carriage horse or pony. They cannot be over 14.2 hands (58 inches) in height. These ponies have extreme action both in front and behind. The Hackney presents a picture of sheer daintiness and perfection being driven to a four-wheeled vehicle called a viceroy. They are shown only at the trot, but in most cases judged at two speeds - the park trot and the faster "Show your pony.” The pony should be shown with a docked tail and mane braided close to the neck.
The Harness pony has a full, flowing mane and tail and resembles the Saddlebred Fine Harness horse in conformation and way of going. They have grace and high action but cannot exceed 50 inches in height. Like the Hackney pony, they are shown to a viceroy both ways of the ring at the park trot and the faster "Show your pony."
The Roadster is the speed horse of the show ring. Horses must be of the Standardbred breed or type. There are also classes offered specifically for the popular Roadster ponies under 13 hands (52 inches). All Roadsters are shown at three different speeds of the trot: jog, road gait, and trot at speed; "breaks" (cantering) are penalized. At all speeds, the Roadster should work in form with straight and true action. Roadsters being driven or ridden enter the ring in a clockwise direction at a jog, and are then asked to road gait, then turn to a counterclockwise direction and jog, road gait, and trot at speed. There are bike (two-wheeled vehicle) and wagon or buggy (four-wheeled vehicle) classes. Usually, the buggy horse is a larger horse.
In-Hand classes offer breeders of American Saddlebred the opportunity to showcase their young horses at the Kentucky State Fair World's Championship Horse Show and to compete for generous prize money in Futurity classes and Breeders Stakes. Horses are led into the ring, one at a time, showing at the trot and are judged according to standards for the ideal American Saddlebred. Judges will consider how the youngster moves "on the line" and the natural action shown. Two people handle the horse, one leading and one in the rear to help keep the Saddlebreds that are showing for the first time moving and offer the spectator an exciting sneak preview of the next generation of show horses.
The American Saddlebred has been hailed by a host of admirers as the world's most beautiful horse and also one of the most versatile. The ideal Saddlebred is well-proportioned, with a well-shaped, finely chiseled head and large expressive eyes. Masculinity in stallions and femininity in mares are important. Saddlebreds are shown in several major divisions: Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness, In-Hand, Show Pleasure Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited and Driving, Country Pleasure Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Driving, Western and Hunt, and Equitation. A variety of classes within these divisions is offered based on factors such as age and sex of the horse and/or age, sex and amateur status of the rider. The breed also is an ideal pleasure horse for trail-riding, jumping, carriage driving, and dressage. Saddlebreds often compete in these events, as well as the more traditional horse shows.