What to look for in a hunter?
I was wondering what creates a good hunter horse? What qualities are emphasized? What is looked for in an under saddle class? An over fences class?
I know the basics but I want to dig deeper. My lease has a long stride, with a pretty flat-kneed canter. He looks long and low for the most part. Over jumps his head isn't super down but it isn't sticking up straight either. He kind of has a bascule, and his legs are up for the most part. They aren't super even some of the time, but he gets them up.
I went to a clinic a few years ago, and a well known hunter judge did a presentation on what she looks for in the hunter ring. I've copied some of the notes I took below. Hope this helps :)
The minute you step into the ring you are being judged.
The judge is looking for:
The best look and the best mover
A horse that canters evenly around the course
Smooth lead changes in the corners
Should jump the center of every fence
A nice down transition to the trot at the end of your course
Does the horse have a busy tail?
Is the horse over bent?
Does the horse over jump?
Looking at how the horse is built:
Are they balanced?
Do they have a long back/short back?
Do they have a long neck/short neck?
The more quality your horse has/the better the mover will score in the 80’s
It takes a very special horse to score in the 90’s
Every jump must be the same
Bad jumping technique will score in the 60’s
A horse that swaps his lead before a jump will score in the 70’s
A horse that swaps it’s lead more than once will score in the 60’s
A horse that adds a stride in a line will score in the 60’s
A horse that breaks down to the trot will score in the 50’s
A horse that knocks a rail will score a 45
A horse that stops at a fence will score a 40
Smacking your horse on the shoulder with a crop will get you a score in the 50’s
If your martingale is too tight you will get a score in the 70’s
A thoroughbred type horse
Needs to be able to gallop
Here the general description of the division from the USEF -
Hunters over fences are judged on performance and soundness. Judges are looking for great jumping style, quality of both looks and movement, as well as willingness, manners, and suitability of horse and rider. The round over fences itself should be judged on evenness of pace, as well as consistency of distances. In over fences classes hunters are judged over fences that simulate fences found in the hunt field such as coops, walls, gates, etc. Some hunter classes over fences are what we call Handy Hunter classes. These classes emphasize tight turns, creative approaches, brilliance and pace. Hunters are also shown on the flat. These classes are called under saddle classes and are judged both directions at the walk, trot, canter, and sometimes the hand gallop. Movement, manners, and quality are judged at all gaits."
And here's link to another thread were hunters and hunter judging are discussed at length.
And here's a link to one of the best hunters in the USEF laying down a winning trip -
If you want opinions on whether or not your horse would do well in hunter competition, it might be best to post photos or videos. Please don't feel your horse has to look, move and jump like Rumba in the link above, there are lots of different levels to hunter showing, and he was pretty much at his own level at the top.
Hunters will have floaty, consistent movement around a course. Consistency is extremely important for a hunter because judges look for evenness in jumping, distances, strides, pace, rhythm, etc.
In Jumping, hunters should have square knees and jump forward, not flat and underneath themselves.
Again, rhythm is super important and should stay the same around a course.
They should also have a square frame and a low, flat neck that stays, again, consistent around a hack class.
Warmbloods and big bodied horses make good hunters but that doesn't go to say that smaller horses can't be good hunters either.
Hunters also should look relatively happy and willing!
In a course, there are so many different aspects that need to be met in order to have yourself a winning class, but that doesn't just come from the horse, the rider must be able to ask and receive properly aswell.
-landing leads, or asking for proper flying lead changes at the correct times
-hitting the distance that isn't too long or too short
-making striding down lines- being able to collect or open up smoothly without it being to obvious if needed
-keeping consistent pace
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