Hunter Jumpers – What the Judge is Looking For

Regency, May 2010, 164
Creative Commons License photo credit: DWissman

If you are showing in the Hunter Jumper circuit there are some points that should be considered to improve your placings. When preparing to show in the hunter jumpers the judge is looking for a particular style and the hunter jumper must perform in a certain fashion.

As a judge, the hunter jumper entry must catch my eye as soon as it enters in the ring. Remember the judging of a hunter ring begins as soon as the horse steps into the ring.

Hunter Basics
The hunter must appear to float across the ground I call it the WOW factor. As you approach the first fence the ideal hunter should have a fluid long relaxed stride. The hunter should have little knee action and a graceful long reaching step. Top hunters will carry themselves in a relaxed, rounded frame with a pleasant expression and ears ‘pricked’ forward.

As the horse jumps he should leave the ground in a rhythmic stride and fold his legs up neatly. The horse’s shoulders should move up freely as well to help raise up the forelegs of the horse. The horse should keep a round bascule –nose to tail – and keep that bascule over the jumps.

When you enter the ring the judge is looking for a thoughtful planned ride and that the ride is executed according to the plan of the rider. Riders have to have a soft forward and rhythmic ride. If the rider has a plan and executes the plan the ride will be workman like ride that will, hopefully, be in the ribbons.

About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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6 Responses to Hunter Jumpers – What the Judge is Looking For

  1. I agree with you that the ride should be planned and if everything goes accordingly the approach to the jumps should be fluid and the jump smooth. One of my horses competed in hunters and did pretty well throughout his career.

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks Grey Horse Matters for you lovely comment. Planning is important and we usually find that once the ride is planned it can just as easily get turfed out the window when the wind blows or, my personal favorite, ‘a duck quacks’! Laura

  3. How much do you weigh the rider’s position and seamless (or not) connection with the horse in your decisions?

  4. anoymous says:

    how do you lengthen your horses stride?

  5. Laura says:

    Wow… What a great question and one that I will address soon.

    To begin you must remember that going faster is not necessarily lengthening the stride. Often horses, rather than lengthening, take faster choppy steps. I recommend that you place 2 poles on the long side of your riding area and count the number of steps your horse takes in between the poles. It may be 5 or 6. To lengthen the stride keep a soft elastic feel of your horses mouth and squeeze with your legs to encourage your horse to move forward. This is the tricky bit as often horses begin to rush and loose their rhythm.Allow the horse to lengthen its frame and reach forward. Next time when you go through the poles count the steps. When lengthening the number of steps should be fewer as the horse covers more ground. I will address this excellent question in a post so stay tuned.

    Thanks!
    ~Laura

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