Hunter Under Saddle

Children's Under Saddle

Under Saddle Class (Photo credit: carterse)

Reader Question:

My question is in the under saddle how is it we win at one show and yet the next we may pin low or not at all. He is a reliable horse being consistent on the flat at each show. Why can one judge obviously like him enough to pin him first and yet another judge on another day not like him at all. I understand judges have their own preferences obviously but with the majority of the same horses showing each show, how can it vary so much?

Thank you for your question.

You have questions which has been irritating horse owners and horse show-ers.

1. why can I win at one show and not at another?

This is a tough one and I know when I go to judge I often wonder if  “I picked the right one”. Meaning i wonder if I picked the one which all the other judges had picked throughout the summer. What you have to consider is the other competitors which are competing.

I think you understand the objectivity on the judges side of the fence quite well when you say,

 “one judge obviously like him enough to pin him first and yet another judge on another day not like him at all”.

This, I think really sums it up. It is like going to a movie, picking out an ice-cream or a summer pair of shoes. I may pick out a pair or Ariats and someone else may pick out Birkenstocks. They are both good shoes, however, we base our opinions on our own biases.

We as judges have formed opinions based on our own experiences. You have made your opinion of your horse. He is consistent, and reliable, and consistent and reliable is what an under saddle horse should be. Steady comfortable paces which a rider may have done to and from the field hunt. When he is put in the ring with 10, 20, 30, 40, and sometimes even more, consistent reliable horses then anything the judge doesn’t like gets crossed off the list.

According to EC, in the under saddle (different than hack division) the best mover should win! But ~ our own personal biases come into play when we get into the final placings. Wrong leads, nappiness, poor movers, inverted, runaways, usually don’t get too far! then the best of the best get judged.

When asked, How do you pick the winner in an undersaddle class, Randi Roy, one of Canada’s premier hunter judges, answered – How does someone pick the most beautiful women in the room? – That was his – however chauvinistic – answer!

I say it could be a number of factors.

The footing preference of your horse may make a difference, some horses may like softer/harder footing. Your horse may be a mudder and like to work in the cool temperatures and mud, rain and heavy footing. In this case, if you go to a show with sunny, concrete like hard footing he may not show as well. Or maybe showing against a horse which prefers the concrete like hard footing.

The temperature.

The rider’s disposition on that day. Or any of the factors which may alter the riders disposition such as weather, food/sugar level, did s/he break up with his girl/boyfriend, was his truck broken into.

The time of day when the class is held. (I always prefer morning)

The combination of any of all of the above and other factors which may not be considered, like – maybe the horse is just plain tired, or playful, or interested or disinterested, or, again, those of the rider/handler.

If you are in the Ottawa area then I would like to invite you to attend the Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Show Clinic to be held July 20th near Kinburn. This is a ‘clinic with ribbons’ and offers an opportunity to get feedback directly back from the judge. You will be able to understand exactly what the judge is looking for and practice your show ring riding over a hunter style course of fences.

These are great questions and if you would like additional explanation then please send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.



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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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