What the Judge Is Looking For, Nail the First Fence

how to win a hunter round, what the judge is looking for, winning hunter class

“Nail” the First Fence

What makes a winning hunter round?

A winning hunter round is more than a beautiful jump and excellent movement. You have to “nail” each fence, that’s what the judge is looking for. Getting to the first fence correctly, in a positive, confident manner, sets the tone for the rest of the course.  A sloppy tentative ride to the first fence leaves the horse with no confidence which will show throughout the rest of the hunter round.

On the other hand an aggressive, elbow flapping approach can also leave an impression on the judge. The approach to your first fence should show a horse that has confidence, ability and class to carry out the job. The judge should be thinking, “I’d like to ride this horse”.

If your pace needs some minor adjustments, make them in an discrete diplomatic fashion. While you are on course, you should be giving the impression that your round is smooth and rhythmic, sudden changes, pulling, kicking, big body movements will be noticeable and detract from the overall flow of your round.

Getting to the first fence.  How do you make a good impression?
Leave your comments here!



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Reasons you don’t win at your next horse show

A friendly reminder when you attend your horse show. Sometimes it is apparent why you haven’t won a ribbon. But sometimes we forget why. It could be the small things that separate you from the competition or sometimes it may be the usual reasons.
Why do you think you haven’t placed when other people have. Please comment below.

When competing at a horse show there may be so many horses and riders that only the top few horses make the cut. This means that ANY, and I mean ANY quirk, tail swish or ear twitch may knock you out of the placings (I’m exaggerating BTW) but there have been classes where the first place horse will get a score of 90 and the 6th place horse with a score of 80 so if your horse has a late change, bobble or hiccup you could be out of the placings. At these shows EVERYTHING counts.

At regional shows, local shows and training shows the ear twitches and tail swishes are less likely to cause you a lost placing and it is more likely that a refusal, dropped rail or cross canter which will knock you out of the placings. Either way it is good to be reminded what the judge is looking for.


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Entering the Horse Show Ring – Make it Count

Laura Kelland-May, Thistle Ridge Equestrian, Horse show expert, What the judge is looking for

Your First Impression, Make it Count



Start with a Good Impression When Entering the Hunter Show Ring

Starting with a good first impression makes the judge sit up and take notice. You have to however, follow it up with an equally good performance. Looking the part is only half of the equation, you have to perform the part as well.

I think back to one show I was judging where a competitor came in the hunter ring, looking beautiful, horse immaculate and turn out simply impeccable. I sat up and took notice. This might be my winner, I thought. Well 2 rails and 2 refusals later it appeared she looked the part but the look didn’t match the performance.

Having a good first impression is important, but it is more than just your turn out, your clean horse, and your spiffy clothing that will prove that you belong. It is your performance which will place you up at the top of the winners circle.
How do you get there? It isn’t magic, and it isn’t who you know – no matter what people think – it is your performance.

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The Final Circle- It’s Important

what the judge is looking for, Laura Kelland-May, Horse Expert

In your Hunter Round Leave a Good Impression… Do  a nice circle!

After your hunter round is done, you should do a final closing circle. If the course ends at the opposite end of the ring from the in/out gate then no circle is necessary.

Remember you are being judged from the moment you enter the ring until you leave the ring. There is no start line. So your  finish circle does form part of the course and you can use the circle to put a tidy end to your hunter round. If the circle is done poorly it will reflect badly on you and your horse.

Think of it as a final way to show the judge your horse’s best gate. If your horse has a spectacular trot, then you can use this to show the judge one last time. Of course, you should do a proper, balanced transition and then seamlessly go into a trot.

Some riders feel the need to do a sitting trot to show off their horse, or in the case of an equitation ride, show off their equitation – good idea if you can sit the trot. But it has been my experience that not many people can do a proper sitting trot – so stay away from sitting trot if you can.

Other Show Ring Tips

Keep your contact through the final circle. I have seen riders drop the reins after the last fence, so elated to have completed the course, only to have the horse trip because of the lost contact. Keep your reins! Keep riding and once you are out of the competition hunter ring, then give your horse his much deserved praise.

Your horse deserves a pat and quite possibly a sugar cube but please refrain from dramatic demonstration of emotion. It detracts from the overall smoothness of the hunter round to exclaim for all the parents in the trailer parking and the stabling areas that your horse was a “good boy”. Save that for outside the ring.

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