Hunters are a whole different realm when it comes to form, as they must show style and brilliance over fences. I’ll first explain the basic abilities a hunter should have, then discuss common faults.

Like jumpers, good hunters have a nice, round bascule. This is especially valued in the hunters because it denotes a clean, scopey jumper. The horse above is easily clearing this decent-sized fence. His round jump allows him to make a supple, flowing effort over the fence, instead of jumping flatter, which can make the phases of the jump appear rougher and less polished. You can see that he’s clearly dropping his head and stretching his neck out, and his back is nice and rounded as he nears the apex of the jump.
The next major style component a hunter should display are even knees. The first horse is a little loose in his lower legs, but otherwise has even knees that are well clear of the top pole. Unlike jumpers, hunters don’t always snatch their lower legs into their chests, and instead make a squarish shape. That doesn’t, however, mean that they should have loose lower legs. They can still maintain a tight leg position without having the tidy jumper form.

This horse show exceptional form. As you can see, he does not have jumper-style tucked legs, but instead has that squarish shape outlined by his forearms, cannons, and hooves. His knees are literally level with his eyes, which is in part due to his super bascule. He’s really using his shoulder and back to clear this fence. This horse would pin very high at any A circuit show. I’d also like to draw attention to his rider, who is showing superb form over this formidable fence, and hasn’t fallen prey to many of the faddish hunter riding styles of today. But that’s a whole different blog =)

On to common form faults. Most of these are seen at lower levels, as the hunters who tackle big fences like the one above have to have pretty good form to reach that level. One commonly seen flaw is the flat as a pancake type jumper. These horses usually only step over the little fences they’re jumping, and therefore have no need to jump with a nice bascule.

This cute little gray has decent knees, yet he’s really only cantering over this tiny fence. His back is clearly flat, and he’s making little effort over this fence. Many lower level hunters show this fault, and all they really do is canter to the base, hike up their knees, and keep cantering. They need to get out and jump some bigger jumps or go through some grids to tighten their knees and force them to really use their bodies. They’ll become more supple, and thus acheive better results in the show ring. If I were to pick, I’d comment that this gray’s knees a tad uneven, with his left a bit lower than his right. Other than that, he’s adorable, and shows great potential.