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For those of you who train and/or show hunters or hunter seat equitation, this book is a must have. It includes pages of pictures of what to do and what not to do, and is accompanied by easy to understand explanations of how these classes are judged. Best of all, it’s George Morris approved!

Truly, the only way to really understand how your hunter or equitation class is judged is to know exactly what the judge is looking for.

I’m going to focus on hunters, and using excerpts and videos, try to make understanding the complex world of hunters a bit easier.

Attitude

“The ideal animal is prompt, yet smooth in both upward and downward transitions. It is relaxed, but not dull, and willing to go forward. Attentive, but calm, it doesn’t become excited or buck and play if you call for a hand gallop. A pleasant expression and ears pointed forward indicate the animal’s cooperative attitude.”

Form Over Fences

“…the ideal horse will meet each fence at the correct takeoff spot for a perfect arc over the obstacle. Its jump will be snappy and athletic, with the forearms held at or above a parallel line to the ground, the joints of the front legs tucked tightly in front of its chest, and the neck and back arched over the fence. It will begin its round at a pace suited to the size of the fences and sustain this pace for the entire trip, staying straight through its body when negotiating fences on a straight line and bending in the direction of travel on the corners of the ring.”

“An arched neck and back are signs of an athletic or scopey horse, and horses that have this athletic look accompanied by good leg formation should place above horses that have tightly folded legs and a flat appearance of the back.”

Carriage

“…consider the horse’s general carriage, or frame. a strung-out horse that moves with its head poking out at the end of a loose rein is most unattractive when compared to a horse that has been put on the bit and is carrying itself in a balanced frame, with hocks well under its body at each step.”

Movement

“The ideal horse moves freely, stretching for long, athletic steps instead of taking short, high steps. Viewed from the side, it will be seen to swing its legs close to the ground and reach to the full length of its stride at all gaits. Observed from the front or hind perspective, it moves squarely.”

“An excellent mover…has minimal upward action and maximum forward thrust of the limbs. In the forelegs, the knee and fetlock joint hardly bend, so that in all gaits the hooves tend to travel close to the ground; this animal is said to move with a daisy-cutting motion.”

Keys to Great Hunter Rounds

“In simplest terms, pace equals speed, and impulsion equals thrust. They go hand in hand to a certain degree because as a horse increases its pace, it also increases thrust.”

“The pace depends upon many things, such as the size of the fences, the horse’s length of stride, and the way the course is set.”

“…the horse’s landing spot and its takeoff spot should be equidistant from the center of the fence.”

Examples

This horse has a nice length of stride and really shows that “daisy-cutter” motion, but his form O/F leaves a bit to be desired. If he dropped his head a bit and rounded his back, he’d be an awesome hunter.

The above horse shows lack of carriage. The rider has absolutely no contact with his mouth, and while that demonstrates that he is quiet and willing, it allows him to poke out his head and carry it up instead of lower. When he first starts out at the canter, his stride much too short and constricted.

By contrast, this hunter has a long, flowing stride, and although he has a tad too much knee action, his overall appearance is balanced and pleasant to watch.

The last horse is a good mover and has a great jump for this level. He really uses his shoulder to get his knees up, and visibly arches his back and thrusts his head and neck down and forward in the air.

All excerpts courtesy of Judging Hunters and Hunter Seat Equitation, by Anna Jane White-Mullin, 1993 ed.

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