Urbane Equine Events
Urban Equine Events

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About Hunter / Jumper Shows

Horse Shows 101:
The Hunter/Jumper discipline is one set of equestrian events that are grouped together by the term “English riding”.  Other disciplines that belong in the same group are Dressage, Eventing, Racing, Endurance Riding, Polo, Polocrosse, and a few others.  The commonality in these disciplines is that the tack/equipment, training, style of riding, and attire are all designed to provide the horse freedom of movement to perform a specific task.  For example the saddles used in English riding differ from the Western disciplines as they have less deep seats, lower cantles (rear of the saddle), and no saddle horn. 

The Hunter/Jumper designation refers to a subset of English riding that incorporates a number of different events that take place in a similar style, mostly that of competing horses over jumps or obstacles.  Competitions that are dubbed “Hunter/Jumper” offer multiple competitive events, termed “classes”, in which the horse and rider combination are “judged” on a number of criteria.  In actuality a Hunter/Jumper “show” (competition) would offer three different styles of classes, each with their own unique set of criteria and rules, namely Hunters, Jumpers, and Equitation. 

Jump2In modern hunter competitions riders and their mounts compete over a basic course of fences that are designed to mimic obstacles that may be encountered in the hunt field.  A judge watches each round and subjectively determines which horse was the most suitable mount to “ride to the hounds.”  In modern sport most of the hunters rarely go hunting, however, many of the qualities desired of a good field hunter remain ideal for a show hunter.  The judge looks for the horses that are athletic, well mannered, smooth, and attractive.  They pay close attention to the horse’s jumping ability, the style with which they jump, and whether or not they maintain an even pace throughout the course.  In some classes the horses’ conformation, or ideal physical attributes, are considered.  Each “class” or round is judged in this manner until all the competitors have shown over a particular course and the winner is determined.  Most competitions have results for the competitors from 1st through 8th. 

Show Jumping – “Jumpers”
Jump1At modern competitions the “jumpers” compete over a technically challenging course of varied obstacles that include color, width, and in some cases water.  The winners are determined by those who can complete a course without incurring any faults or penalties.  Faults can be accumulated by either lowering the height of an obstacle (known as a knock-down), refusing an obstacle, or by exceeding a pre-determined time allowed.  Each competitor is timed during their attempt at the course and the winner is often determined by the horse/rider combination that completed the course without any faults and in the fastest time.  The jumpers provide the most thrilling experience for the spectator at modern Hunter/Jumper competitions. 

HannahVenti5Equitation classes are designed to demonstrate the overall horsemanship of a rider.  This includes a rider’s position, which greatly influences how a horse responds to a rider, the rider’s effectiveness in handling the mount when addressed with the challenges presented by a course, and the presentation of the mount, which includes how properly the horse and rider are “turned out”.  This last requirement illustrates the rider’s ability to properly care for their mount and prepare them for the rigors of competition.  For this reason the Equitation classes are judged in a more subjective manner, much like the Hunters, however, the emphasis is placed more highly upon the rider than the horse.  In addition, Equitation courses usually present more technical challenges to the horse and rider combination than the standard Hunter course. 

Hunter/Jumper Competitions
Today’s modern competitions are multiday events that offer a large number of individual classes in all three disciplines for exhibitors to participate in.  Often times the management will offer a division of individual classes where points can be accumulated to determine a show champion.  For example a typical Hunter division may have several classes, in which placing are determined per class, (commonly up to 5) over a several day period to crown an overall champion.  At these shows a range of several hundred to occasionally some thousand of horses congregate at a single facility for the duration of the competition.  It is estimated that approximately 2 ½ humans per horse are in attendance at the show, which gives rise to the attendance of many different types of vendors as well.  In recent years it is common for horse show management companies to host a several week circuit where each week holds an entire competition.