Hunter Jumper – Take some tips from the Professionals!

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While attending a local hunter jumper show I had some spare time in between classes where I was wandering around enjoying the horse training scenery. While amiably ambling around I sat to take in the professional riders/trainers warming up for their class. You could pick out the people who did the horse show circuit for a living because they had a schedule and program worked out. By narrowing it down to three things, you could also make your warm up more efficient and effective.

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This does not just mean knowing your course, and when to get into the ring but being actually prepared
Creative Commons License photo credit: carterse for the competition. Knowing and understanding the level of commitment and the rules for the classes. 

You can tell the professionals from the amateurs or the wannabes! The pros have their schedule, their program and their exercises worked out and they know what is being required of their horses, students and staff.

Be on Purpose

There is little time for chit-chat and grooms are certainly on purpose during the show day regime. This can definitely be seen when riders enter the warm up ring. They know exactly how many jumps to do, which jumps, and exactly when they should be finished so they can get into the ring with a warmed up horse – without leaving the best jumps in the warmup ring.

We have seen riders doing too many warm up fences only to have the horse be stale and flat when we want them to be expressive and scopey. 

Have a Plan

Having a plan for your warmup is not something that just happens while warming up at the horse show. The plan is a a systematic format that the horse is familiar with. This plan is developed with the horse an dmind and may even be altered while at the show. It could be that as a result of bing prepared, riders realize that if the horse is a little ‘on the muscle’, they need to do more in the warm up.

How do you prepare your horse while at the show grounds? Is it different from show to show? If you find something isn’t working…. when do you change it?

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What the Judge is Looking For – Knock Downs

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Well, the hunter judge is not looking for a knockdown and if there is one it is scored as a major error.

What is a Knock Down

A jump is considered to have been knocked down when the height of the jump is lowered by the horse or rider.  It is quite clear that when the top rail is hit by the horse’s legs and comes down, it is considered a knock down. The pole usually pops right out of the jump cups and falls to the ground. If the rail falls as a result of the rider hitting the pole or the jump standard it is still considered a knockdown. This means if the rider’s foot comes in contact with the wing of the jump and causes the jump to fall, even though the horse doesn’t hit the rail, it is scored as a knockdown.

Knockdowns are not created equally! If the knockdown is a result of poor form this will be duely noted. Hanging legs, knees not up, ‘swimming’, and leaving ‘off of one leg’ are considered poor form and addition to having a knockdown the poor form will be marked on the judges card. A horse with good form having a ‘lazy rail’ will have a more favorable score than a horse with poor form bashing a rail out with it’s knees.

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It Matters If the Horse Knocks Down With a Front or Hind Leg

As a hunter competitor it is important to take note if the knockdown occurs with a front leg or a hind leg. It is considered a worse fault if the horse knocks down the jump with a front leg versus a hind leg. This comes back to the field hunter days when the obstacles were solid and hitting a solid fence with a front hoof may result in a bad fall. Hitting a rail with a trailing hind leg would be considered a lesser fault.

A knockdown is considered a major error and will be scored as a major error.  In addition to noting

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Judges Will Note Whether a Knockdown is With a Front or Hind Leg

 which leg the horse knocked the fence down with judges will give them a score to ensure that they place below horses that have completed the round successfully without any major errors.

Do Rubs Count

Rubs and touches are noted by the judge but are not considered a major error and are not scored as a knockdown. In some cases however, significant rubs are duely noted and could cause a winning round, in good company, to lose a winning position. Competitors should understand that a soft rub with a hind leg is a less severe than a hard rub with a front hoof. In order from ‘worst’ to ‘least’ touches with:

  • front leg as a result of poor jumping style
  • front leg as a result of poor placement to the fence (too deep or too far out)
  • back leg as a result of poor jumping style
  • back leg as a result of a bad take off spot.

When judging I note, on my card, hard rubs with a front leg as F. Light rubs are noted with an f. Back leg rubs are noted with B – for hard rubs and b – for light rubs. This way at a glance I can see if it is a front or back leg that has hit the jump and also note a U for on the way up and D for on the way down.

Rubs will count in good company and will be placed below horses that have no major errors.

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Horse Grooming for the Hunter Jumper Ring

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Horse Grooming is Important if You Want the Respect of the Judge

If you ride hunter jumpers and want to get noticed in the horse show ring, then pay attention to the horse grooming tips offered by Professional Equine Grooms. Your horse grooming technique, your ‘turn out’ and how you display your horse can make a difference to the horse show results.
Sometimes you come across a phrase or saying that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Something that makes you pick yourself up, even if you don’t want to, and carry on with a smile. Something that resonates in your very being as you get ready for your day.
For me, it was “Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good”. Putting on a smile, professional clothing, and tidy hair and make-up will make you feel good. You will do good.
The same is true of horses – if you horse looks good, you will look good, you will feel good, and then you will do good.

Why Horse Grooming Is Important
If your horse is impeccably groomed, it will show. The judge will notice. You will shine, and your placing will reflect that. If you are not impeccably groomed, it will show. The judge will notice. You will not place well.

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Being Well 'Turned Out' Shows Respect for the Judge and the Sport

Why? Because it shows a lack of respect. For your horse, the Judge, and the sport. Someone who spends the extra time to guarantee that their horse is spotless and perfect tells the Judge that they CARE, and when they care for these grooming details, they also care about the training details, the horsemanship details, and the health details.
Would you try and sell your car with a flat tire and dirty windows? Probably not, because someone coming to test drive it would think that if you don’t take care of the appearance, do you take care of the engine??
So – let’s get down to the heart of this matter. How do you ***WOW*** the socks off that judge?? Simple. Don’t cut corners. (OK…I’ll give you some tips too!!!)


Horse Grooming Necessities

  • Get some shine going. Some honest shine. Not from a bottle. From a curry comb and elbow Horse Grooming, grooming to win, hunter grooming, hunter jumper, horse caregrease. Before and after you ride, this curry comb should be your best friend. Your horse’s natural oils are just that – natural. And, it’s a super warm up and cool down massage for your best friend. They deserve it.
  • Clip the lower legs of your horse a week before a big show, especially if you have a chestnut. Which will look pumpkin after clipping. Blend the hair over the knee by flipping the clippers over and going with the hair. 
  • Learn to braid. I know a lot of big shows have Professional Braiders – (a gift from above, if you ask me!) and a lot of them work overnight. Try and schedule as close to your ride times as possible. OR – do it yourself. FRESH
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    Hunter Braids Should Be Fresh and Neat

    braids that are even, tidy, and not rubbed stand out. Use a gentle hair gel to control those strays. Even if you use a Professional Braider, you will need to know how to do “repairs”.

  • Baby powder is your friend. Used on the LEGS to brighten whites. Be careful if your horse slobbers a lot, as this creates a paste on the front legs.Nicely clipped ears and muzzles (if you like) create a clean picture. Again, fresh is not always best in this case. Play around with your horse to see how he looks a day or a week after a fresh clip.

Horse Grooming Tips for the Day of the Horse Show

  • Sometimes your class is during or following a meal. It’s OK to use a big syringe of plain water to rinse your horse’s mouth before you put the bit in. Slobber is a sign of relaxation and submission, but green slobber is a sign of untidy horsemanship.
  • Plan for fly and pest control. Find a spray you like that doesn’t look like you just dipped your horse in oil. Roll on for the ears.
  • Some folks like to use baby oil or vaseline on the muzzle and eyes. I think it’s a bit too western for the hunter ring, your horse should shine from your curry and elbow grease, right?
  • Use hoof dressing. And play around with different brands to see what you like and what works with the footing at the show.
  • Have a helper with a last minute bucket-o-tricks waiting at the warm up for you.

This may include:

• Bottled water for you. If you are parched, you won’t smile and you won’t “do good”

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Have a well stocked Grooming Kit

• Damp rag to wipe excessive sweat and slobber and run over boots and irons. This can also be used in a pinch to tame ‘fly-away’ braids, just in case your reins loosened a braid.
• Dry rag for same reason. It will never fail that if you only have a damp rag, you need a dry one and vice-versa.
• Sugars. This stimulates chewing if your horse is tense before a class, but try this at home first!!
• Hoof pick with a brush. I’ve been to many a show where the warm up is less than stellar and rocky. Pick his feet. A stone will make him lame and ring you out. Use the brush to remove the warm up footing and re-apply hoof dressing.
• Hoof dressing. For last minute beautification.
• Braiding rubber bands. For last minute repairs, even if you have your braid sewn in.
• Stiff brush. Just in case the warm up footing is damp and it has clumped on your horse’s legs.

So – your horse is now show ring ready? Are you??

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What the Judge is Looking For – Refusals

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When showing in the hunter jumper ring the hunter judge will score you a major error if your horse refuses. There are many different types of errors that are considered disobediences and marked as major errors.

 Major Errors Include:

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A horse is considered to have refused when it stops in front of an obstacle, without jumping it. Please note that if your horse steps back, even just one step, whether the rider asked the horse to go back or not, it is considered a refusal.

Run out

A horse is considered to have ‘run out’ when the horse, or any part of the horse, goes past the extended line of the obstacle.  This can be seen in novice classes where clever school horses have perfected the art of veering past the fence with a bulging shoulder.

Resistance/stopping on course

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Bucking on Course is a Major Error

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A resistance is a catch-all phrase to encompass other displays of disobediences that can occur on course. This can include a horse stopping on course, for any reason, halting, rearing, stepping back or other displays. If your horse stops on course, for any reason it will be counted as a disobedience and scored as such.

Circling

It is permissible to make a courtesy circle at the beginning of your round and also to complete your round with a finishing circle. Any other circles on course will be counted as a disobedience.

Discussion on Disobediences

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Scoring the Hunter Round

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Hunters should have good form and have their knees up and even

Riding a show ring hunter has come a long way from the field hunters of yesteryear. Originally the horses found in the hunter jumper show ring were field hunters that used to be ridden to the hounds. Now-a-days show ring hunters are a breed unto themselves and are required to be superior athletes, easy to ride and sound competitors.

Have you ever wondered how the judge keeps track of the horses they like?

We have all lamented about “the judge just doesn’t like my horse”. Well, that usually isn’t the reason why you placed or didn’t place in the show ring. The judge probably DOES like your horse and is hoping it will put in a good trip. Your horse may not have won because it didn’t perform as well as some of the other competitors –OR- you don’t understand what the judge is looking for.

When I sit in the judges stand I often see a horse come in and think, “ ohh, what a lovely horse. This is going to be great!” Then all of a sudden the rider buries the lovely horse in a bad spot or falls into the trot through a corner. As judges we are looking for the best in your horse and we are rooting for you. If you find a bad take off spot or get a wrong lead, then we will have to penalize you.

Judging Criteria for Show Hunters

People who take their showing seriously know the rules and have an understanding of “what the judge is looking for”. Sometimes, however, people (by people I mean trainers, coaches, riders and parents) overlook what the judge really wants to see (an athletic horse that has good form over it’s fences) and concentrate on whether the leads, striding and braids are good.

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The Judge is Rooting For You

Ideally, the judge (that would be me) wants to see a well turned out horse and rider combination come in, with purpose, and jump all the jumps out of stride and in good form. It is important to remember that anything that detracts from a rhythmic, steady round (breaking to a trot, wrong leads, adding and leaving out strides) will cause the score to go down. Major errors such as refusals, nappiness at the gate, bucking, rearing (God Forbid!) and knock downs are heavily penalized. 

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A refusal is considered a major fault

Usually judges are in the same ball park for major errors. A refusal will be scored in the 30’s. A horse that refuses may have the best form over fences but a refusal should knock it out of the ribbons.

A knock down is also heavily penalized. I score a horse that has a knock down with a front leg more severely than if it hits a fence with a hind leg on the way down. This is from the old field hunter school. If a horse hits with its front legs taking off for the jump, it may have a terrible fall or flip. For this reason I score a rail down with the hind legs less severe than a rail with the front hooves. A knock down is considered a major error and I score a 50 for a rail. If it is a bad jump with a rail down I will note its jumping style and a rail by giving it a score in the low 50’s. If it is a rub that robs a nice horse of a first place finish – I may be generous and score it the highest of knock downs.

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Hunter Jumpers – Tack and Equipment

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Having the correct bridle is important

Having the correct tack in the hunter ring is important. If  you show up in the wrong type of bridle or bit it could be detrimental or even cause you to be eliminated from your class. It is important to know which tack, bridle and bit are permissible. 

Which Bits Are Permitted 

Before you step into the ring understand which bits are permitted. Review your rule book for the show you are attending to make certain the bit and bridle you are using is permitted. For example the USEF for the Hunter outlines in Subchater Hu-4 Attire, Tack and Equipment states: 

“Regulation snaffles, pelhams and full bridles, all with cavesson nose bands, are recommended.
A judge may penalize for non-conventional types of bits or nosebands.” 

This means that you could be penalized for an unconventional type of bit. 

The AQHA goes in depth to describe what bits are permitted in English performance classes: 

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AQHA has Specific Rules Regarding AQHA Shows

In all English classes, an English snaffle (no shank), kimberwick,
pelham and/or full bridle (with two reins), all with cavesson
nosebands and plain leather brow bands must be used. 

And even offers diagrams of acceptable and unacceptable bits. See page 136 of AQHA Show Rules 

Equine Canada also has requirements regarding permissible bits. 

The bridle may be double, pelham, single (snaffle) or kimberwick. It must be leather (not rubber covered), rolled or plain and may be buckled, sewn or studded (not snapped).  

All bits must be humane in nature. Snaffle bits may be with or without
cheeks. Wire snaffle bits, either single or double are permissible. It is permissible
to use a snaffle with fixed slots for cheek pieces and/or reins. Bit
guards are not permissible. 

 What is not permissible 

 

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Unusual bits or bits meant to harm the horse are frowned upon

Unusual bits or bits used to harm a horse are frowned upon and could cost you a placing at a show. Horse shows are meant to be a place to show off the training of the horse, the jumping ability and movement of your horse.

A bit is only as nice, soft and an ameable training aid if it is used in the right hands and there are clear rules regarding abuse of horses through use of the bit. Expect to be reported to the steward if you use a whip excessively but also if you use a bit inhumanely. This can mean repeated pulling, tugging or jerking on the horses mouth. 

Bitless bridles are not permitted.
 

What About Bridles 

Hunter bridles are meant to be conservative and should reflect a tasteful turnout that would be appropriate for a field hunt. This means leave your rhinestone studded and  bejewelled brownbands at home. Stick with an elegant well made plain leather brown band that compliments the noseband.  

If you want to get more information on What the Judge Is Looking For then sign up for the Hunter Judge NewsLetter.

  

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Hunter Jumper – The Prepatory Circle

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To get the judges attention - show your horse off to the best of its ability

When riding in the hunter jumper ring you are allowed to make one prepatory circle. There are some instances, however, when the circle is unneccessary and may even drop your placings down.

The purpose of the prep circle is to establish your pace before approaching your first fence. So, if the course has its first fence near the ingate then a prep circle may be required or necessary to allow the competitor to get into a proper canter before jumping the first fence.

A Prepatory circle is unnecessary if the first jump is coming toward the ingate and the rider has to make a circuit of the ring to get to the fence. In this instance making a circle could be unneeded.

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The number of strides between fences is important

If you are in an equitation class it is important for the judge to see that you are “on task”, have a plan and can establish the required pace and rhythm as soon as possible. If it is necessary for you as a competitor to canter one circuit to get to the first jump and then do a circle to get organized, it will not look favorable in the judges eyes. By doing an additional circle it:

  • shows the judge you think your horse is not quite prepared for the fence. Or that you have not adequately prepared the horse for the fence. This means you are not ‘on task’ organized or ready for the job at hand.
  • takes up time. If a rider unnecessarily circles, it takes a minute or two to complete a circle. If each competitor adds a circle – several hours is added to the day.
  • it takes away from the over all performance. This is particularly true if the competitor walks in and picks up the wrong lead (which happens alot …)

Help keep the show on schedule … be prepared and go promptly to your first fence!

~Laura

Thistle Ridge Skill Builders

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What the Judge Is Looking For – Hunter Under Saddle

Senior Hunter Judge Laura Kelland-May reviews What the judge is looking for in a Hunter Under Saddle Class. This is a recording of the live broadcast on The HunderJudge channel. Every thursday at 2pm Laura reveals what the judge is looking for.

for more information and to get the notes from this broadcast please send me an email.

Thank you

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Hunter Judge Goes Live!

As part of my mandate to share information and learn what people expect from a Judge, I have started a Hunter Judge live show. Every thursday afternoon at 2pm eastern I broadcast live from:


Video streaming by Ustream

You can be a part of the chat and discussion by going here:

I’d love to hear from you.
Todays topic ~ Hunter Under Saddle
Expect to learn what the judge wants to see and major faults the judge will not accept. If you have questions and comments then please join us and be a part of it!

Thanks

here is an excerpt from last week where I reviewed the product of the week!

See you!
~Laura

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Hunter Jumper Riding Straight

Riding a straight line can be more difficult than it looks. When your horse starts to drift it is important to correct it quickly. If not, the drift could cause the horse to be unbalanced, and possibly refuse or run-out at a fence.
This first horse comes straight at the jump and has a little bit of a drift to the left. Contrast this to the second horse that approaches on a straight line and then tries to evade by drifting to the left again to get past the flowers.

It is important to stay in the middle of your fence, because it is the best line of approach to your jumps. If you let them drift the next step may be a refusal or runout.

 Riding Straight at Thistle Ridge Stables

The first rider, on the grey horse could have improved her approach by keeping the horse marching up into the bridle and continued to use her left leg and rein to prevent the horse from drifting.

The second horse, chestnut with blaze, could have also made a better approach and by using her left leg and rein actively on the horse to prevent the horse from evading and drifting to the left.
This first horse comes straight at the jump and has a little bit of a drift to the left. Contrast this to the second horse that approaches on a straight line and then tries to evade by drifting to the left again to

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Keep your horse straight to avoid a runout

 get past the flowers.
It is important to stay in the middle of your fence, because it is the best line of approach to your jumps. If you let them drift the next step may be a refusal or runout.
The first rider, on the grey horse could have improved her approach by keeping the horse marching up into the bridle and continued to use her left leg and rein to prevent the horse from drifting.
The second horse, chestnut with blaze, could have also made a better approach and by using her left leg and rein actively on the horse to prevent the horse from evading and drifting to the left.

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