How Should I Ride in a Hunter Under Saddle?

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Hunter Under Saddle should have a rhythmic flowing gait

This is one of the most popular questions that I get asked. As a Hunter Judge, in the Hunter Under Saddle class, we like to see a horse that has good performance, good movement and good manners. There are different criteria for each section.

Good Performance

To be considered a winner in the Under Saddle Class the horse has to be a quality animal. Its first impression on the judge is very important. It must perform walk, trot and canter each way of the ring. Once all the horses are in the ring and the gate is closed the command “judging has now commenced” is usually announced.

~Tip~ By the time this is announced the judge has spied the horse that they would like to see win. It is usually the one that is well turned out and catches the judge’s eye at the first walk around the ring. Horses that jig-jog at the walk are usually passed over for horses that show a long flowing ground covering walk.

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A hunter under saddle should have good performance, good movement and good manners.

The performance includes trot as well as a canter each way of the ring. If your horse takes a wrong lead then you will probably not pin if it is a large class. If there are few horses in the ring an incorrect canter lead is a performance fault and will be heavily penalized and will most likely be placed after the horses that had correct leads. Leads may be forgiven if it is considered a ‘baby-green’ class and the rider corrects the lead immediately.

Horses that break from canter to trot are also heavily penalized. This is of particular issue and could be considered a manners issue.

Good Movement

The winning horse should have three ground covering gaits that are smooth and rhythmic. They are graceful and should appear to float effortlessly across the ground. Their shoulders should be free flowing and the horse should reach forward with a daisy cutter action. In good company, in a large class, an average moving horse may be over looked, and not placed, in favor of a good moving horse with good manners and good performance.

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Disobediences such as bucking and rearing are big "no-no"s

High knee action and choppy striding is not the ideal hunter under saddle and will place lower than a nice mover with similar performance and manners.

~Tip~If your horse has impeccable manners but may not be the best mover, you will still have a chance at a ribbon. Judges will place a steady solid, well mannered horse over a beautiful mover that acts up or goes on a wrong lead.

Good Manners

Good manners are of paramount importance. If a beautiful moving horse shows bad manners in the form of:

  • Bolting
  • Stopping
  • Rearing
  • Bucking
  • Breaking gait

It will be placed at the bottom of the other competitors. Bucking or a playful buck can be at the judge’s discretion if it should be overlooked in the placings.

~Tip~In a green or baby horse class, a playful buck can be seen as a minor offense and placed accordingly.

Bolting, stopping or nappiness (particularly near the in-gate) and rearing are severely penalized and if they affect the other horses in the class the judge may excuse you from the ring.

If you have more questions please feel free to send them to me at Laura @ Id be happy to answer them for you.

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