Show Ring Hunters – First Impressions are Important

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You must present your self to the hunter judge as a winner.


Riding and competing show ring hunters is all about getting the details right. From the time your horse steps into the ring till the time you leave, you are ‘selling yourself’, selling your horse and selling yourself as a winner of the show ring hunter class.

Just as a ‘window dresser’ would make up a beautiful window display to draw shoppers into the store, a show ring hunter competitor has to make a first impression on the hunter judge.  You should enter the ring with winning in mind.  I know as a hunter judge, if you enter with mud on your boots, poorly groomed horse and ill fitting tack you are saying to me you really don’t care if you win or not and that you don’t mind if you are dirty or not. 

What Makes a Winning Round?

A winning round is made right at the in-gate. If you present your show ring hunter, or yourself, with:

  • dirty tack
  • dirty boots
  • poorly fitted helmet

To win championships you must look and act the part

I have already made a decision that this rider/competitor, you, is not going to win because you have not made the effort to present yourself as a winning competitor. As a result, my first impression, rightly or wrongly, is carried over to your round and shadows my perception of your performance. 

Presenting yourself with dirty equipment, horse or badly fitted attire, you are actually telling me that you don’t think you deserve to win because you don’t care how you look. My mind is set and prepared

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Turn out does matter

 to see a poor performance because you have not taken the time to prepare yourself.

You should enter the ring prepared to win, not coming in hoping to win and then fighting to get a ribbon.

The horse’s performance, form and manners are being judged but how you look and how you present your self and your horse influences the hunter judge. Just as a boy scout will polish an apple to make sure that they get the best price, you should also have your horse polished and presented with oiled hooves and braided mane.

A judge has very little time to decide on a winner. If there are 20 horses in the ring you have to make your horse stand out. As a hunter judge I want to see:

  • good performance
  • good movement and
  • good manners.

If a horse is dull, listless and has bad fitting tack, you will not be noticed by the judge and will be passed over for a fresher, shiner horse with polished equipment and oiled hooves.

About Laura
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6 Responses to Show Ring Hunters – First Impressions are Important

  1. Pingback: What the Judge Is Looking For - Two Point Position | The Hunter Judge

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  3. Excellent advice. I like to have the attitude that we will knock the judge’s socks off with our brilliance.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Is it necessary or recommended to braid for an unrated schooling show?

    • Laura says:

      Hi there Gretchen…
      Although it is not a requirement to braid for unrated shows, it does show your horse off that extra little bit! I know my niece was showing and she wanted to know why she didn’t place. I watched one round and said… it was great but now braid his tail. Now – – – I don’t really know if that was the reason or not, but she placed in that class. So, as a judge, braiding puts the icing on the cake, and having horses turned-out correctly shows respect for your horse, yourself, the show sponsors, organizers as well.

      I hosted a small, unrated, schooling, training show. And I was appalled when someone came and did not have a noseband on their horse. So where do you call the line? If it is called a show – then show your horse. AND it is good practice.

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