Training Your Horse – Show Ring Hunter, Common Mistakes to Avoid

According to the rules, all hunters must be judged on their jumping form. This means that your jumping style, i.e. knees up and rounded, or your scale, is priority number one.
Competitors show a minimum of eight fences on a course that simulate jumps typical of a field hunt. Jumps are often used as stone walls, hedges and chicken coops, as well as posts in natural colors. The horse, however, must be able to knock down the upper element of the obstacle.
In addition to their hurdle form, chasers are also considerate in their manners and gait during the round.
When you appear in the hunting ring, you are judged from the moment you enter the ring and judging stops when you leave the ring.
As a judge critiques your round, he keeps score with his own personal series of cryptic symbols to remind you how the horse performed. Each fence is marked with a code to reflect how the horse jumped. The fewer marks, the better score.
Remember that the Hunter Round starts as soon as you get in the ring and ends when you leave, so everything you do in the ring can and will be judged. So if you walk into the ring and immediately take an incorrect lead, it will be scored. Similarly, if your horse balks or balks at the gate, that will count as part of your round as well.
I’ve tried my fair share of hunter rounds. Some were wonderful. Some, well, they need help! If you avoid the following ten things, chances are you’ll always be on the tapes.
poor shape
A horse should jump with knees up and square, or even. Uneven knees or ‘leg dangling’ are reasons not to dunk in a class. A horse is said to “hang” when the forearm is in a more vertical position (knee pointing down) rather than horizontal (knee pointing forward) over a fence. This is undesirable as a horse that ‘hangs’ can be dangerous because it can hit the jump with its forearm and cause a terrible accident.
If your horse is in good form but has a bad fence where he ‘hangs a leg’, you could take him off the tapes depending on the size of the class and the severity of the bad jump.
To improve the form of your horses over fences you can use gymnastics. This type of training should be under the supervision of your coach or trainer. The type of gymnastics you use will depend on the form of jumping you are trying to try. Consult with your trainer and develop a systematic training program to cultivate your horse’s form.
Rejection and/or exhaustion
To be considered for placement in a Hunter class, you must complete all hurdles. Refusing, which means stopping in front of the fence without jumping over it, is a major offense and will be scored as such. A breakaway, when a horse crosses the extended horizontal line of the jump, is also a major fault. You must approach and jump the fence to complete the course.

A horse must reach each jump and its form over the fence is considered. If he can’t get over the fence, it’s a serious foul. One circle is allowed at the beginning of a round and a closing circle at the end; however, any other circle will be counted as a rejection. I use the symbol ‘R‘ on my judge sheet to score a refusal and will not place a horse that has a ‘R‘ unless you really have to.
To avoid rejections and races at horse shows, work with your trainer to make sure you and your horse are ready for competition. Know the requirements of the level in which it is shown and practice this fence height at home. It’s also helpful to have school-like fencing when training so your horse isn’t surprised by flowers, bushes, or chicken coops when you’re at a show.
If there are few participants in a class, a refusal or burnout can get a low grade.
Knock down
A fence is considered to have been knocked down when the post no longer rests on the support. A takedown is a major foul and is scored as such. A perfectly good round can be destroyed by an ill-timed railing. A fall is considered a major foul. If I see a ‘k‘ I won’t put this horse on my sheet unless I have to.
To avoid knockdowns during the course, prepare your horse for the show season with a systematic training program to develop your riding and your horse. Gymnastics will develop strength and agility and will also prepare the rider for courses.
Breaking or Trotting
Trot out anywhere on the course and your score will drop or be placed lower. I write ‘BROKE‘ in my sheet to keep track. One horse I judged had a winning round. The rider was enjoying the beautiful gallop and he looked up and when he looked up his horse took two steps into a trot! He missed the class!
wrong lead
Having the wrong lead around the ends of the track can throw the horse off balance and he often has a bad fence afterwards. The wrong tracks will certainly get you off the tapes. I frame”SG” to notice horses that have incorrect straps.
Also a disjointed gallop”DIS” or cross gallop will also lower your position.
Adding or excluding trailers
If you have a four-step line and you do it in three steps to mach1 with the second HUGE fence, you have an athletic horse and have excellent qualities as a jumper. You may want to consider changing disciplines. If you leave out the strides I mark it with a “[-]“.
When you add steps, I mark my judge sheet with a “[+]” to show that they added.
Missed jump/bad spot.
To be considered for placing, particularly in a large class, a ‘chip’ (a short stubby step just before the fence) will ruin your chances. The same goes for a takeoff that is too long or too long. I use the following symbols for tokens “Λ−a”C “or long jumps”∩a”C”.
uneven rhythm
My first reaction to a chaser round should be, “That was a good even round.” If I’m holding on, white-knuckled, in my saddle, chances are I’m going too fast or stabilizing in corners and buzzing down lines into jumps.
If you’re speeding towards the jumps in a hurry, I’ll mark my page with a “AA” to represent speed.
Bad/poor move
This is a tough one. So if you like jumps, good form, even rhythm, correct strides and your correct direction. That’s great, however, if your horse is an average horse compared to a group of top movers with the same jumping ability, the horse with the correct form and better movement will rank higher.
I mark a poor engine with the symbol “↑↓“.
To turn off
The icing on the cake is participation. You and your horse must present yourself in a clean and professional manner in accordance with the specifications of the class. Braiding is always acceptable and shows off your horse. Well groomed tails and shiny studs. A finished frame with the hulls oiled is a joy to look at. If there were ties, the tiebreaker would be the participation. I just write ‘lovely share’ if I think it would make or break a winning round.

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