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MDHorseGirl
Nov. 30, 2009, 11:32 PM
I am wondering what everyone's thoughts are about how foxhunting has become the Hunter division in horse shows. I mean, it's not a discipline found commonly outside of the US... what gave it it's start? What changes have happened over the years?

copper1
Dec. 1, 2009, 06:34 AM
(there are hunters in the UK) When everyone was foxhunting and shows were not too much in existance, one guy said to another, "ya know, my horse is a better jumper and smoother ride than yours". His buddy said "no. mine is better" So they decided to have their friend watch them next they were out hunting and for him to judge which horse was best. Friend may or not have made a choice that day but probably said that he could do a far better job of judging if he could really see the horses, so lets build some jumps in a big field and I can stand in the middle and watch and get a good view.
Outside courses were born and more people wanted to compare their horses. The horses are still judged on their jumping ability and smoothness of ride but they would have a hard time keeping up with hounds nowadays! Up into the60's, many show hunters also foxhunted.

denny
Dec. 1, 2009, 07:19 AM
I remember that there were hunter classes at the GMHA horse shows in So. Woodstock, Vt in the late 50s, but they were much more like the sorts of things you might actually find out hunting, like vertical 3 rail post and rails, stone walls with log riders on top, coops, that sort of thing.

My guess is that show hunters did come straight out of foxhunting, due to people`s competitive nature, as the last poster said, "My horse is a better jumper than your horse!"

Then, over the years, show hunters got further and further away from its historical roots, just as 3-day eventing now has very little to do with its cavalry roots.

It`s just a natural evolution for a sport to start out as an offshoot of something else, and then become its "own thing".

Madeline
Dec. 1, 2009, 07:40 AM
I remember that there were hunter classes at the GMHA horse shows in So. Woodstock, Vt in the late 50s, but they were much more like the sorts of things you might actually find out hunting, like vertical 3 rail post and rails, stone walls with log riders on top, coops, that sort of thing.



Older than that. And the split between the top show hunters and the field hunters was well underway almost from the beginning. Horses that were bold enough to perform well alone over decent sized fences were often a little "bold" to make nice actual hunters...

The photos in the album below are from late '30's. I'm particularly impressed by the size and solidity of that first wall. (Those are the kinds of fences, along with the old Devon bank, that ought to be part of hunter derbies, but imagine the outcry! No knockdowns, no filler... ) As I recall, the two grey horses (ridden by my mother and Mike Plumb's mother) did not hunt.

http://pets.webshots.com/album/105445237cuOjym

eventer80
Dec. 1, 2009, 07:44 AM
MANY MANY riding disciplines have gone this way. All start out to judge a horse's usefulness for one sport and evolve into the actual end product. Hunters, western pleasure, reining, and I will even lump modern dressage into that group. It's an evolution that that stems from the increased competition as each sport progresses.

KBEquine
Dec. 1, 2009, 08:17 AM
MANY MANY riding disciplines have gone this way. All start out to judge a horse's usefulness for one sport and evolve into the actual end product. Hunters, western pleasure, reining, and I will even lump modern dressage into that group. It's an evolution that that stems from the increased competition as each sport progresses.

I would respectfully edit the highlighted line to say it stems from the increased number of people who want to be competitive as each sport "progresses".

The lowest division in hunter shows as recently as the 1970s was a 3' division for horses. Then folks who really weren't mentally or physically ready to jump 3' wanted to show, and 2'6" divisions, then short & long stirrup, etc., etc., came into being. More participants, but the bar was quite literally set lower to accommodate them.

I otherwise agree completely with eventer80's analysis.

But to the original question:

From Chrystine Jones Hogan's book, "Courses for Hunters"


show ring hunter classes evolved from the nineteenth-century practice of fox hunt members gathering at a farm site to compare their mounts in informal competition . . .

lcw579
Dec. 1, 2009, 10:55 AM
Madeline, Thanks for those pictures! Very cool to see.

imnotclever
Dec. 1, 2009, 11:53 AM
Madeline - thank you so much for sharing those beautiful photos. What a treat!

toomanyponies
Dec. 1, 2009, 12:02 PM
Did anyone else notice the CROWD watching along the rail in the last photo? Thats what we need more of in this sport!

findeight
Dec. 1, 2009, 12:20 PM
Well, fox hunting is not available to many in our huge country. Neither are herds of cattle to chase for western buffs. That does not mean riders cannot enjoy mastering the same skills and same type of horse.

Fox hunting also has been guilty of being elitist in some areas. Not all, of course. But one does not simply hitch up and turn up. It has suffered a bit in it's perception of being associated with Country Club membership-and some Hunts are exactly that, CC membership or member invitation (with approval) only.

And don't forget many really were not interested in chasing dogs and killing something. But it is fun to go jump around without the timers.

Long as I can recall, from the 60's, show Hunters saw hounds and a fox about as often as most western horses saw a cow.

eventer80
Dec. 1, 2009, 12:21 PM
Good point about the number of people. Also, let me add that I am not saying it is positive or negative progress, just a progression.

War Admiral
Dec. 1, 2009, 04:24 PM
Long as I can recall, from the 60's, show Hunters saw hounds and a fox about as often as most western horses saw a cow.

Your instructors didn't make you cross-train, way back in the day? Mine sure did. We were made to do Pony Club level eventing, take 'em to a local meet on Junior or Pony Club Day (as applicable), etc.... Sure there were specialists at the high end that never did anything else, but the bulk of horses absolutely crosstrained, at least in New England at the time, and from what I've heard, fairly true in Virginia as well.

As to when the hunters started - I've got trophies, ribbons, posters & appointments inherited from a great aunt who was doing sidesaddle hunters at Myopia Hunt Club shows in 1932. So the whole idea of showing your field hunter has been around for quite a while.

MyGiantPony
Dec. 1, 2009, 04:35 PM
Your instructors didn't make you cross-train, way back in the day? Mine sure did. We were made to do Pony Club level eventing, take 'em to a local meet on Junior or Pony Club Day (as applicable), etc.... Sure there were specialists at the high end that never did anything else, but the bulk of horses absolutely crosstrained, at least in New England at the time, and from what I've heard, fairly true in Virginia as well.

As to when the hunters started - I've got trophies, ribbons, posters & appointments inherited from a great aunt who was doing sidesaddle hunters at Myopia Hunt Club shows in 1932. So the whole idea of showing your field hunter has been around for quite a while.

Yup - we didn't show in the winter - we hunted. Would have been in the 70's and 80's for me as a kid.

eventer80
Dec. 1, 2009, 04:43 PM
Well, fox hunting is not available to many in our huge country. Neither are herds of cattle to chase for western buffs.

Where I am from there are lots of both!!!


I agree that you should be able to show in the discpline you would like. I am not judging, I was just stating that most classes start out as an evaluation tool for other sports. That's all.

cssutton
Dec. 1, 2009, 10:48 PM
I started riding and hunting in 1941.

As a kid, I showed in a few local shows, but decided that was not for me so I rode mostly in our local show.

In those days and up through the end of the 1950's, most show grounds had an outside course.

Hunter classes were fairly simple: Working hunters, confirmation hunters, ladies, light weight and heavy weight, Corinthian, teams of three, etc.

There also was a green division and my memory is not clear on that but I believe that they were 3' classes, in the ring since the outside courses were much bigger. I don't think I ever heard of such a thing as a 2'6" class in those days.

Hell, the kids on ponies jumped 3'6" and higher.

To show in a hunter class, the horse was supposed to have an endorsement from a master to the effect that it had hunted with that club. Many confirmation horses went out three or four times, hunted in the second or third field and went home before they got a scratch on them.

Many of the working hunters were real field horses shown by local riders. In working hunters, a big knee or a wire scar or wind galls did not eliminate a horse.

The program always said "To be ridden at a pace suitable to follow hounds" which in every day language meant that if you did not ride that outside course with your coat tails straight out behind you, you were not going to get a ribbon. More like a timber horse school.

Stone walls, 4' snake or post and rails were ordinary.

But back to the question, it was common even then for show hunters that never really hunted, only just enough to say they had.

CSSJR

MDHorseGirl
Dec. 2, 2009, 01:52 AM
Thanks so much everyone! I am really learning a lot and I LOVED the old pics. I love looking at old pics to compare style and see what I can learn. :)

tBHj
Dec. 2, 2009, 03:13 AM
I'm not that old but I remember when classes were "under & over 15.2hh" :D

gasrgoose
Dec. 2, 2009, 09:12 AM
Since a couple mentioned "cross training", I thought I would share my "cross training story".

Growing up in a rural area in the early 80's, almost all the guys rode western. Actually, I was the only male "english" rider around. But I regularly showed at the local Saddle club horse show and happily competed against the girls and ladies. Of course I always wondered how I would do against the boys of arena racing and barrel racing (yes, boys barrel raced, though now it looks like only girls do it). So I entered my very "forward" Arabian/Thorobred cross in the barrel racing and arena race for 15 & under. And I won BOTH, but was not awarded ribbons or the $1.25 first place prize money, because it was deemed unsafe (after the fact) to race without a western saddle. Oh well. Later that day a couple of guys wanted a rematch, so we raced across a field 500 - 600 yards, just a dead sprint. And "Tat" left the others in the dust.

Needless to say at our next hunter show I couldn't slow him down to save my life. So that was our first and last chance at "racing".:D

Bogie
Dec. 2, 2009, 01:45 PM
I'm sure many of us still remember when hunter courses were "outside course" with jumps that today might look more like an eventing course.

I can remember taking a horse to a show in the North Salem area and discovering that one of the jumps on the course was a ditch. The only thing that got us over that one was that there were ground bees there . . . luckily the horse jumped over the ditch when he got stung. He could have gone the other way :lol:.

I still know people who foxhunt their show hunters. Heck, I know people who foxhunt their dressage horses. But that's increasingly rare. Many of the people who choose to ride "show ring" hunters are not as comfortable with the rough and tumble nature of hunting.

findeight
Dec. 2, 2009, 05:13 PM
Your instructors didn't make you cross-train, way back in the day?

Nope. There was no quality hunt seat instruction outside a private club within about a 2 hour drive where I grew up on the west coast so I rode Western. No foxhunting either. No Pony Club (I was too old anyway by the time I had my own horse). We had trails up and down steep hills on fire roads-and cows.

As an Adult, I lived almost 10 years in South Texas, same deal with more rocks...and more rattlesnakes.

That was my point, it is not available in all areas of this big and varied country. But show arenas are.