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George Morris view of Modern Hunter Class

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  • George Morris view of Modern Hunter Class

    Hello, All,

    I'm new to the forum so I apologize if this has been discussed in another thread.

    During the George Morris HorseMastery Clinic last week, he made a comment to the effect that the Hunter class used to be an important foundation for the jumpers, and then he went on to emphasize the fact that it used to be. The implication is that it isn't anymore.

    Has anybody heard or read what he thinks of the modern hunter classes? I would really be interested to hear what his criticisms are as I am confident that they are well founded.


  • #2
    I've left the hunter ring years ago so I'm not up to date on recent fads but at shows I've noticed the average hunter is way too dead quiet, very flat jumping style, and judging is way too biased. I also find hunter ring has a course that does not challenge the rider and horse enough, almost every line is straight, wide corners, and almost the exact same jump for the whole course.

    I left Hunters because all of my horses are either OTTBs or OTSTBs and I was at a show and had a clean round and got placed beneath another rider who had a rail down. I asked the judge (I wanted honest feedback on what I needed to work on) and she told me that she will never place a Standardbred with "ugly white brands and dots" over another breed. My OTTBs may put in a little hop or show some personality and we get marked down for it so I am not a huge glutton for punishment so I changed classes.


    • #3
      There didn't used to be jumper classes at rated shows under 4ft. If you wanted to bring a young horse along you did local shows, then you did the hinyer ring for a year or so, then you moved up to the jumper ring.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks, Trotters. I've seen and been part of a little bit of this, particularly in the non-rated schooling shows. My horse is a very big, very black horse (almost 18 hands) but is very fluid and light on his feet. When we compete against smaller horses, some judges will always drop us down. That said, I just mark it up to one of those things I can't help, make a note of the judge and switch classes, rings, divisions, whatever.

        I know that the USHJA has made a push lately to get judges to acknowledge spirited horses so there is less dead-calm hunters. I'm hoping this catches on, but someone pointed out to me that a significant number of hunter riders don't want a spirited horse because then they would be more difficult to ride. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but we'll see.

        Anyway, I figured George Morris would have a perspective from all levels, so I'm wondering if his views are the result of things like what you've seen, or the tendency to reward dead-calm riding, or something totally different.


        • #5
          In as few words as possible.....He does not think much of the modern hunter but holds some hope that hunter derbies will bring back the old hunter style. One could probably google some of his thoughts on this as I have seen several printed things on his opinion and reasons. They are very valid.


          • Original Poster

            I tried googling it with no luck ... if anyone has links to articles where he has voiced his opinion, please post.


            • #7
              I'm not going to hold my breath that hunter derbies will bring back the old hunter style, particularly now that show producers are now holding and promoting 2'6" "hunter derbies." The hunter derby concept was intended to be the equivalent of a Grand Prix. Now that concept has been bastardized by the horse show organizers and instead of helping hunters they are driving it deeper into the abyss of mediocrity.


              • #8
                He also really likes the hunter courses that encourage galloping and a forward horse. One of the big changes is the related distances. I believe it has been commented on by him that he likes to see unrelated distances and riders riding off their eye rather than counting.


                • #9
                  This one thing I found of George's thoughts on the hunter derbies, before they were dumbed down.

                  One of the original supporters of high performance hunter classes, Morris is passionate about the evolving hunter derby program. Having hunter derbies allows the discipline to be in touch with its roots as it encourages riders to pick up a gallop and navigate an open field of natural, solid obstacles resembling those once found in fox hunting fields. As one of the Franktown Meadows Hunter Derby judges, Morris will be looking for the horse that best portrays the ideal hunter; a forward moving horse that moves well, jumps well, and wears a good expression around the course.”


                  • #10
                    Not finding much so I must be asking the wrong way. I know I have seen print and probably an interview maybe. He was pretty blunt in that he thinks todays hunters are hothouse plants and that a real hunter needs to go with more pace, be bolder and that courses need to be more complicated and not use such perscribed distances. He seemed to have some thoughts on how jumps are now built in that they are not natural enough and are shaped in such a rounded way that does not ask varied questions of the hunter. He thinks they are too ded and expressionless. Please do not for a minute think I am talking for "The George" but these are the things I seem to remember and I hope I am presenting them as he intended. I think there may be some of his comments in regard to hunter derbies as he was active in this and I think was pretty excited that this would turn the hunters around.


                    • #11
                      I have to say, I am very excited for the recent "calling out" of the hunter industry. I have heard several influential horseman, including George, speak against the faults of the en vogue hunter circuit. I have a lot of hope for the future and the return of the true hunter horse.


                      • #12
                        Here's a link to a thread in which people discussed a COTH article by GM which is on the topic you are looking for. The thread contains a link to the issue; the article begins on p. 37. Enjoy.

                        I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne


                        • #13
                          Thank you Dewey


                          • #14
                            I was at one of his clinics this fall and he was decidedly not complimentary towards the modern hunters and hunter riders. I forget what he said specifically, but it was definitely my impression that he felt we'd lost our way.


                            • #15
                              Back in the day even hunters started at 3'6"!


                              • #16
                                There is an article ( in the Chronicle?) from about a year and a half ago in which GM states his opinion of the derbys and the high performance hunter divisions.

                                Initially, he was very excited about both programs but was disappointed with the way they actually devolved from showcasing the best of the best to including many options at lower levels.


                                • #17
                                  What is the problem with the lower levels if it gets more people out to the shows to learn what hunters theoretically should be? (at leat in GM's mind)

                                  Is he afraid that by having many options at lower levels that people will not aspire to move up? If that is the case, I hope he realizes that not everyone has the money , or wants to spend the money on a 3'6" or 4' hunter that will be successful at those types of shows.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                                    What is the problem with the lower levels if it gets more people out to the shows to learn what hunters theoretically should be? (at leat in GM's mind)

                                    Is he afraid that by having many options at lower levels that people will not aspire to move up? If that is the case, I hope he realizes that not everyone has the money , or wants to spend the money on a 3'6" or 4' hunter that will be successful at those types of shows.
                                    I was wondering the same thing ... Wouldn't it be a good thing for amateurs and those that aren't the "best of the best" to have an opportunity to show in a class with a more varied course, that rewards bolder riding and a horse that doesn't look like it's falling asleep over the fences? Maybe these same riders would eventually move up to compete in the "real" hunter derbies...

                                    I don't show in hunters so I have no personal experience with lower level hunter derbies ... Is the problem that they end up with a course that is too straightforward and the judges reward sleepy, dead quiet horses just like in the regular hunter classes?


                                    • #19
                                      I'm guessing that the reason for not offering very low might be because not so very long ago hunters for adults was over 3' and it didn't take even casual riders years to get there. Most riders went from starting lessons to jumping 3' within 2 years. Now many riders seem to ride for 5+ years and now get out of what used to be children's crossrail heights.

                                      And that's definitely *not* a slam on today's riders at all. It's more of a tweak to the judging and training circle of keeping riders from advancing. Trainers aren't training, instructors aren't instructing and all because the judges pin the dead-head horses. It's actually easier money to keep pinning zombie horses with riders over small heights...no need to train past the basics, dead look comes through the pharmacy, teach rider to count strides, collect income. Tons more people at lower beginner heights, brings more people in and more money in. Might be more money as the heights go up, but takes more time, horse can't be too dead at 4' and fewer people with that kind of income. So keep them low and keep volume income. Trainers make a buttload more for a buttload less work on a low hunter/beginner rider.

                                      They're keeping so many people from progressing...I'd be pissed. It's not rocket surgery to move up in height. And if the folks don't show every single weekend and all winter long...the horses don't wear out so fast and that drops their prices by a bit. And if the animal doesn't have to look like someone exhumed it for the class, there's a LOT more higher level horses out there than the people making money off of them want you to know about. For heavens sake, so many try to convince riders that 3'-3'6" is epic in effort and cost and 4' is Holy Grail worthy and that's simply not the case. They SHOULD be encouraging and moving everyone up, calming nerves in some and more people would realize it's actually easier to jump a 3'6" course than they ever thought. (distances are easier when the horse isn't stepping over the jumps too)

                                      And frankly I simply can't believe that the massive amoung of riders that stick to 2'6" and below are there because they lack the ability to go any higher. Of COURSE you can. If you can jump 2'6" then you can jump 3'...and so on. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Don't let them tell you that a mere 6" is HUGE.

                                      Another issue is that trainers incapable of moving the riders up in heights keep their students and don't move them on to those who can move them up to the next level. It's not supposed to be the norm to stay with one person forever.

                                      I think it's sad that so many people think they can't move up. That it's too costly or too hard. The judging and the training system in this country has screwed over too many riders in hunters.
                                      You jump in the saddle,
                                      Hold onto the bridle!
                                      Jump in the line!


                                      • #20
                                        Misty blue I agree 100%. I think the hunter derbies will be no more to hunters than ranch classes are for AQHA pleasure horse classes.
                                        Hillary Rodham Clinton - the peoples choice for president.