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Conformation of the Show Hunter

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  • Conformation of the Show Hunter

    I'm interested to know what aspects of a horse's conformation are most important in a show hunter successful at 3'6 to 4'. Which traits are essential if a horse is to have good hunter movement and jumping style? If you are looking at a young prospect, what is most important to you?

  • #2
    Good angles and length in hip and shoulder indicate the ability to produce enough step for the 13'+ lines and the ability to create good jumping form. Good preferably thin neck with trim throatlatch, not tied in too low and sufficient length to balance-actually that is created by proper shoulder angle and length. But usually easier to see at a younger age.

    Clean legs, straight with little deviation from that plumb bob dropped down the center from top to bottom.

    When moving, it needs to track up well under-again, function of proper hip and shoulder length and angles but easier to see.

    Overall balance and, if you are buying a show horse, it should look like a show horse-meaning a good clear and bright color with attractive markings. Doesn't matter what color or what markings as long as they are symmetrcal and attractive.

    Of course, you can have all this and a crappy attitude and that is what you cannot predict. So seeking known, good parents who are good movers, jumpers who stayed sound and accepted the training is a key to predicting future sucess in a youngster.

    One other thing...get a second opinion from somebody who has a track record picking and developing Hunters and who can prove it with show ring results. Many, many times buyers get mislead, accidentally through ignorance or on pupose by those just wanting to move the horse or snag a commission. Also by people with little knowledge who don't know what theyare talking about because they have never been anywhere near a real, bona fide 3'6" to 4' Hunter.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


    • #3
      I think when you think of conformation in a hunter it is pretty much the same as it is in any horse. You want a solid foundation, a horse that is balanced top to bottom, and front to back.

      Balance or symmetry are going to give you a number of things; better general, athletic ability, soundness, longevity, movement, and important to a certain degree in the hunters a horse that is more pleasing to the eye.

      There are however certain things you can look for that may help you determine if a horse will have the form you are looking for in the hunters.

      I think generally in a hunter you are looking for a level top line. Generally level from the top of their butt to their withers and a neck that almost follows that same line, as opposed to a jumper who you may desire a more uphill build and a higher neck set.

      The shoulder is very important, it should be well sloped which will help determine whether the horse is going to be a fluid mover or a choppy mover. This may not determine if a horse is going to be a good mover, but it will ensure better movement than a horse with a straight shoulder, provide a better ride, and allows the rider to look more in synch with the horse, which is a big part of the hunter divisions.

      I also need to enter this caveat about movement, there is always lots of talk about daisy clippers, and this being the preferred hunter movement, which to some degree is true, but it is also true that the very conformation that makes Daisy clippers move the way they do can also tend to limit their ability to achieve the form you want over a fence for a hunter. Daisy clippers tend not to be able to get their knees vertical, as a result of their conformation.

      I like a long humerus bone in any horse that jumps, but in a jumper form does not matter so much as long as they can get up and over, but form is everything in a hunter, and a long humerus is going to allow them to tuck better than a horse with a short one.

      At 3'6" - 4' I am not as concerned about the engine in the hind end. They still have to have correct conformation, but I do not think you need a ton of power at that height. Sometimes it is desirable for them to be limited to 4'6" or so, in that they have to try a little harder than a horse that can jump 6' and tend to be more careful as a result, and learn the most efficient way to jump (think of all the ponies that have excellent form over fences).

      A horse with these basics will tend to jump to themselves instead of jumping above themselves with their front end. The bascule tends to come as a result of the horse learning the best most efficient way to jump, frequently given their limitations, and with proper training.

      Perhaps in a young hunter prospect the thing I would look for first is a great attitude, a horse that is going to be a good student. The general conformation has to be there and they have to say to me I am going to jump like a hunter based on their build, but in the end success in the hunter division is about overall style, that seamless, effortless round, and frequently the factors that portray that picture have a lot to do with getting a horse to the point where they are touch button.

      My father had a lot of great hunters in the past, and without a lie, you could touch them on the neck with a finger over a fence for the lead, get the pace you wanted by saying gallop, canter, or lope etc. and part of the reason was he chose horses that possessed great minds for the hunters as prospects, and simple developed that in them over time.


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Hauwse View Post
        I also need to enter this caveat about movement, there is always lots of talk about daisy clippers, and this being the preferred hunter movement, which to some degree is true, but it is also true that the very conformation that makes Daisy clippers move the way they do can also tend to limit their ability to achieve the form you want over a fence for a hunter. Daisy clippers tend not to be able to get their knees vertical, as a result of their conformation.
        Thank you for the great response.

        What is it about a daisy clipper's conformation that gives them that movement yet limits their jumping form?


        • #5
          I've always heard the term "daisy cutter" but generally they don't bend the knee much and "sweep" across the ground. Some of them like to do the same thing at a fence....they jump across the jump rather than around the jump with a great bascule. The ultimate is a sweepy mover with a good bascule with a dropped nose in the air.