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How to choose a horse to succeed in the Hunter Ring

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  • How to choose a horse to succeed in the Hunter Ring

    Hey everyone! I need some advice on choosing a horse that would allow a 15 y/o jr/amature to be successful in the Hunter Ring. She is a 4-H member in my club and I've been helping since convincing her to switch to English a year ago. The biggest problem is that I'm a dressage person and not at all familiar with the Hunter world.
    She is in the process of selling her 15 Hh quarter horse and is starting to look for something more suited to the hunter ring.

    The rider's goals are to be successful in the hunter ring and over fences classes and she wants to do well at the state level. The PA state 4-H horse show is quite competitive. They have divided the classes this year between "stock type" hunters (QH hunters) and "traditional type" hunters.

    She also wants to show in the local hunter shows and do well and possibly start playing around with some dressage. Her main focus is hunters though.

    So, I have some questions. Some are extremly practical while others are more towards the "political" side of the Hunter world.

    1)I am looking for horses with "flatter" movement than a dressage horse (less up and more out?)(please no one take offense by my descriptive terms!). Is this correct? Do judges want to see a horse that moves foward, nose slightly in front of the verticle on a slightly loose rein? Or on the verticle, medium contact?

    2)How crucial are the level knees when jumping? If we find a prospect that is mostly level will gymnastic work help to teach the "snappy knee?"

    Now for some political questions....

    3)Colour? How crucial is it? I found a cute prospect that is a palomino, would this be too much of a distraction or will judges accept the horse as long as the performance is there?

    4)Chrome? Minimal? A blaze? Lots of socks? I've heard that the classic hunter is bay with no white. True or rumor?

    5)Thoroughbred? Warmblood? What is the ideal size? (rider is quite tall, so a taller horse would suit her well).

    Thank you to everyone for your help!

  • #2
    This is a very successful hunter stallion. He doesn't have the flattest movement that some people want, but you can at least get an idea of frame and way of going.

    I love chrome on hunters. I think it helps them stand out. Most are grey, black, bay, or chestnut, but I don't think palomino would be a huge issue if the horse is nice otherwise.

    Jumping style is very important. Probably more so than movement, since there are several o/f classes and only one hack. You want jumping style with a round bascule and high knees. Another example...

    Warmblood is probably ideal, but lots of thoroughbreds do well too.

    Most of this depends completely on the price range you're in though. I don't know your area or the competitiveness of your local hunters, but you can take a lot of liberties with quality in some places and have a nice, consistent round and still win.


    • #3
      Read Anna White-Mullen's book judging hunters and hunter seat equitation. It will explain perfectly with pictures and detailed explanations. Fantastic tool.

      ETA: this horse is closer to my idea of the perfect hunter (note how he jumps that oxer on the diagonal away from home....<3)
      Last edited by Beau Cheval; Dec. 29, 2009, 08:09 PM.
      "If we we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane, if we weren't all crazy we'd all go insane." ~Jimmy Buffet
      "Pursuing the life of my high-riding heroes I burned up my childhood days..."-Willie Nelson


      • Original Poster

        Thank you Tegan! The video was great


        • #5
          For what your are describing, the horse needs to have pleasant, willing expression, and look smooth and and happy between the jumps. As such, you dont want a mover so bad (up and down and choppy) that it is distracting, but you do want want a soft, stridey way of going with a big enough stride so that the rider can comfortably do the right number of strides between the jump - dont worry if it is a bit dressagey. Next you must have perfect flying changes. Finally the horse must jump correctly with its knees - look for forearms horizontal or higher at the apex of the jump and folded below. A round bascule is nice but probably unnecessary and unaffordable for what you want. A nice horse is a nice horse regardless of color, breed, or chrome or lack therof. Finally, make sure the horse is size appropriate - you dont want her looking like she is riding a pony.
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          • #6
            I agree with the video posted by Beau Cheval.... This is what I would expect a Jr/Am to be riding. Don't care too much for John French's stallion. A bit cresty for me and would like more fluid motion... (IMHO) however; breed that horse to a nice TB mare and you would have a winner......

            I think your description is pretty close to what they look for in the Hunter ring. The horses are quite fancy, elegant... In our part of the world Palominos are not what sells here. Appys and colored horses are not what you find doing well in the Hunter arenas as well. (thats here anyway)

            I competed in both A - Equitation and Hunters 20 years ago on an Appy and there were shows we did great and then shows where we weren't even looked at. (This was a beautiful moving App - BTW). It can be political out there.

            I now ride a Bay and he cleans up in the Hunters. He also does Dressage quite well too. So don't rule out a Dressage horse. This particular horse is 1/2 TB and 1/2 Oldenburg.. A very nice mixture. I have had many complements on him and I am asked his breeding all the time.

            But the most important factor is they need to click....... Good luck and have fun shopping.....
            Live in the sunshine.
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            • #7
              I would suggest that you not get outside of your target destination to begin with. If you are looking for a nice junior hunter that will not be hitting the big A/AA shows the criteria is significantly different than a horse destined for Hunter Derbies.

              Breed has nothing to do with it except perhaps to the person sitting on the horse. Good natural ability, a good training, development program, for horse and rider, excellent horsemanship are what make top horses, not breed.

              Color in my opinion is over-rated. The hunter divisions is all about presentation, a dark bay in proper weight for the hunters, well groomed, and dappled, mane and tail braided, tack cleaned, etc. looks no worse or no better than a chestnut with a blaze and 4 white socks. I love a dark horse, does the judge???

              Size in itself is not important, if you find a 15.3HH horse the rider looks balanced on you are no worse off than if the horse is 16.2HH and the rider looks balanced in the saddle.

              Stick to the basics of horse evaluation, conformation, movement, balance, attitude, intelligence, etc.

              Hunters should have decent movement at least, but they do not need to be daisy clippers. As one poster stated, the flat classes are out numbered by the classes over fences, so movement should be factored in at the same ratio, given it does not impact the jumping part.

              Hunters need to be square and tight, and at least vertical with their knees. They do not however have to be as round as a ball over a fence, nor do they have to have their knees up to their eye-balls.

              Perhaps most important in the Hunter division is the style in which a horse goes. A mediocre hunter that can express effortlessness over an entire course will win it's fair share in the ring.

              When you consider Hunters you are looking for drama free. I have been exposed to lots of nice movers and jumpers that are just not great hunter ring material simply because they need to be ridden to death to put in a smooth round. Always remember the origin of the discipline.


              • #8
                Here is my daughter on her hunter horse in an A show but a lesser A show. This is a modified round - I have other video of him doing jumpers and eq. We got him a little green and he did not have auto leads, halts, and he rushed every fence. This video is after a year and a half of owning him and now (he has a new mom now)...

                The ultimate horse mom



                • #9

                  Wow! What a beautiful round. Beautiful horse, beautiful riding.


                  • #10
                    I think everyone here has given good responses, but I thought I'd address your questions a bit more directly...

                    1)I am looking for horses with "flatter" movement than a dressage horse (less up and more out?)(please no one take offense by my descriptive terms!). Is this correct? Do judges want to see a horse that moves foward, nose slightly in front of the verticle on a slightly loose rein? Or on the verticle, medium contact?
                    -- The traditional hunter movement is the "flatter" movement that you described: the forward movement with the nose "poking out" a little bit on a loose rein. That said, I don't think it will matter too much at this point, and jumping form is more important besides.

                    2)How crucial are the level knees when jumping? If we find a prospect that is mostly level will gymnastic work help to teach the "snappy knee?"
                    -- You really do want level knees, particularly if you are eventually going to be moving her to decent heights (read: junior hunters at 3'6"). And good jumping form plays a large role in what will get a horse pinned in good company. But, yes, if you are looking at prospects, gymnastics can go a long way. Also, as they mature more, they tend to figure out where their feet are.

                    3)Colour? How crucial is it? I found a cute prospect that is a palomino, would this be too much of a distraction or will judges accept the horse as long as the performance is there?
                    -- It depends on the circuit. Where I am, you need a bay, black, chestnut, or gray (unless you are on a pony). So, in my area, I would say no to the palomino (particularly if it is built more like a stock-type). Still, I would try to get a feel of what the opinion is like in your area and in the divisions you will be playing in. I suspect that there may be less of such a bias in 4H shows and areas where such shows are more prominent than competitive H/J circuits.

                    4)Chrome? Minimal? A blaze? Lots of socks? I've heard that the classic hunter is bay with no white. True or rumor?
                    -- True, but I love chrome anyway. I don't think it matters unless you have a horse that has so much white it starts looking like a paint.

                    5)Thoroughbred? Warmblood? What is the ideal size? (rider is quite tall, so a taller horse would suit her well).
                    -- Warmbloods are "in", but I would find something that matches her. If she has longer legs and a smaller torso, the thicker Warmblood type could take up more of her leg and make the picture look a little more pleasing. The converse is also true: if she has a long torso and shorter legs, a more thinly-built Thoroughbred will do the trick. Most of all, though, look for temperament, temperament, temperament. Color, breed, and even height, are secondary traits in my mind to a horse that has a sane mind and forgiving nature, particularly if this rider is new to the hunter scene.

                    Good luck horse shopping!


                    • #11

                      Wow! What a beautiful round. Beautiful horse, beautiful riding.

                      Thanks and I do think he has those qualities that make him a good choice for a junior - uncomplicated, easy to ride, happy with his job, good form over fences, and a handsome horse with a nice neck as well. He is Hanoverian but I am sure you could find other warmbloods or even Thoroughbreds with that same "look" and way of going if you are willing to shop for a while.
                      The ultimate horse mom



                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you everyone for your advice! I think we'll be able to do a lot off of this info.

                        Wish us luck!


                        • #13
                          Like Hauwse said, you really need to know what works for the level you are showing at. There's no need to spend $$$ for something that will clean up at the As when all you're going to do is locals.

                          For lower levels, I would look for way of going, jump, movement in that order.

                          Way of going (even, slow, powerful, ground-covering canter, nice expression/good attitude) is probably going to be more important than perfect jumping form. For example, the second horse posted jumps over himself a few times in that course (usually from a tight distance), but has a lovely way of going. Top competition wouldn't reward that, but with lesser competition he's still going to do well.

                          A decent jump (knees at least level and square, same jump every time) is going to be the next most important. Horses that hang legs, twist or lay on their side should be avoided unless it's ride error (bad distances, leaning) in which case it can still be more trouble than it's worth...especially for someone still learning about jumping. The pressure to have to ride perfectly so you don't screw up jumping form is not fun to deal with. Jumping over the front end can be fixed if it's rider error, but some horses just can't get the shoulder up (or don't want to) so again can be more heartache than necessary.

                          As for movement, a good canter is more important than a good trot. I know we tend to focus on the trot, but you jump from a canter and the hack is only one class. However, a good trot is a bonus and it's fun to go into a hack knowing you have a shot at a ribbon.

                          Find all that in a pretty package and you're golden. Find it in a okay looking package and your still in the precious metal category. Find in a not so great looking package (to an extent) and snatch the horse up right quick for cheap becaue you'll be getting a good horse at a deal and a lot of judges will overlook pretty (at that level) for a solid character.
                          Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
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