I’ve been told by an eventing friend that hunter/jumper shows are a foreign world and leave her feeling very confused. It’s hard for me to see that since I’ve only been to hunter/jumper and open shows, but after reading some blogs lately about people feeling frustrated to some degree after attending a hunter/jumper show I thought I’d give my two cents. It may or may not be helpful, and I’m sure I’ve missed something so if my fellow hunter/jumper enthusiasts remember anything I left out please feel free to comment!
This advice is based off of a generic schooling or local show (aka not rated with USHJA/USEF) and from my experience. I’m sure some places run things differently, but my advice is based off of my showing experience in NC and TX and probably similar to what you’ll find in the rest of the US as well.
Schooling… the jumps?
Yes, at hunter shows you can school the jumps before you show. This is a large reason of why I find them awesome. Check your prizelist and schedule for schooling times, but usually the show will start around 8:00 – 9:00am and the ring will be open to schooling before hand. If you’re lucky, they may stop for lunch and have a schooling break as well then… but that’s not usual at the bigger/more popular shows.
Official schooling time is your only time to ride the lines and jumps that will be set for the show. It’s really helpful to have a trainer or buddy present, because people will be setting the jumps up and down to different heights. If you’re alone, you’re at the mercy of whatever they are set.
The schooling ring will be chaos – sorry. You can’t tell me that the schooling ring is ever chill at any horse show, so just call your lines clearly (if you want to jump the diagonal say “Diagonal!” as you canter up to it) and be mindful of those around you.
Outside of schooling times in the ring, you’re most likely going to be limited to a few single pole jumps in the warm up area.
What do I wear?
Yes, you can spend an almost limitless amount of money on hunter clothes but the following outfit will be quite alright at any local/schooling show I’ve ever been to:
- Approved helmet – Preferably black “modern” (aka GPA or CO or IRH look-a-like) but black velvet is still A-okay. Leave your bright blue schooling helmet at home though.
- Hair tucked up into your helmet in a hair net aka Hunter hair.
- White wrap collar (or traditional rat catcher) long sleeve show shirt. Do not wear a short sleeve show shirt. If it’s really hot out, you can also pass with a white polo shirt.
- Shirt tucked in with conservative belt.
- Jackets are optional at local/rated, but if you wear one it should be conservative like navy, black, or a dark charcoal.
- Black field boots (dress boots okay too) or black leather half chaps and paddock boots if you don’t have field boots.
Just don’t wear the following…
- No show bows
- No stock pins
- No pins on your jacket
- No white breeches in hunters (jumpers okay)
- Loud color (aka bright pink) show shirts are going to be frowned upon if you’re older than twelve.
What does my horse wear?
When in doubt, follow George Morris’ advice – clean and tidy. Your horse needs to be sparkling. Bathe him a few days before and give him a good curry. Oil his hooves before you go into the show ring, and run a comb through his mane and tail. If his mane is pulled short, don’t braid it unless your braids are stellar. A hunter judge prefers no braids to bad braids (ask me how I know).
For tack, use a white fitted pad. It doesn’t have to be expensive fleece, just clean and well fitted. Make sure his bridle is brown and also fitted to frame his face nicely – it doesn’t need to be a fancy stitch, but it needs to be clean. Also double check your bit is legal in the hunter ring, because Gags and ring bits aren’t allowed, etc.
Avoid breastplates in the hunter ring, and the only kind of martingale that is allowed is a standing. Don’t feel like you need one to fit in though – if your horse goes best without than leave it off.
Where the F@#$!@#$ is my ride time?
Yeah, you don’t get one. Fun times for you. Hunter shows last forever, and if you haven’t heard the phrase “hurry up and wait” before you’re about to get really accustomed to it.
The best thing do when it comes to figuring out when the hell you’re going to ride is to ask a lot of questions and remember these tips:
- Class numbers are almost irrelevant. Listen for division names and know the name of the divisions you’re competing in.
- Find out if you will hack before or after you jump. The ring steward will tell you.
- At any time, you can ask the ring steward “how many trips out” there are until blah division. Assume one trip is two minutes, so thirty trips out is roughly an hour away. Give 15 minutes for a hack and 15 for a course reset, 30 if they’re dragging the ring as well.
- Check in with the ring steward at least 30 minutes before your division if not earlier. You will want to get into a rotation – so you can ask to be at the beginning or the end of the division. The steward will put you in a group of 3-4 riders and that will be your rotation. That way you aren’t doing all your courses back to back or an hour apart. If you don’t check in, you’re probably getting screwed and will have no idea when you will go.
A Course of Course!
Expect to learn at least three courses (maybe more) whether you are showing hunters or jumpers. Usually the courses are posted at each ring, and often times the ring will use the same three courses all day for each division in that ring. What does this mean? It means you have ample time to learn them and can watch riders go before you and do the exact same course – even if they’re in a different division. Usually your warm up course is the same as one of your hunter courses, so that’s one less to remember!
What exactly is this warm-up class?
Yes, we get to school the jumps before and do a warm-up round. Another fabulous benefit of being a hunter! The warm-up class sometimes costs a bit more, and you can only enter it once per ring. It technically is judged, although I never worry about the judging in the warm-up. The judge will take all the warm-up courses from all day long and judge them together to pick a winner, who usually gets some cash. I don’t know why it works this way, but that’s how it works. Get the warm-up, you’ll thank me later.
Above all else…
Relax. I promise the hunter world is not filled with snobs who are out to get anyone from a different discipline that wants to come play for the day. There are bad apples in every bunch, but it has really been my experience that if you are nice and courteous and ask questions the show officials will do their best to help you. After all, you are supporting their show (aka earning them money) every time you come… and they want you to come back!
That being said, if you run around rolling your eyes at the dumb “hunter princesses” and telling everyone how much better things are at shows in your discipline – nobody is going to want a thing to do with you. It’d be the same thing if I went to a dressage show, had no idea what to do, and then blamed all the “dressage queens” for ruining my day.
If you have any questions or I forgot something, please leave a comment. There are plenty of people who read this blog who know way more about hunter/jumper showing than I do and can surely help!