- Show hunter
The show hunter is a type of show horse in the that is judged on its movement, manners, and way of going, particularly while jumping fences. The horses are shown in
hunt seatstyle tack, and are often of Warmbloodor Thoroughbredtype. In the United States, show hunters are primarily exhibited over fences, with a few additional classes offered for horses shown in-hand or on the flat. In the United Kingdom, competition over fences is called "Working Hunter," and the term "Show Hunter" describes classes held on the flat.
Movement and frame
The show hunter has "long and low movement", meaning the horse should have a long, sweeping stride that covers maximum ground per minimum effort. There is not much flexion of the horse's joints as it moves; ideally the majority of the movement occurs from the horse's shoulder and hip. The action of the field hunter is efficient: the horse does not waste energy bending its legs any more than it has to. This relates back to the hunt field, where the horse had to work for several hours on end, often galloping, and inefficient movement would tire the horse more quickly.
The show hunter moves smoothly and freely, pointing its toes as it floats over the ground. It should not have excessive knee action, nor should its strides be short and choppy, both of which would make its movement less efficient. The horse should be forward, so it could jump if needed, but no faster than necessary.
The horse must always be in a balanced frame. This, too, relates back to the hunt field, where a horse had to be balanced in order to cope with the changing terrain, sometimes sudden change of direction, and surprising fences. The frame of the show hunter differs from that of
dressagehorses, eventers, and show jumpers, as it travels in a long and low frame, with its head moderately extended. Its frame is more "stretched out" than horses competing in dressage, eventing, or show jumping, but the horse should not be on its forehand. The riders of show hunters often ride on a slightly looser rein than seen elsewhere to facilitate this type of movement, and the horse carries its head just in front of the vertical.
Although the horse is in a long and low frame, it should still be able to collect its stride when asked. The horse must also be proficient at lengthening its
canterstride while still maintaining its tempo and rhythm.
The walk of the show hunter is free and ground-covering; the trot should be balanced and flowing. The canter should be moderately collected. The horse should have a long galloping stride (12 feet is the expected length), but it should still be balanced and rhythmic.
A good show hunter must possess an excellent jumping form. The forearm should be parallel or higher with the ground, and the knees and lower legs should be even. The horse should not be lazy with its lower legs, but should tuck them under its forearm as it clears the fence, clearly bending its fetlocks and knees. The horse should not throw its body or legs to one side, but should stay perfectly straight over the fence. A good show hunter should show a great "bascule", or roundness over a jump. This is often described as the horse taking the shape of a dolphin jumping out of the water, with the horse's back up, and its head reaching forward and down over the fence.
A show hunter often has better jumping form than many eventers and show jumpers, as the latter two disciplines do not judge on the jumping form of the horse, but only whether the horse can get over the obstacle.
A show hunter is not only judged on movement, but also on temperament and manners. Thus, the show hunter should always be relaxed and calm, yet attentive to its rider. It should be responsive to invisible signals and look relatively easy to ride.
Show hunters should be extremely well turned-out. Their coat should gleam with good care, and they carry a bit more weight than an event or racehorse. The horse is always bathed before the competition, with special attention paid to the white markings. The hooves are polished before the horse enters the show ring.
The horse's face is always trimmed, focusing on the whiskers around the muzzle, the hair of the ears, the bridle-path, and the horse's lower jaw. The legs are also trimmed, removing all fetlock hair and feathering, and trimming the pasterns and coronet. In the winter, show hunters are often given a full clip, removing all the body hair, to give them a neater appearance in the show ring. The mane is most often braided with yarn matching the color of the mane, into as many as 30-40 braids per horse, however it is usual that there is an odd number of plaits.
Tails should "not" be pulled at the dock, so that it may be braided, and the bottom of the tail should be left natural, not trimmed. The mane and forelock of the hunter should always be braided when competing at a recognized show. This is best left to a professional braider if the groom is not proficient. The tail may also be braided, from the top down to the end of the tail bone, with the rest of the tail left loose. This is most common at large horse shows or special events (such as year-end horse shows for which a horse/rider combination must qualify).
The course of fences a show hunter must jump is usually made up of 8-12 obstacles of natural type material. The fences are not brightly-colored as in
show jumping, instead they are mostly brown, green, white, beige, and other natural colors. They do not exceed 4'3" in height. The course may include verticals, oxers, gates, and fences with "natural" fillers, like brush or flowers. Open water jumps and liverpools, common obstacles in show jumping arena, are not used in a show hunter course. Although combination fences may be seen, they are usually only two elements, and have easier distances between them than those found in show jumping. Banks and ditches are not found on the show hunter course, nor are any major changes in terrain, and often the horses jump on level footing in an enclosed arena.
The distance between fences is usually a set number of strides, with each stride 12 feet in length. Unlike a show jumper, the show hunter does not need to go to extreme lengths to collect or extend its stride to meet the distances correctly. The horse must put a certain amount of strides between each set of fences if they are in a line. If the horse and rider don't do this, points will be taken off the overall score.
The show hunter should maintain a good pace throughout the course of fences, but keep an even rhythm, neither speeding up nor slowing down. The horse is judged on its smoothness around the course, its movement, jumping form, and whether it reaches each "spot", or the distance of takeoff in front of a jump, correctly. A poor spot would put the horse too close or too far back from the jump, so that it would either have to stretch and make a great effort over the fence, or have to jump more "up and down" rather than over the fence. A poor spot interrupts the rhythm of a course, and increases the likelihood that a horse will rub or drop a rail.
A good ride over fences will look easy, with the horse jumping from the correct takeoff spot, easily fitting the strides in between the jumps (as opposed to having to really stretch out or collect its stride), and cleanly making the
flying changes required. Refusals, knocked rails, or rubs over fences incur a severe drop (faults) in the rider's score.
The show hunter vs. the field hunter
Although the qualities of the show hunter are based on those of the
field hunter, the modern show horse is slightly different from its more rugged counterpart in the field. The field hunter must be tougher and more durable, with great stamina, to cope with the difficulties of a long day of hunting. The field hunter must also be extremely brave, as it often has to jump solid objects, and other natural obstacles such as stone walls, ditches, banks, and hedges, and must occasionally go through water. In some countries, fences may be made of barbed wire. Unlike the show hunter, the field hunter must travel over varied terrain. In some ways, a good field hunter is more closely related to a good eventer, rather than a show hunter, as the cross-country phase of eventing includes ditches, banks, water, brush, and varied terrain.
There are several types of "hunter", or
hunt seat, classes.
*Equitation: judge the rider's ability to communicate with the horse.
*Flat Classes: judge the horse's movement and manners on the flat. Jumping is not included.
*Over-fences classes: Judge the horse's movement, manners, way of going, and jumping form over a course of jumps.
*"Handy" classes: a class which combines elements of flat and over-fences classes, often with elements that are reminiscent of field hunting. For example; the rider may be asked to dismount and lead the horse over a small fence after completing a course.
*Pleasure classes: unlike the flat and over-fences classes, the horse's movement is not as important as its manners, temperament, and suitability for the rider.
*Conformation or Model classes: the horse is judged on conformation and movement, which should be suitable for that of a hunter. Unlike the above classes, a model class has no mounted exercises, and the horse is presented for judging without a saddle.
Classes may be further divided by the horse or rider's experience, the height of the horse or pony, and the age of the rider.
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XsUr7jM8WU A round of hunt seat equitation at the Washington International Horse Show]
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