I have been riding horses for nearly fifteen years now, and my riding career has been almost exclusively in the hunter ring. Although I am hoping to start competing in the jumpers at some point, the hunter ring will always be my true love I think. I am captivated by great hunter rounds, and I love riding them myself. I love the attention to detail that I must have. I love the gracefulness and flow that the great horses have. I do not love, however, the fact that people are really down on this particular jumping discipline. They say it is “boring,” or “unfair.” These people simply do not understand it.
Here are a few of the common misconceptions I would like to clear up. 😉
It is easy. I was told by a dressage rider once that hunter riders don’t make their horses work, that at least jumpers get their horses in a frame and in front of their leg. I should have told this person, “I’d like to see you jump an entire course without changing pace or missing a distance, while mesmerizing your audience.” It actually takes a lot of work to get a horse to jump a course (especially a higher course) on a calm, steady, rhythmic pace. We also cannot use all of the contraptions that dressage riders, eventers, and jumpers can use. Why do you think calming drugs are such a huge problem in the hunter ring? It is because really good hunter horses are difficult to create. However, not impossible. It takes so much talent and athleticism for a horse to be able to make a 3’6″ plus course look so effortless. The same can be said for riders also! We have to be very soft, yet very effective. We also must remain extremely calm and collected throughout a course. It takes a lot of athleticism on the rider’s part as well!
Hunter riders aren’t tough. Hunter riders are often considered the wimps of the jumping disciplines (I’m serious!). But newsflash, many of the top hunter riders also compete (or have at one point competed) in the grand prix ring! And for that matter, hunter jumps do get pretty high, and can even more spooky stuff on them than grand prix jumps. I have jumped hay bails, logs, and jumps with the brush from what seems to be an entire tree!
Hunter horses must be dead quiet. This is simply untrue. Many 3’6″ and up hunters are hot. Every hunter I have had has been a little hot. I actually prefer a hotter horse in the hunter ring. Once they figure out what you want from them, they are awesome. They can canter around the course calmly, but if you jump into a line deep you can tap into their hotness to get out.
Hunter horses must move well. This is only important if you want to win every flat class. Hunter horses need to have a nice look about them, and they must carry themselves well. But a fancy, floating trot is not absolutely necessary (although it never hurts!). If a horse can carry itself long and low, and jump cute it can go in the hunter ring.
It is only for expensive horses. My horse that I won a lot on was far less expensive than the horses we competed against. He had a nice look, and jumped well though. When I rode well and showed off his talent, we won. We beat horses that I am sure cost four times as much as he did. You simply can’t think about what everyone else is doing or spending. Just ride your horse. If you can exhibit your horse’s talent well, winning is absolutely possible in the hunter ring – at any show. There are plenty of talented horses out there with smaller price tags!
It is unfair. Many people do not understand what it takes to win in the hunter ring. Sure the smaller shows can have poor judging and be “unfair” at times. I have found, though, that at large ‘A’ shows the judging is pretty on point. But here’s the thing: we are judged on everything!!! Hunter riders could get docked points for having a hair loose from their hair net if that is what it comes down to in deciding the winning round.
It is boring. The people that say this, simply do not understand it. They also have never watched a hunter derby, or the 4′ performance hunter classes. Like I said, hunter jumps are often even spookier than jumper jumps with all of the brush, flowers, and things that are put on them. Also, when you think about everything that the horse and rider is being judged on it can be quite exciting to watch!
Well there you have it. Just a few common misconceptions cleared up! Don’t get me wrong, I am not against other jumping disciplines by any means. I love watching the jumpers, and plan to explore that ring myself someday! I just will always defend my first love, and would love to see more people interested in Hunterland!