During working hunter classes competitors tackle a round of jumps and are then put through their paces on the flat, making it an all-round test of a horse’s performance. But how do you ensure working hunter success? The season is just around the corner, so here we look at some top tips to help you in the ring:
- Practise the jumping at home
Practising the jumping at home and getting your horse used to rustic fences is vital. Even cross-country fences will help your horse become more accustom to what he might meet in the ring. The most important thing is black water trays — as even novice classes are likely to have one. If you don’t have one you could improvise using a wooden board painted black or covered with black plastic bags. When jumping be sure to ride it like a normal fence and if you have problems get off and lead your horse over it. Other unusual fences include narrow fences, a pen where you have to jump in and jump out and, occasionally, a bullfinch.
- Ensure a smooth, forward round
Judges like to see a good hunting pace, so try not to interrupt the rhythm to pull your horse up and change leg. Instead, ask for a flying chance and try to remain balaced.
- Retain a good jumping
You want to show the judge that your horse is bold, athletic and careful. It is almost better to have one rail down than to clip every fence. It’s important to remember that your conformation is also judged, so keep this in mind.
- Make sure your horse is used to others riding him
Keep in mind that a stranger could ride your horse, so if you’re the only one who rides him ask a friend to try him out. The horse should go as well for you as he does the judge.
- Ensure your horse is obedient
The judge will be looking for a well-mannered horse that is obedient and listens to your aids.
- Check your stirrups
Remember to ensure that there are enough holes in your stirrup leathers to accommodate a smaller or taller judge and check that your irons are wide enough to safely fit a judge with bigger feet.
- Help the judge out
As the ride judge approaches, pull your horse forward a few strides out of line to allow them space for a leg-up.
- Keep your tack simple
Less is more. If the judge sees you using a gag in the ring, they’ll wonder what you would need to stop your horse while out hunting.
- Ensure your horse can gallop
The judge will be looking for a forward, yet controllable gallop. Practise this at home.
- Practise your extended canter
At the lower levels, you don’t need to do a flat-out gallop, an extended canter is enough. With novices it’s best not to over-practise this as they will anticipate and want to take off.
- Enjoy it!
Ultimately, judges like to see a horse that’s enjoying itself, so remember to have fun!
Why not look for a hunter trial near you? Equo events has a range of events available to enter quickly and easily at www.equoevents.co.uk