Two equestrians in show jackets, breeches, and tall boots in front of a horse jump

What They're Looking For: Hunter Jumper Scoring Clarified

Posted by The Tried Equestrian on

Whether your show season is quickly approaching, or you’re new to the hunter/jumper world, it’s important to know exactly what you’re being scored on when you walk into the ring. Hunters, jumpers, and equitation are all judged so differently, and it can be tricky to remember exactly what each discipline is looking for.  Knowing what the judge wants to see is a crucial step to success in any ring!

Remember, making a good impression in the ring is important, so you need to look your best! A clean horse with polished hooves and sparkling tack, along with neat show attire that makes you feel confident will go a long way. From head to hoof, The Tried Equestrian has everything you need to make sure you’re looking your best, no matter what ring you’re competing in.  Here's a few clarifications so you can start that course with full confidence!


Horse rider jumping over a colorful fence

In general, the jumper ring is typically most focused on keeping all of the rails up, and going as fast as you can.  However, for lower heights, an optimum time may be the goal for safety reasons.  These are a few of the specific jumper classes you'll see out at a show:

Table II, Section 1:

This is typically referred to as a speed round. In a speed round, there is only one course, and the fastest clear wins; no jump-off or separate portion of the course to determine final placings.  If there are no clear rounds, the rider with the fastest time and least amount of faults wins!

Table II, Section 2a:

This format is often what you see used for Grand Prixs and higher-level classics. In this format, there is a time allowed and if it is surpassed, the rider accumulates faults for each second they go over the allotted time. The rider can also earn 4 faults for each rail down.  Any riders that complete the first course with no faults at all move on to the jump off!  In this format, the jump-off takes place after the all of the entrants have completed their first course.

Table II, Section 2b:

This type of class follows the same rules as above for faults, but if you’re clear in the first round, you stop, wait in the ring for the buzzer to sound again, and then you move straight into your jump off!  You better have those courses memorized!

 Table II, Section 2c:

This is commonly referred to as a power and speed class. There are two phases, with the first half of the course being the power portion, and the second half being the speed portion.  In this format, if you knock a rail in the first half of the course, you will be buzzed out. Alternatively, if you are clear through the first half, you continue on to the second half immediately, don’t stop! The second half is scored like a jump-off, the pair who is clear and fastest in the speed portion of the course is the winner!

Table II, Section 2d:

This format is almost identical to the power and speed class, with the difference being that you complete both phases no matter what. Even if you have a rail or two in the first half, continue on to the second!


Hunter horse in a show with rider in a shadbelly and breeches

The hunter ring is based on traditional foxhunting, so the horses are scored based on their attributes that do or do not conform to those of traditional foxhunting horses. There is a solid focus on tradition, however trends can change or modernize in the hunter ring.  A few key aspects to look for in hunters are a relaxed demeanor, good jumping style, and desirable movement. The jumps are natural looking, using logs, brush, and flowers to represent common obstacles you might encounter on the field.  There are different kinds of hunter classes including derbies and classics which may have more difficult features to show off the horse's handiness or adaptability to new situations. A hunter round is scored out of 100, with points added for high option fences, and points deducted for mistakes such as knocked rails, stops, missed lead changes, and imperfect distances.  At least one judge, if not 2 or more, are closely watching the courses to decide on the final score.  The points are largely subjective, but impressing the judges can add to the fun!


Equitation rider jumping horse in show

Equitation classes are also very subjective, but in this case the judge is focusing more on the rider than the horse. The goal in an equitation round is for the rider to give the horse the most beneficial and technically "correct" ride possible. Judges pay attention to the smallest details in the equitation ring, and points will be deducted for things like a loose lower leg, busy hands, looking down, slouching shoulders, and incorrect seat style.  Equitation is partially meant to prepare riders for the jumper ring, where everything comes up fast.  Because of this, equitation courses can incorporate tighter turns, combinations, trot jumps, and more to add technicality.  Like hunters, there are other versions of equitation classes called medals which are usually more difficult.  These are also scored out of 100, and high placings in medals can earn a rider points which can qualify them for medal finals!  These are large gatherings of the best equitation riders in the country, all facing off in an extra challenging set of courses.  The Maclay Finals is a massive, national medal final and a crowning achievement for many junior riders!


Showing can be incredibly stressful, so knowing your way around the ring you’re competing in will help you feel confident in your abilities and hopefully keep the pesky show nerves at bay. Keep in mind, all of these types of riding can be explored at one time!  Riders are allowed to compete in all 3 rings at shows, and this can provide some great variety and versatility for your horse!  Now that you know all of the technical rules, heres the most important one...

Do what makes you and your horse happy!! 

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