What You Need to Know about Showing Hunters

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You have the opportunity to showcase all the hard work you and your horse have put into training at the barn when you are at a horse show. Whether you and your horse compete on the A-circuit or at the local shows, show ring nerves can happen and affect both your focus. Top trainer Lainie Wimberly offers her suggestions on preparing for the hunter ring so you and your horse are both well schooled and ready to show.

Lainie Wimberly
Trainer Lainie Wimberly competing in the hunters with Briljant

Before the Horse Show

Training leading up to the show is the key to success in the ring. The goal is for your horse to be balanced, straight, evenly paced, and responsive. To achieve these goals, you should incorporate a lot of transitions and circles into your training. You will want to work on maintaining an even pace on the days leading up to the competition. You should strive for the rhythm of your horse’s canter to resemble the steady rhythm of a metronome.

Doing gymnastics (grids) weeks in advance will help you to better create a round jump and help to improve balance. Gymnastics will teach your horse to rock back onto his haunches, helping him to have the best arc over the jump. Using crossrails in your gymnastics will help to create more of a square front end. Ground poles can be placed between the jump to help center your horses’ jump and guide poles can be placed to help correct straightness.

Day of the Horse Show

On the day of the horse show, you may want to ride your horse in the morning before his class so he is calm, quiet and focused. The purpose of your morning workout is to make sure your horse is relaxed and attentive. If you can, ride your horse in the show ring so he can acclimate to the ring and become comfortable with his surroundings. After riding your horse in the morning, you can put him on the longeline for a brief trot or canter around to relax him a bit further if needed. You never want to let your horse run on the longeline, however, because that would do more harm than good.

Lainie Wimberly
Lainie coaches a student at a horse show.

Grooming for the Hunter Ring

For the perfect hunter appearance, your horse should be clean, clipped, and trimmed. Your equipment should be properly fitted. Your bit should be polished and your leather tack should be clean. You want the judge’s first impression to be of a healthy, shiny, tidy horse and rider. You are presenting yourself for judgment, so you want to put your best foot forward. Wear properly fitting attire that is appropriate for the hunter ring (consult your rule book if you have questions) and make sure you have time to polish your boots. Preparation, hard work, and good horsemanship are the keys to success, but dressing to impress is the cherry on top.

Lainie Wimberly is a renowned hunter/jumper trainer in the Northeast and owner of Brigadoon Show Stables in North Salem, New York.

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