Showing Hunters and Jumpers


Gray jumperThere is more to the sport of jumping than just getting from one side of the obstacle to the other. Yet it seems that many English riders envision themselves leaping over challenging jumps long before they’re truly up to the task. It’s best to keep your enthusiasm in check and assess your actual skill level.

Hopefully you’ve aligned yourself with a knowledgeable instructor who’ll make certain you’ve mastered basic skills on the flat before you’re allowed to jump. Flatwork is preparation for jumping. If you cannot control your horse’s pace and length of stride on the flat, you’ll never do it over jumps. When you’re ready to compete, allow your instructor to choose the classes best suited for you and your horse.

Most shows offer jumping classes for both novice riders and seasoned competitors. If you’re wise, you’ll take advantage of this tiered approach. The lower level hunter classes allow you to develop a sense of timing without facing the specter of huge jumps. As the hunter classes become more advanced, skills like getting the prescribed number of strides within lines of jumps and producing clean flying lead changes become necessary. Naturally, you must look smooth and relaxed, too. Riding a winning hunter round is much harder than it looks!

Once you’re comfortable with hunter classes, you can test your horsemanship in jumper or medal class events. Though jumpers are judged on faults and time, and medal classes on equitation, both require the same basic skills. Can you negotiate a series of jumps set on a bending line? Are you able to keep your horse balanced as you make a tight, rollback turn to the next jump? These are maneuvers best practiced at home, not in the show-ring. By having a realistic view of your jumping skills, you’ll be safe, successful and have fun.

Further Reading
Horse Jumping Tips
Rating the Competition

Cindy Hale is an experienced amateur hunt-seat competitor and author of Riding for the Blue.


  1. I think all the articles on the web site don’t do much to help. They just give you a little blurp about the subject and don’t have very much information. When I read about a subject, I don’t just want to be told find a trainer.

  2. I think the article makes some good points, but I agree with Yvette’s comments. If you can’t find or can’t afford a GOOD instructor, order instructional DVDs. Watch them over and over until you understand what the narrator is saying as the video demonstrates – visualize and practice the movements on a stool at home so that when you do get horse time, the movements come automatically. Also, audit clinics with reputable trainers. Remember, riding is less about how you look and more about how your mind tells your muscles what to do to communicate with your horse.

  3. I do agree with this article BUT finding a good trainer is not always the case. I used to ride at an upscale hunter barn and the trainer there would frequently put children in classes they SHOULD NOT have been in to please the parents and keep the money comming. So beware when looking for a trainer especally for you kids.

  4. Well, I think having a good trainer is a huge part of riding. By good, I don’t mean well known or expensive, I mean someone who can teach you how to interact with your horse and how to ride correctly. There are so many methods to riding, just because you need a $300,000 horse to ride with Missy Clark, doesn’t mean you couldn’t get just as much education being, say a working student from her or riding with a less known trainer. I am big on trainers and I think that everyone needs to be comfortable with their trainer and the pace that he/she is moving them forward. My old trainer wouldn’t let me jump because she said that my pony was ‘unsafe’. This is the most untrue (is that a word?) statement that I have ever heard. This past year we won Reserve Champion at the end of the year in the 2’6″ pony jumper division. That pony is the safest pony anyone could ask for. Ahem, sorry, I love my pony dearly. Anyway, I couldn’t stand just trotting over trotting poles any longer so I found a new trainer and in just 1-2 years, I’m now jumping 3′!!! And, yes, I am not the best at this level but I need to be moved up or else I willget bored! I love jumping, it’s my passion but I do believe that you can succeed with a smaller budget and still have a trainer.

  5. It is NOT a good idea to learn how to ride based on books and videos. If you don’t have someone experienced watching and telling you what you are doing wrong, you will never know if you are ding it right. When you learn how to ride wrong, it will not impress the judges, and more importantly, it will screw up the horse. If you do not know what you are doing, you should not have a horse. On finding a trainer, there are a lot of good, inexpensive intructers out there. What I did was go for a lesson or two at one barn, and if I didn’t like it, move on to another barn.

  6. Great tips but there is a lot more to jmping than this. I have seen many riders go face first in the dirt because the horse refused.

  7. I am an eventer and have eventing for close to a year. I have a great horse who loves to jump. I can agree with alot of the statements that are posted. Although i think that you should understand that you cant just go and start jumping without training without a trainer i also think that you should put yourself out there. It took me a while to understand that with jumping you may get nerves but you got to go for it. You only live once.

  8. I’ll be starting jump courses tomorrow in riding lessons. We’ve been practicing how to jump individual jumps to get the ‘feel’ of it and it’s the best feeling in the world. Considering I want to start competing by next year, this is great advice for me. My riding instructor is really good and I am looking forward to start my learning in the ring when riding a course with my horse. =)

  9. that helps a little.i can control my horse on flat work. but when i try to jump in my area at home he he s like a jumper how clears it and does it in no time. but when i get in the show ring for hunter he does prefect.we got a third in 2.4 feet jumping. how come he s go in the show ring but not a practice !

  10. This is great advice. I am an eager parent with a learning daughter. I have found a wonderful instructor that has jumped for over 30 years professionally. She really does know best.

  11. i compete in jumpers at 3 feet and am never scared! but resently my horse spooked and took off with me when i was hacking, so i didnt use the pelham, and i had a NASTY fall. Im slowly building up my confidence but i still have some trust issues and we have been getting some bad distances because of me hesitating. How can i fully trust him again?

  12. i have just started to take short stirrup classes in schooling shows at my stable. I think that it is a ton of fun and that i am growing as a rider. I can not wait until i can do the hunter classes!!

  13. Thanks so much for the tips and information; I compete on Irish Thoroughbred Crosses in 6 foot Hunter/Jumper classes in local shows and sadly despite all my hard work training and all the warm-ups and exercises and practices I do before the show I ALWAYS make mistakes or gallop too slowly (despite the fact that most of the horses I ride were once winning race horses and aren’t too terribly old) and I am sometimes disqualified. I have never gotten much better than 3rd Place maybe my horses and I may be able to do better in show jumping now. Thanks again.

  14. I have fallen off horses so many times and I learned to stop crying and get back on the horse. I have riden in Hunters, Jumpers, and more but I will never change trainers because my trainer helps me in every way. I’m a Junior rider that has been showing in hunters and jumpers for almost 4yrs and it is just a blast but the one thing that can stump someone everytime at a show, is a money hungery trainer. I’ve been to a barn like that, and it wasn’t fun. Every month or two I got a new instructor and I started all over. The trainer that I’m with now will let me go forward when I think I’m ready and when she feals comfortable with me going forward. I’m not saying that this article is bad or good, it’s all in what YOU make of it.

  15. Finally… Someone who understands that its about how WELL you jump, not how HIGH you jump. To many riders dont take the time to do thier homework on the flat. We should really think about whom this affects. The trainer who has to put more work and time in the lesson because you slacked off? Or the horse who is asked to jump with no blance? Or the rider who falls off? Most always our horses give us 110%. Dont you think its fair we give them the same effort? Only then can we create the best partnerships between horse and human.

  16. Finally somone who really understands about assesing your skills as a rider. What Mallory says is true for all riding disiplines, but the terms you use are different.

  17. i think some people are mistaken. the real jumpers understand this concept. the only people who don’t are the little backyard fool-arounders who don’t usually compete anyway. at least at my competition, everyone knows what there doing and about striding, collection, flatwork, and flying lead changes. rarely have i seen someone who doesnt

  18. This article is good for someone who is completely new to jumpers. However, I think if you are at all serious about the sport most of this should be second nature


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