Shine on the Flat in the Under Saddle Hunter Flat Class

Follow these 5 ways to stand out in an under saddle class.

Hunter Under Saddle Flat Class Tips
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

Horse shows are filled with excitement. You eagerly await a weekend show day or an even more exciting overnight horse show with your pony. You agonize over your jumping rounds—breaking down every takeoff, landing, and turn. However, there’s still one more very important class, the under saddle flat class, that makes up a division at a hunter horse show that you will want tips on how to master. At a hunter horse show, the under saddle class and the jumping classes make up a division. The scores from all of these classes combined decide who takes home the division championship ribbon that day.

Sometimes, in the scrutiny over the jumping trips, the under saddle class gets overlooked. However, this class could be the tie-breaker for champion or help you bring home your first ribbon of the day. With these tips on how to stand out, you will be able to show off in the under saddle, as well as your jumping trips.

1. Spend time on your turn out.

The under saddle class is a time to really make sure you and your pony shine. The judge is focusing on you, and you want to make sure that you put your best foot forward.

Young Rider Magazine LogoIf your horse or pony is a gray or has white markings, you want to make sure there are no traces of dirt or manure. His coat should shine from a good grooming. Your tack should be spotless and fit you and your mount properly. In addition, your outfit should be clean and well-fitting, and without distractions.

Finally, always make sure that your back number is on correctly and securely before entering the ring. The under saddle class is the time for the judge to really study you and your horse, and every little detail counts.

2. Make your own path.

No matter how beautiful your horse’s trot or canter is, if it’s hidden in a clump of other competitors or stuck behind everyone else on the rail, the judge simply won’t see it.

Show yourself and your horse off by being smart about your path in the ring. Take advantage of trotting up the quarter line or making a big circle through the center of the ring, and think ahead in traffic.

Hunter Under Saddle Flat Class Tips
Win or lose, head into the lineup knowing you used all five tips to do your best! Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

Think just as carefully about your path in the under saddle as you do in your jumping trips, and you’ll be sure to catch the judge’s eye.

3. Be respectful of the other riders.

Horse shows are first and foremost about having fun and sharing a special time with your horse or pony. Remember, everyone is at the show to enjoy the sport, and you want to be mindful of that.

Don’t cut off other competitors in your under saddle class. Circling too close to them or cutting right in front of them can throw off their trot or canter step, and could upset their horse. It’s also not safe.

If a horse or pony has a red ribbon tied in his tail, or you notice a horse excessively pinning his ears or swishing his tail, be aware and give him the space he needs. This is one of those tips that applies to other divisions as well as the hunter under saddle flat class.

When lining up at the end of the under saddle, make sure you leave a safe and respectful distance between yourself and the next horse. Good sportsmanship goes a long way in the eyes of the judge, but more importantly, it helps make sure horse shows stay fun and safe for everyone.

Hunter Seat
Show off your horse’s gaits by maintaining good spacing from other competitors. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

4. Listen carefully.

Horse shows are busy and can be loud. In a flat class, you want to make sure you always have an ear on the announcer. You don’t want to lose an opportunity to win a ribbon because you weren’t listening to the announcer’s instructions and you were late in your canter transition. Stay alert and listen up so you don’t miss anything.

5. Don’t crowd the judge.

Making sure the judge notices you and your horse in the under saddle is key to being successful. However, you want to make sure that you don’t make the judge uncomfortable.

Don’t circle around or in front of her like a shark circling its prey. The judge will get dizzy watching you, and tight circles won’t show off your horse’s beautiful gaits. Ride a well-thought-out path, but give the judge some breathing room.

The under saddle class isn’t always the most exciting portion of your horse show experience, but it is important. It’s a great time to show off your horse’s beautiful movement and your thoughtfulness as a young rider. With these tips, you are sure to shine in the under saddle class and be the best competitor you can be.

This article with tips on how to show in the hunter under saddle flat class appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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