“Equitation” vs “Hunter” Classes

I am watching the live stream of the Capital Challenge Horse Show. I come from Dressage/Eventing and was wondering if someone could explain to me or point me to a resource. What is the difference between an “Equitation” class and your typical “Hunter” class?

Strictly speaking, an equitation class is judged on the rider’s ability, and a hunter class is judged on the horse’s ability.

Obviously, a good rider with a good horse will probably have a better performance in either class than a good rider with a bad horse, or a good horse with a bad rider.


In hunter classes, the horse is being judged on performance and manners, movement and jumping style – in theory for a job in the fox hunting field. In an equitation class, the rider is being judged on their position and how effectively they solve the questions and problems a course presents them with.

Enjoy the Cap Challenge!


Well I guess that makes sense and is obvious to me now :slight_smile: Thank you for clarifying!


Used to be* the Eq horses had a flatter jump = less bascule.
Easier for a rider to look pretty than one who jumped rounder.

*Coming from my mid-80s-early-90s past.
Things may have changed :roll_eyes:



Have you been on the hunt? :wink:

If hunters actually followed theory, then speed and solid fences would be part of the judging criteria.


Also equitation courses tend to be a bit more complicated/technical than hunter courses.

Never hunted myself.
But the outside Hunter courses, on grass as often as arena footing, used to have more fences that one might actually encounter on a hunt.
Stone(fake) walls, timber & brush for example.
Along with downhill/uphill approaches.

Back in the 60s the outside courses courses at recognized hunter shows consisted of REAL stone walls (with log “riders”), post and rail fences, and Aikens (post and rail with a hedge growing in front, now mimicked by “rolltops”).

I have not hunted much, but the times I have, almost all the fences were jumped at a trot, as the jump created a bottleneck, and slowed everyone down.

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Well, theory and following theory are two different things. So, “indeed!” :slight_smile:

Let’s just say the last hunt I was on required somebody to be helicoptered out.

Sadly, the American hunter is no where near what the real hunt is. The sport has changed and is no longer reflective of its namesake.

I’m not sure that a person being injured and requiring an air ambulance is something for a hunt or hunt follower to be proud of?


Eq horses now have a lot of buttons and are required to do more technical “moves”. Counter canter a bending line, counter canter in a flat etc in the class.

The point is that field hunters (at least first and second flight) are more dangerous and take real risks when on the hunt during a tally ho. Thus, one can not even theoretically equate arena hunters to the hunt other than via appearance of dress and fences.


Not even that. I have never heard of banks of flowers in front of fences on a hunt. Nor would many of the “modern” riding jackets be acceptable.


Jumping into the Way Back Machine…

Back in my early years (the 1960s), hunter classes in the area where I lived were held over big outdoor courses with natural-ish fences and one was expected to cover ground at a pretty forward pace. It was supposed to be the best imitation of fox hunting that could reasonably accommodate the requirements of a horse show.

Modern hunter classes have little resemblance to their fox hunting origins beyond the fundamental type of tack and apparel and that horses are jumping over fences. They have evolved over time to a show ring-specific discipline with its own rules (written & unwritten) and expectations. Personally, I don’t see it as a big deal or anything to complain about. To use an overused phrase, it is what it is (insert shrug).


I don’t think it’s that sad, it’s just a misnomer, maybe even a myth that it was ever supposed to reflect it’s namesake. Cross country eventing seems like the better reflection of actual hunting. But the hunters is more artistic, and so it’s also subjective. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it makes it feel less “sporting” than other divisions.

Personally I don’t think it’s sad or embarrassing to have a division with the purported goal of rewarding calm, confident horses with good jumping form who can keep a rhythmic pace and take care of the rider. Sometimes it feels like that last part is the big hang up for people – that it relies more on good training and breeding than necessarily good riding, so there’s more “glory” for riders on frantic horses that rush jumps and fall apart unless someone is managing every stride.


I used to love watching the “appointment” classes at the Garden. Where one had to carry the accoutrement that one would have in the hunt field. From type of tack to the type of sandwich in the sandwich case - sliced turkey or ham were most preferred. And, if it was really close, the number of braids - 27 for geldings, 26 for mares. I groomed for a hunter owner who mandated her horse have a 27 braids because, in her mind, if her horse was in a close tie the judge would count the braids. Yeah, sure like that would ever happen.