Hunter class lead change questions

Might be taking my mare in a local hunter show for experience. It will be her second time showing , and first time jumping anywhere but the barn where she lives.
It’s a hunter-only show. Rails on the ground to 2’9”, 3 over fences classes and one flat class per division.
Although I really do not enjoy hunters this seems like a nice , welcoming show to introduce my mare into and hunter courses are so inviting to greenies.

Here’s my question:
I understand that proper hunters are always on the correct lead. It’s best to land on the correct lead but it not , flying change.
Well - that’s not going to happen :joy:

Would it be considered a “faux pas” to do a quick , clean simple change for the sake of schooling ? Or do judges prefer to see you fully commit to the counter canter of shame ?
Which if I do … my mare will likely change in front and not behind. So it will be the crossfire of shame haha.

What’s the proper protocol here ?

Do the simple change.


If you care more about the horse’s training, do the simple change. Depending on the rules in place for the show, it might not even be penalized for the lower classes.

In classes that follow USEF rules, the simple change counts as a break of gait and is a major fault. But cross cantering or even counter cantering is not likely to score well.


Since you’re doing this to give your horse some experience, introducing her to hunters, I’d opt for the simple change. That way you’re making it clear from the get-go that she’s supposed to be on the correct lead around turns.

Go and have fun. And who knows? She may surprise you and land on the correct lead more often than you expect. It happens!


Agreed with the others: do the simple change for training purposes. Just be aware this is considered breaking stride and would be scored in the 50s. Counter cantering would not be scored better, so go with the simple and just be clear eyed that it’s for training purposes, and that you’re not going for the win. Have fun!

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Depending on what level you’re looking at, the simple change may not be penalized at a schooling show. I know around here there are a couple x-rails/2’ type divisions where the prize list specifies that simple changes are not penalized, because the whole point is to do what you’re doing–get green horses out and learning their job, which includes cantering on the proper lead around corners. On a green horse, you do not want to be countercantering all unbalanced around a turn to the next fence.


Same for the local series we show at. Classes at low fence heights specifically state in the prize list that simple changes aren’t penalized. Note that this doesn’t mean those that do have changes aren’t rewarded for having them - they will score extra points for the flying change. But, a well done simple change is vastly better than blowing a flying change and cross cantering or going around on the wrong lead.


I’m taking my mare to her first show on Saturday and the plan is to trot cross rails and maybe canter between. If you’re taking her for experience, ride exactly how she needs for the best, most relaxed experience. Treat it 100% as schooling. It will pay off dividends in the future.


I show my green horse on the local circuit, he does not have a lead change. We do simple changes, they are generally quick and organized. I find that, all else being pretty organized, judges are pretty forgiving of a clean simple change. Just do the change and make the ride calm and organized, you will get the ribbons you deserve and, more importantly, your horse will have a good experience.

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Whatever you do, just keep it consistent. You are doing a schooling show and not the A’s, you are doing the first show off property, you are doing one of the mares first shows ever. What height also makes a difference. If you are doing up to 2’ totally acceptable to trot in and canter out of a line then back to trot in to the next line without worrying about changes. Sure, you aren’t going to win against the smooth flying change canter rhythmically the entire time horse, but you aren’t going to be far off. Don’t hold the counter canter. Don’t trot in and canter out half the time and canter the other half. Keep it the same! At the lower heights judges want to see a safe mount foremost and then a consistent ride (whether it is doing the add, doing the simple, doing the trot in, etc).

If you are doing 2’3ish and up go ahead and do the simple versus counter canter or cross canter. A quick trot step to the correct lead can still look good and rhythmical. Lots of school horses will do this with their riders and can hold their own in the competition ring. If you are rushing at the canter, have to haul your horse to a trot for ten plus steps, then get the canter right before you turn to the next jump… well, that isn’t quite a nice simple change lol.


It’s a schooling show, and you are there to have some fun and school a green horse, who doesn’t have her changes. So… school the horse. No one cares who wins or doesn’t win. If she lands on the correct lead, carry on bravely. If she doesn’t, get the simple change. And have fun doing it, and tell your horse how well she is doing for you. Give her a cookie, win, lose or draw.


Second show? I’d be happy to just finish a class without loss of life/limb/property :joy: Anything above that is just gravy. First time jumping offsite…prepare for those civilized flowers on the standard to be horse-eating carnivorous giants!! image


If it’s a local show, depending on the division, a simple change might be OK. TBH, there may well be far more egregious errors than a few trot steps at the lower levels.
One of our local clubs runs a “Hopeful Hunter” division where (under the rules) simple changes are not penalized. If you stick with divisions for greenies, you should be fine with a trotted step or three. Besides, if the goal is getting your horse out and seeing things, and not ribbons or a year end award, who cares?

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If it’s a local show, they may not even penalize for a simple change. My barn competes on a local schooling show circuit where one of the rules is specifically that simple changes aren’t penalized. It’s supposed to encourage barns to bring their lesson students on school horses who may not have changes, or green horses who need mileage.

Regardless, like others said, I would do the simple change. You’re going for experience; I think it provides a better experience to go in, trot your changes, and have a nicely balanced horse to the fences vs cross or counter cantering and sacrificing that balanced canter.

Definitely do the simple change. I judge the little local shows up to 2’ all the time. They are schooling shows- I want to see that you know you are on the wrong lead and are going to put the effort into changing it as opposed to just cross cantering all over the place. Now, if you are trotting, unbalanced, half way around the corner, I’d place a cross canter higher, but if you pop down for a millisecond to fix it I’d be happy you did. lol.

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