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New to H/J Please help!


I have always wanted to ride and show Hunter/Jumper but when I entered college the English team riders were intimidating and their feedback on their lesson barn was terrifying. I couldn’t understand why they would take lessons there when almost all of them hated doing so. I joined the Western team instead, but went to the English shows to audit and get a feel for their side of the sport. I am black, so I still worry about how people are going to “react” I guess. Luckily all the judges I worked with over my time were surprised at first but quickly warmed up to me and gave me some advice while judings and in between classes.

Since then I have been riding Western and when I moved barns I started learning Dressage as well. I have had a few English lessons, and now I am at a primarily English based school. I have high hopes here because most of the people I have met so far have been really nice.

What I really need to know is if someone could explain the difference between the Hunter ring judging standards and the Jumper ring judging standards. I know equitation is very important, but outside of that I am clueless. I don’t have my own horse yet, but I am chomping at the bit (ha horse pun!) to find my first horse. My hopes are to compete Western Pleasure, H or J (once I figure out the differences) and maybe some eventing once I get brave riding outside. :slight_smile:

I really want an OTTB, and if anyone has any recommendations on a trainer that they have used to restart a TB on the East Coast please let me know. I have the CANTER website as my homepage lol :smiley: I have some barns in mind, but I always appreciate help. PA/MD/NJ area would be preferred, because my home is in South Jersey.

I appreciate any help you can give me! Thank you kindly :smiley:

Hi Sharlic welcome to HJ. I am no expert but this is the basic difference between hunters and jumpers…Hunters are judged on their smooth way of going both over and between jumps- because the judge makes this decision, the results will always be somewhat subjective. Jumpers win by being the fastest around the course with the fewest faults (rails down)- so it is absolutely clear who is in what place and why. I am sure someone on this board can offer a more comprehensive answer. With regard to being black, your horse will not care and neither should anyone else. That said, you will probably encounter some prejudice folks just as you likely do in most other aspects of your life. I hope you have a great time riding!

Mukluk said it perfectly. Hunters are more judged on style, movement, and rhythm. Jumpers don’t really get judged. For them, it’s just whoever has the fastest time and no faults wins.

Good luck with the English! It can be a really challenging world, but it’s worth it.

Thank You! That helps a lot! I forgot to ask what type of attire is ok for shows? Does it depend on local v rated shows? It seems like Hunter riders are always in jackets, shirts and tan or white breeches but I have friends that ride jumpers who wear polos, colorful breeches etc (but I’m not sure what level they are).

Hunters wear jackets, shirts with ratcatcher, and light colored breeches (but not white). Lower level jumpers can wear polos, but still should wear light breeches, although it isn’t quite as strict. Formal jumper shows will still wear the jackets and shirt. If you check the prize list on jumper shows it will state if they require formal wear.

Welcome, sharilc. The H-J world is a complicated one, but I encourage you. The English equestrian world has the reputation of a snooty sport (it is expensive to ride, after all), but personally, I would absolutely love to see it become more diverse. Your experiences will depend on where you are and what trainer, barn, and fellow-riders you become involved with. There are wonderful, supportive people everywhere in the horse world, so don’t get discouraged if you run into some shallow, exclusive types. Just keep looking until you find a good fit.

Others have given you good information about the differences between hunters and jumpers, but as a newcomer to the world of English riding, you will probably want to find a lesson program that is going to help you concentrate on improving your skills and your own equitation. For showing, you will probably want to start with walk-trot-canter classes and probably at the local level until you are comfortable and confident.

It’s wonderful that you want to own your own horse and dream of an OTTB; however, I advise you to find a great lesson program and trainer first and put away your pennies for that horse you dream of someday. I definitely would not rush into owning. There is so much to learn first!

If you happen to be near a Pony Club, inquire about the Horsemasters program for adults. Pony Club is a wonderful organization; the emphasis is on horsemanship rather than on showing and ribbons.


Here’s another article that may interest you. It’s about Junior Johnson, a respected black horseman who has succeeded in the industry despite racial prejudice:


There are also variations on hunters. Breed shows like quarter horse and paint hunter shows will be judged on different criteria than USEF style hunters. It would be reasonable to ask a horse to compete in western pleasure and a breed show hunter under saddle class but the movement that is rewarded in those classes is much slower/flatter/lower headset than the movement and carriage of a horse winning open hunter shows under USEF judges.

Hi Sharilc and welcome! You have gotten some very good advice on this board. I always think of it as: Jumpers = Objective (based only on time and faults) and Hunters/Equitation = Subjective (based on style, way of going, and judge’s opinion.)

Don’t get too hung up on being black. I see more and more of us around at the shows every year! :smiley: :yes: Just concentrate on your riding and doing the best you can and the rest will come. It is very important to find a program that you feel comfortable working in and where you are respected, however, so you can do your best.

Good luck!

I would not recommend an OTTB for a first horse if you are just starting out in H/J land, or any riding land really. An older steady eddy - been there done that type would be a better match, and will leave you with less stress and more time and money for fun and learning.

Welcome! Just wanted to chime in and say don’t feel too odd about being a minority. I’m probably one of a handful of asian people in my area that rides/shows so while I’ve definitely noticed it, its never been an issue.

And while an OTTB may not necessarily be the best choice, it can sometimes work if you have the proper guidance and the OTTB you end up with has a good brain/attitude. My only thing would be that if you want to jump, don’t learn to jump on a horse you are retraining. Learn to jump on a schoolmaster, let the trainer train your horse, and then go from there.

I would say, too, that the number of minorities/POC you see at equestrian events varies by area and discipline. From personal experience, there are a pretty broad range of folks competing in the DC area; I’ve probably seen the most non-causcasians at Events, followed by H/J shows, and then dressage shows, where a barnmate of mine is the only African-American I’ve seen showing. Not that that’s hurt her, mind–she was Res. Champion for the year in her division!–but that’s been my personal observations. I’ve not seen anyone be anything but welcoming, but really, I think horse folks are generally a pretty friendly, welcoming bunch.

As other have said, Jumpers is objective, scores by faults (rails down) and time, and attire tends to be more casual, especially at the lower levels. Light colored breeches and a polo are usually fine at any schooling show, and lower level recognized classes too. Hunters is objective, scored by how nicely the horse goes around; Equitation is also objective, scored by how nicely the rider looks while making the horse go around nicely. Attire there is more formal, even at schooling shows–generally beige breeches, a pale ratcatcher shirt, and a dark jacket. Since we’re in winter Olympic season, think of the difference in scoring between speed skating and ice dancing :slight_smile:

If you’re not sure about what discipline you want to do yet, that’s perfectly fine! Take a lot of lessons in different disciplines as you learn (try some dressage too!) and see what you like. If you still like doing a mix of things, why not look at Quarter Horses? Their hunters are a little different that USEF hunters, but they tend to be good solid citizens who make nice all around horses if you find the right one. It’s not my area of expertise, but those I’ve known have had great brains, and I believe the AQHA rewards versatility, so if you want to do some Western and some English, that might be a good option for you :yes:

Welcome Sharilc! Welcome to H/J land! As most people here stated earlier, find a great barn where you feel comfortable riding. I always suggest people start out learning hunters and equitation, then eventually switch to jumpers. The advantages of hunters and equitation are proper balance, control, style and fundamentals. Jumpers requires speed and technicality. I know a lot of people that start in jumpers and in my honest opinion, it shows (and not in a good way). They have stickability and become caught up in a turn and burn world. They can fly around crazy courses (while most spectators gasp and cover their eyes), yet they have minimal basic skills and eventually suffer. That being said, that is not everyone so take my opinion as just that, an opinion. The english world can be snooty but do NOT let that stop you. Enjoy yourself and have fun learning.

I would hold off on purchasing a horse for a while. Once you are ready to make the next step, consider a lease. As an advocate for OTTBs (that is all I own and train), I cannot say enough positive things about them. I love and appreciate all breeds of horses and would not discriminate, but my heart belongs to OTTBs. That being said, it can be a long, long, long road. Some can be successfully competing 3-6 months off the track, others it takes years. Get the show experience first before you make that leap.

Lastly, as far as being black. Do NOT let that deter you in any way. I was going to mention Junior Johnson but I saw an earlier poster did. His story is incredible! He is well admired in the horse world as well. The other person I was going to mention was Paige Johnson. I’m not sure if she still rides(?) but growing up she was extremely talented!

Good luck to you! Please keep us updated on how your training and showing goes!

I can’t speak for everyone, but I pretty confident that most everyone I know will respect you regardless of your skin color if you show up to the barn excited and ready to learn and work hard.

Trainer Melvin Dutton is well respected in the SE PA area. He has been featured in the Horse of Delaware Valley trainer issue many times and is a wonderful horseman.

Hi Sharlic,

here’s my $.02 from someone who grew up riding mostly western. Jumping seems easier because its timed and the horse doesnt need to look perfect, but just go fast over jumps. That being said–jumping (in my experience) is much more technical. Some people say jumping is a progression after you have done hunters and leanred balance over fences, correct form, etc. Hunters are expected to go smoothly on a looser rein. Their courses at low levels are 6-7 fences with certain strides and no hard corners. Eq gets more technical with striding decisons etc, and jumping can be very technical and require fast decisons and a lot of knowing how lines work, bending, strides, etc.

So–a lot of depneds on your skills and your personality. I want to do jumpers, but have spent the last 9 months doing hunters (my horse is not a hunter type) and eq to get to a place where we can do jumpers.

I hope you make the conversion though!!! As much as I enjoyed western, I love the sport (and workout) of hunter/jumpers. And I will be so happy when I finally get to show in that .75 meter class!

First of all, congrats for being on here and asking questions! That’s a great first step!

I do agree with the other posters who have recommended taking it one step at a time. Yes, being in horses means you feel like you need your own horse, and now! I get it. But I would recommend getting into a good lesson program, with a good trainer, who has a variety of horses you can ride and see what type you like. Then, lease from there. Your riding will change so much in the next 1-3 years that the horse you buy now might not be the horse you need in 12 months. Plus, being in college, unless your parents have a lot of money, purchasing is a huge investment and a big financial risk. (Hell, I have a f/t job, can board a horse for free, and am STILL leaning towards a good lease for financial reasons.)

I would also wait to decide what ring you really like before buying. The jumper ring sounds great to me because it’s unjudged, but my riding experience has told me I prefer the hunter ring right now.

If you do end up buying, please expand your search beyond OTTBs. Yes, they’re amazing. They’re also very “in” right now, and you do get to be part of the “cool kids club” if you buy one for nearly nothing and retrain him into something nice. However, those aren’t good enough reasons to go that route. Depending on your dressage abilities, I would definitely recommend a steady eddy first. You want a horse that is going to build your confidence now so you can retrain those OTTBs later. Quarter horses, appendix (QH/TB cross), quiet (and already retrained if off the track) TBs, and other breeds can all be competitive in either ring.

IF you have money at your disposal, and you can afford to be in full time training to have your horse trained by a professional while you take lessons on your horse AND a good school horse, then I MIGHT consider an OTTB for a new h/j rider if you have your trainer behind you. But honestly, there’s plenty of time to join the special OTTB club later in life when you have the skills and confidence developed by hours in the saddle on other horses.

Welcome to COTH (What we call the forums) and also welcome to the world of hunter/jumper. You already have some great advice, so I don’t have anything real different to add. But I will second what others have said about finding the right barn. You will likely find some very nice people, and you will find some very nasty people. There are more nice folks than mean, though. If you ever think you’re having a race issue, it might not be. It might just be someone who is snobby to all of us. :slight_smile: Just keep on enjoying this wonderful sport and I bet you will make some very good friends along the way!!

On horses, I don’t recommend one breed against another, but for a first horse, I would not do a green horse off the track unless you really have a good set of skills under your belt. You will progress quicker with a horse that is already trained. I do like the idea of leasing for a while so you can have the benefits of horse “ownership” but not the full commitment. Then you will know what is involved. THEN you go out and get your first project.

I guess I was pretty wordy for not having anything to add. :slight_smile: Again, welcome.

I really cant agree with the folks trying to talk you out of a TB. you just need the right TB for you! since you have been riding for some time, its not like you are a beginner rider. and not all TB’s are hot and spooky, by any means. but if you are new to jumping, maybe you want an older, been there, done that horse show thing, laid back TB dude. I had one! he was terrific!! I leased him and jumped teeny weeny little jumps at first. you might want to lease or even ride lesson horses as a way to find out what type of horse works for you (in this new hunter/jumper land).


do report back…

Hi Sharilc! Welcome to the club! Hunter jumper can be intimidating but it is highly addictive and fun! I hope you find a great barn and some good horses to ride!

I agree with almost everything here. But since you asked I would add that equitation and hunters do different things in the ring. In the equitation you will have to do “roll backs” when you turn around right after a jump and jump another going in the opposite direction. You might do a lot more complex jumping patterns eventually. Eventually you might have to do things on the flat like counter canter, extended trot, turn on the forehand, and you may be asked to drop your stirrups. Some eq classes (called “medals”) will have two parts, which will always be a jumping round that may be followed either by a “test” when the judge asks you to do a series of things individually or a “flat” where the whole class is performing walk, trot, sit trot, canter, halt, etc. at the same time.

In the hunters you will have two jumping rounds, maybe a “handy” round that asks you to show you can turn or bend or more, and then an “under saddle” flat portion where your horse is judged on its quality of movement, manners, obedience, etc.

Good equitation matters in the hunters and good horses matter in the equitation:) But in general the horse that is a hunter type as long it is also well mannered and skilled will do best and a good rider on a variety of horses in the eq will do well regardless. That said eq horses are a type unto themselves. A lot of them have flat backs and smooth trots that make the rider’s job easier.

When you start out you might do both hunters or eq or you might do both eq or jumpers. But you probably wouldn’t do both hunters and jumpers on the same horse.

Just take lots of lessons on as good lesson horses as you can find. Figure out what you like. Beige breeches and a white polo for lessons and same for jumpers or beige breeches, white show shirt, and navy jacket are best way to go for hunters or jumpers. Get a Charles Owen or GPA helmet or a knock off that looks like one. No plastic helmets or eventer style helmets like Tipperary.

On horses, please do not buy a horse of any kind (maybe especially not an OTTB) until you have some skills. If you really want one of your own leasing is a great option at the beginning. Good luck and keep us posted!

Don’t have anything to add to the advice already posted, just wanted to say welcome to COTH and hunter/jumper land!

Thanks :smiley:

Thanks everyone for the help :smiley: I probably should have clarified that I have been riding for over 5 years haha so I’m an intermediate rider. I had a near death experience that set me back a while but now I’m good to go. My family used to have TBs so its in my blood to want one lol. I have been looking into leasing a horse for now though until I figure out which ring I want to compete in.

Thanks again :smiley: :smiley: