Retiring (leaving ring) from a hunter class


What is the proper etiquette for retiring from a hunter class before you are officially eliminated (before getting the “thank you”). Some circumstances that come to mind are the horse taking off bucking, bolting, having tripped and then feeling lame, etc. Do you address the judge? What do you say?

Thanks so much!

I usually just pull up when i can, face the judge, give sort of a nod of my head, pat my horse and exit stage right.


You can just wave to the judge on your way out.

If you are exiting a flat class, please be sure to tell the ingate person to relay your exit to the judge, in case the judge is looking for you or wondering what happened to you at the end of the class.


Hold up your hand and leave quietly.

If you’re in a flat class, it’s often safer and less disruptive to pull into the center of the ring and leave when the class is over than it is to try to sneak out the gate without the horse next to you noticing.


Agree. I had to dismount once and just stood in the middle of the ring. Then do the walk of shame out :slight_smile:


In a flat class, pulling into the centre of the ring works most of the time. Once, I pulled into the centre and thr judge seemed annoyed enough with me that they stopped the class and told me to leave the ring. The rest of the time, though, I’ve had no issues with sitting quietly in the middle while the class finishes.

This makes it sound like I’ve left a lot of flat classes, but I used them to put mileage on a greenie who struggled with her canter some days, and rode another horse who would buck if another horse galloped up directly behind him, so sometimes the safest and least disruptive course of action was to excuse myself, depending on the company with us in the ring.

I also had a rein break once in the upwards canter transition while giving a three year-old one of her first horse show experiences. In that case, I paid no mind to anyone else in the ring, got the horse down to a walk along the rail, then hopped off and exited.


Thank you to everyone for your kind replies!

All of this is why I’m skipping U/S classes with my green OTTB mare. The ring with jumps is great to give her a puzzle but I’m not messing around with the herd dynamic while still untraining the race side of things. O/F and dressage shows to provide “Boring is best” experience for us!

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It really depends on the level of the show. I’ve found that the higher-level shows, even if they have more entries, can actually be a bit more relaxing in the under saddles since everyone is going at a similar pace, for the most part.

At lower-level shows, I’ve experienced more of a mixture of slow horses and fast-moving horses, and having some of those horses gallop up behind, or an inexperienced rider have difficulty judging how close they should pass, can cause more stress for the sensitive horses.

Of course, my observations might not apply at every show, but I’ve found they’re generally accurate when navigating different levels of horse or rider experience. Lower-level shows can of course have riders with lots of experience or who come from a program that sets them up well for riding an under saddle, and I by no means intend for this post to be bashing any level.

All that to say that the company with you in the ring can really make a difference as to whether the experience is pleasant or scary.


Amen to that!

I still remember the story from my childhood in a flat class at a show on our ‘don’t ruin her, she’s perfect’ pony in a snaffle with not many brakes. My parents were in the stands to hear “Who’s # so and so? She’s dangerous!” while said pony tried to pass between the wall and another horse.

(As an adult I realized the pony was, in fact, 5yo and green as grass with a 12yo aboard. Shockingly :roll_eyes:, my sister’s experiences on the same pony 3 years later were far more successful. Same pony became a really good hunter pony, then went off to do successful barrels and poles, then back to hunter years later. She was versatile, and a good one eventually :joy:)


I recently had a student catch riding one of my youngsters at a show, and given that it was a schooling show and the horse hadn’t shown before, I advised her that if things started to fall apart, she should go to the middle and walk a circle until the class concluded. Granted, I am NOT a H/J rider by trade so this was based more on what I felt would be the safest and least disruptive way to deal with any chaos. I think trying to leave via the in-gate would be more likely to cause both traffic issues and a disruption to the other horses and riders. Fortunately the horse handled it well and no such measures were needed, but that would be my choice if the situation warranted.


In most cases at lower levels shows or divisions, if chaos appears to be breaking out the judge (or even the announcer) will call “All Walk” to allow riders and horses to re-settle or opt to stand in the center. I’m a frequent announcer and many times judges faced with a large ring full or green horses or green riders has given me discretion to simply call for a walk if I see anything scary start to happen.
Most of the judges I have worked beside would prefer that a rider retire from a flat class by standing in the center. I have seen a judge ask a rider who has done so to exit the ring the next time the horses are called to walk.

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The problem with standing in the center while the rest of the class continues is that the horse might not get the memo he is supposed to stand there quietly and behave. Lol.


Yeah, I used to have a horse that wouldn’t even stand still in the line up after a class. I can’t even imagine if I had tried to make her stand in the center of the ring while everyone else was still going around. That would have been a lot more disruptive than exiting the ring.


The few times I have seen it, the horse with the issue gets brought into the middle of the ring at the walk and then the judge usually brings everyone to the walk or the halt to allow that horse to leave the ring. Trying to keep a fractious horse in the middle of the ring with everyone catering around them can be a disaster. If everyone is already down to the walk and it isn’t too crowded, you could probably just ask to be let out of the gate if you are near it, but better to go to the center and let everyone get stopped before you try.


That’s what I’ve seen. An antsy horse standing in the middle of the ring has the potential to get everyone else a little rowdy, so most judges I’ve seen at bigger shows bring the class to a walk and allow the horse to exit stage left. Schooling shows may have more inexperienced judges so their reaction may vary.

End of the day, if your horse is doing something where it feels unsound or you feel unsafe, get the horse and yourself to safety - whether that’s going to the middle of the ring, leaving the ring, or getting off. If you’re disqualified, so what? Better that than hurt.