Safety (and etiquette) for hunter under saddle class?

Here’s a funny thing. When I took driver’s ed in school (ahem, quite a few years ago), the day came when we watched the crash-and-burn video in the simulator. After the worst scenario on the video, the instructor pointed at me and said, “This is the only person here who lived through that crash. Instead of just hitting the brakes like everyone else, she also steered around the truck that stopped right in front of her.” I’m sure it was a reflex from extensive experience in horse related traffic jams! :lol:

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Hi dags (any many others!), thank you for your response! :slight_smile:

I would like to clarify a few things (I kept it as brief as possible in my original post because I feared readers getting lost in details):

  1. I was not directly side-by-side this other rider. I was actively trying to space us apart, actually. She came up on my outside after I circled, but she was moving faster than me now, and there was nobody behind her. So during this brief moment during the class I was trying to collect my horse a bit and merge in behind her so we’d both be on the rail. Unfortunately, the situation in question happened while I was about half-way done my ideal maneuver!

–> This means this outside rider DID have the option of speeding up and escaping the two horses that cut me off, but they merged around her nicely after squeezing me out so in the end she was safe and unperturbed.
–> Given my (delayed?) realization that these two big horses were indeed going to run in to me instead of just go by me, I didn’t have room to speed up, move sideways, move deep in to the corners, etc… I was trapped between the outsider rider, the New horse to my inside, the New horse in front of me, and we were all crammed between a line of jumps on either side. Messy!

  1. There have been a lot of (VERY GOOD!) comments about using the corners and going deeper in to them, in order to gain space, be strategic, etc. Fantastic advice, thank you! In this split-second situation, both long sides of the ring had their jumps left up, so only the rider directly on the “rail” (not me) had the option of moving out in to the corner during this accident-avoiding scenario. (I do see the point about using the corners to avoid these situations before they can happen though, so thank you for the insight!)

  2. someone earlier made a comment about splitting up the riders in the ring, and I agree - I was very surprised they did not split us up. The division prior to mine had about the same number of riders in it (~15ish) and they split their flat class in half, but for mine they did not. Schooling shows, though, eh?

  3. Just another thank you for all the responses everyone - great to hear your thoughts, advice, and experiences!

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Just a question a) how many were actually in your flat class (if say only 9 then i can see not splitting but if it was 15 like a previous class then yes, they should split to canter).

I announce at novice/school horse shows and we split to canter at anything over 9 (shows I show in so large AA shows I’ve cantered with triple that easily!). Also as an announcer at novice shows, we also watch out for anything that looks like a disaster waiting to happen and will halt the class and excuse horses if needed “safety first!” For instance, if I see a rider clearly becoming out of control and charging around looking unable to stop, everyone is halted and the trainer asked to come in and help the rider leave if needed! Or they stand calmly in the middle of the ring…it constantly amazes me how many beginners are sadly over mounted.

Hi eclipse!
To answe your question: there were ~15 riders in this flat class. Possibly 16 (can’t remember if that one rider showed up) but for sure no less than 14… so I’m sticking with ~15. There were DEFINITELY more than 9 riders!

I overheard several people talking about “far more than 9” - I guess that’s the magic safety number for flatting. I’m still relatively new so I didn’t know that one lol. I always hoped that anything over 10 would result in us being split up for the canter, but alas!

It sounds like you’re a fantastic announcer at those novice shows you mentioned. Great to know that very conscientious people like yourself are running things and trying to keep us safe :slight_smile:

There isn’t really a magic safety number. It all depends on that group that day. You can have a perfectly safe group of thirty in a flat class, or a very unsafe group of six. Or even less.

It just depends on the setting and the ability of the assorted riders.


Not only is there no magic number, there’s no guarantee of competency in whoever is managing, judging or announcing the show as far as making quick decisions about splitting, calling for a walk or stopping the class when the imminent wreck potential gets too high. When I announced, I always told the judge I would pay attention and drop them to a walk if disaster loomed. Over many years, only had one judge say no, they would make those decisions…then was looking at her card when all 8 novice kids in a big ring ended up in the same corner at the same time at the canter. Rated show with licensed officials, stewards and enforced standards and rules are better with these things then non rrateds with volunteer help trying to run it.

Guarantee you any decision to split will be met with objections and unfairness allegations if Suzy ended up cantering against the top three in the class instead of the woeful in over their heads group. Plus complaints the show is running too long due to splits in the flat classes. Can’t win.

My incident upthread was at a rated and it was my fault for not seeing the errant rider coming across the center. However that hack ran in the main ring after the Regulars and rider was screened from view by a 4’ fake stone wall, lots of brush and hanging ferns on top of the wishing well standards (if you’ve shown at KHP, you’ll remember those standards), she ended up right beside me drifting out as I passed between that thing and the rail. There was room for three horses between that and the rail easy but not if one was heading for the rail. To their credit, at the judges request, show jump crew removed the top part of that jump and turned the wishing well standard so it didn’t obscure so much real estate before the next hack class came in. It was a 3’ AA Hunter and she was no novice, just zoned out and oblivious when in the ring competing.

It happens just like when you are paying attention while driving and somebody drives into the back of your car while you are sitting at a dead stop at a red light. But you got to do what you can to avoid as much as you can and school your horse to be responsive to you, not the announcer or what others are doing.


  1. someone earlier made a comment about splitting up the riders in the ring, and I agree - I was very surprised they did not split us up. The division prior to mine had about the same number of riders in it (~15ish) and they split their flat class in half, but for mine they did not. Schooling shows, though, eh?

22 in my u/s class at my last show and we all cantered at once with only the quarter line down and the outside lines flush with the edge of the ring. It was brutal.

I try and make sure as I’m was walking around waiting for the class to start, that I knew escape routes around the jumps still set up in case I need to swing off the designated path. That’s why I always stay on the 1/4 line if possible and if only the 1/4 line is available to ride, that I’m to the inside of that so I can circle inside if needed. And I watch to see what horse is performing aerial manoeuvers at the walk and position myself well awayyyyy from them hahahaha!