When is a good time to “move on” from the hunters, and where to move on to?

First, let me just say I haven’t been jumping very long and only recently moved up to the 2ft division in shows. Second, I have always liked the idea of the hunters in that rewarding consistency, obedience, and calmness seems like a solid, foundational goal for a rider new to jumping. And finally, third, I still have a lot to work on with respect to getting the striding between lines, using corners correctly without losing pace, and staying straight to the jumps.

But on the other hand, competing in hunters has also been somewhat discouraging. Ofc you tell yourself it doesn’t matter where you place in a show, but at the same time, I’m starting to feel a little fatalistic about showing in hunter classes. It’s made me wonder, “what’s next?” and I’m hoping for some other goal to aspire to.

My horse isn’t a hunter type and is very uphill and forward. I think what really brought me down was watching a video of our most recent flat class. He looked fantastic, cruising around on the bit with this big extended trot. His transitions were balanced and crisp. To me, we looked perfect. But we didn’t even place and, in fact, pinned behind several riders who inverted speed-trotted into a canter. Cynically, especially at my level where the winning rides are the ones with the fewest screw ups, I just feel like it’s easy to do pretty well in the hunters if you put your hands in your lap and squeeze the crap out of a downhill horse that’s permanently behind the leg. It makes me feel like I’m forcing a square peg into a round hole, when I don’t particularly want to be in the round hole anyway.

So I guess what I’m wondering is when it’s time to move on? Is there a height cut-off at which point it becomes appropriate to consider the jumpers? Is it equally wise to replace the precision and foundational skills of the hunters with dressage, and do the 2ft jumpers or something like that (if that’s even a thing?) in combined training competitions? I think long-term, I’d like to do combined training. But I’m just wondering how long I should continue to hang out in hunter land.

You should only hang out in any discipline as long as you’re having fun. If you aren’t, it’s an appropriate time to move on. This is a hobby for most of us.

They have 0.65 meter jumpers. Do that if you want. Lots of horse trials have schooling horse trials with 18 inch/2 foot divisions. The cross country is usually small logs, maybe walking through the water. You can trot the jumps, you can walk for bit if you want. It’s usually call intro or entry level and it’s very friendly and inviting for people and horses new to the sport.


Time to move on is when you think “Why am I doing this? Going nowhere on my nice horse”. Fortunately, the equestrian world is extensive and varied. As you say your horse is uphill and forward then look into dressage: you sound as if you might enjoy the thought and precision that goes into dressage. On the other hand, give eventing a try because you combine so many different aspects into the one activity and you can build on your experience gained so far. Eventers are usually less concerned with appearence and more focused on getting the job done so no one will dislike a horse that doesn’t look like all the other horses. If you just want pure fun then give foxhunting a go. It can be done in addition to the other activities. Then you’ve got Working Equitation, mounted shooting, jousting…The majority of horses enjoy doing different things.


I agree with the others that you should only ride in a discipline that you find fulfilling and fun. If you want to switch to jumpers, do that—they do exist at the lower-level, but you might still be disappointed if you’re interested in fundamentally correct riding. At the lower levels, many riders run and gun and since jumpers are objective, they win—with no regard for safety or correct riding. This is why many trainers won’t let their students ride in super low-level jumpers to begin with.

For me, I do typically find the hunters—I enjoy the pursuit of perfection and find, more often than not, at the level I compete, that the right horse is rewarded.


Agree with others --but I think there are two reasons to move on or change disciplines: first is when it isn’t something you enjoy; second when it isn’t something your horse enjoys.

Like you I showed in hunters and despite the fact I thought I was great and my horse was solid, rarely placed. I am/was a tall, big woman. My trainer at the time (1970s) said that I appeared to be “muscling” my horse --over riding --even when I wasn’t. I had a bit more success in jumpers, but stopped both and started fox hunting —all the pageantry and none of the competition!

I’ve been fox hunting for 55 years now. Most recently my horse somehow became older --not sure how --but he’s not the spring chicken he once was. We have moved from first flight usually in the Master’s pocket (he needed our lead over fences now and then), to second flight where I can pick and choose what to jump. At 25, my lovely hunter isn’t going to be taking the 3’ stone walls any more --too hard on his legs. And at my age, a fall isn’t a good thing.

When my hunter was 21, the last kid/grandkid left the farm and the show ring (I was perpetual groom) so my summers were free. I tried trail riding but those who trail ride here are the “walk and whine” types. Too tame. Found my thrill with Mounted Archery. I practice daily from April to September, and compete three or four times a year with my horse, and one or two times a year on the ground (no horse). I have a purpose to my riding --a course built on my property and all the time in the world to enjoy. Mounted Archery is a young sport, mostly young men and women, but that is no advantage. Someone who can ride at a canter hands-free (old hat to me who rode with a hound whip in one hand and flask in the other over fences on the hunt field) --is competitive. My old hunter can canter 90 meters (the distance of the course) pleasantly and I can hit most of the targets regularly.

I lucked into a young fox hunter who is even better on the MA course than my old guy --but the old fellow excels on the hunt field. Best of all worlds.

I look forward to every practice --that to me is the true test of a competitor --if you like the practice as much as the competition.


I moved on from the hunters after 42 years doing it (started riding at 8 so I’m 50) . I moved because the horse that I bought is not a hunter. He is a jumper but also turns out to be an all around guy. So in my first year of owning him I did some dressage, some Combined Tests, an eventing derby (little height) and showed in the jumpers at the AA shows, Ocala etc ( I did the .65 for confidence and moved through to the .95 during my Fla trip). I did one hunter division when I first bought him at my first show because that is where “my” comfort zone is- horse doesn’t care.

No lie- it is freeing that if I miss, chip, miss a lead etc but still put in a good round I can place. It is freeing that it isn’t a beauty pageant etc. But most important- I am having FUN. I come out of the ring laughing and smiling regardless of the outcome. :slight_smile:

I still love a good hunter round. I still dabble in the hunter ring, knowing we will never “place” but I have so much fun. But I have moved on an am enjoying my horse and dabbling where I want.

I did a local schooling show this weekend- had a blast. I am having more fun doing the local eventing stuff than I ever thought possible (and I have fun no matter where I go).


Go out and explore everything that seems interesting to you! I started doing jumpers about 15 years ago after returning to riding during the last year or so of my Ph.D. studies. I quickly realized that I couldn’t afford an A show hunter and wasn’t interested in showing in the local hunter circuit. I’ve never looked back.

I have been training and riding with eventers for several years now and that has made my riding WAY better (hello, dressage!) and opened a new world to me. I don’t want to event myself but my horse and I have benefited a lot from going on all sorts of eventer-y adventures. So, go for it- branch out. Your horse sounds like he might enjoy it, too!


Some people never “move on” from the hunter divisions, they just get better at it, and jump bigger courses. Some people move on to other things, other disciplines. But if you are only competing at the 2’ level in the hunter division, my concern is that you are only just starting, and are still green. Yes, there may be “jumper” classes offered at that size, but my concern with these “LOW” jumper classes is that they encourage green riders to “race” over the jumps trying to win, rather than work on precision in the jumper divisions. You see the young kids in these divisions sometimes, and what they learn there and exhibit makes me frightened to watch, and I’m an old jumper rider. IMO, (and only my opinion), you should be able to jump a 3’ hunter course nicely, correctly, with some idea how to get to and over the jumps adequately, before moving on to the 3’ jumper divisions. And the shows should not be offering jumper divisions that are lower than 3’ (but they do because it’s a money maker and people enter them).

The placings in the hunter divisions are always going to be dependent on the judge’s decisions, which may be influenced by many different things. The quality of the judging as the most obvious, which is often influenced by the quality of the horse show. So if you place or not in a class can not be that meaningful, especially in low level horse shows. And in the low jumper divisions, racing around at full speed isn’t something that should be encouraged, but it will win the class.

Keep in mind that in the “old days”, the jumping classes, hunters and jumpers STARTED at 3’6". And the horses and riders sorted themselves out into which division they excelled at, and enjoyed. Hunters and jumpers both demand precision riding, and you won’t win in either division all the time.

If you are bored in the 2’ hunter division, try the 2’6" division. If you are bored in the 2’6" division, try the 3’. If you think that you and your horse might prefer the jumper division at that point, try the 3’ jumper division, but ride it with the precision you learned in the hunter divisions, not a race. The 3’ divisions are VERY SMALL jumps, still. It’s all about gaining precision and control when the jumps are this tiny, no matter whether hunter or jumper division.


I would think that if you have a horse that isn’t going to be a “hunter” and you’re still learning the ropes at 2ft your logical move would be to equitation. Also understand that changing division height can influence your horses ability to pin. I have a (I think, but definitely not a TB or a warmblood) half Arab mare that that will never pin in the 2ft/2’3” because she doesn’t have to use herself over jumps at that height. Moving up to 3ft she eats her knees and we aren’t penalized for having a bit more pace. Then we pin. She’s an athlete and a hack winning mover, not a short stirrup horse. She’s also not a “traditional” hunter, but we do ok.

All this to say that just because your horse isn’t a winner in the 2ft doesn’t mean much.


Also keep in mind that at the lowest levels, a judge will often reward a horse’s manners over flashiness, so some of what you’ve noticed may be people pinning above you because their horses seemed quiet and well-mannered, while yours might have looked more difficult to control despite the prompt transitions, etc.

I agree that equitation or combined tests may be the way to go. Jumpers at 2’ or 2’6" can be scary to watch since rails don’t come down easily at that height, and so dangerous speed wins.


Is there actual hunting in your area?

I was impressed with how happy real hunting was on a good horse, and one need not be concerned about being judged. Long day, good company, varied terrain.

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Just to tip a toe into fox hunting … our local Foxhunt hosts monthly hunter paces with lovely terrain and obstacles. For under $50 you can have a really fun Sunday and compete for year end awards with some really cool people.

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I also had a horse that wasn’t an ideal hunter, so I focused on equitation and entered the hunter divisions for experience. Here’s the reality - at the level in which you are competing, the jumping classes in your division will not be won by the fancy hunter - they will be won by whomever is accurate and precise. My wonky moving horse who couldn’t place in a flat won many tricolor by being accurate.

If accuracy and precision aren’t your jam, then I can’t recommend jumpers or eventing as you need to be accurate and precise for both. If you want to jump, it’s best to nail down the basics and the best path forward for that is the long stirrup division, where you have the option for hunters and equitation.

Best of luck!


There are starter/tadpole horse trials that run at 2’. You don’t have to stay someplace where you aren’t having fun. That’s not to say you aren’t going to be working on exactly the same things at home that you are now. Equitation is another option. I’m not a big fan of the jumpers under 3’. There is a lot of sloppy, unsafe riding that gets rewarded. If you are working on turns and track and all the other good stuff instead of just standing on the gas pedal, you aren’t likely to bring home many ribbons there.

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If accuracy and precision aren’t your thing, you will not get anywhere in Dressage either.

Honestly it sounds like early days to be throwing in the towel. Get all your turns and strides and approaches figured out. Once you are doing a good functional competent ride you can start to worry about whether your horse is aesthetically limited for hunters. But as long as you are making basic errors there are basic reasons you aren’t placing.

The equivalent is the dressage horse with small gaits. If you train him up and are super accurate you could get say a 62% on him, but nothing higher if he just can’t extend. If you do a messy ride it’s 51% or 45% with no bonus points on gaits to save you. Lots of people do this and are proud of how their willing but not super well endowed horse has advanced and is scoring low 60s because of good training.

Anyhow I think you have a lot left to learn in your hunter program. And it’s true that 2 foot jumpers is won by madcap young riders on ponies that could likely be barrel racing stars. You arent going to ribbon there.

If you dislike showing and losing, don’t show until you are doing much better at home. I personally don’t see the point in going out as a rider that’s not prepared. I wouldnt enjoy that. I know barns encourage it for team spirit and a fun outing especially for juniors. Also the trainer gets day fees for the outing. And it makes kiddies have “goals” like in other sports. But as an adult, I don’t see the point.


Yes, I can see that. I think we’ve struck out at our most recent shows with the course designs. Because it’s the beginning of the season, I think the 18” classes have been set very simply (so in other words, two lines of jumps that you lap through twice—no lead changes, no diagonal lines). It just doesn’t play to our strengths. We don’t get enough pace to start with, add a stride in the first line, and that’s enough to put you out of the ribbons, with no tight turns or lead changes to redeem those little screw ups. Rollbacks and lead changes are what we do have down… opening circles and getting a good canter right from the start are not.

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Now you know what you need to work on! Look at it positively!


Here is some inspiration for you riding your Morgan.

I believe there is or was a successful eventing training/breeding program in Northern CA based upon Morgan horses; too.


Have fun

Those classes are intentionally set very simply, to allow people to master the striding and pace without the concerns of additional turns or steering. If you think tight turns or lead changes will redeem other mistakes, then in all honesty (and I don’t mean this to be snarky) I don’t think you yet understand the hunter judging. Proper striding helps you manage the pace, and adding a stride is a major flaw not a minor one in most every classes (crossrails or similar classes may be an exception, but you have to either consistently do the add striding or consistently do the step, you can’t mix and match). You do not get bonus points for lead changes, and there is nothing in a hunter course that should require tight turns, and if you make one it is unlikely to look smooth or be rewarded. Getting a good canter to start is important. It sounds like there are still beneficial things you could work on in the hunter ring that will help you even if you move on to other rings or disciplines, so if you can hang on a little longer, working on your pace and striding and smoothing things out will only help you going forward. Given that hunter judging is subjective, it may also help to look at your hunter classes as a stepping stone and evaluate your rounds by whether they were better than the last time you did it. that’s what I care about most - sometimes I place higher than I expected, sometimes I place lower, but when I watch my videos I can usually figure out why. Good luck!


[quote=“AmmyHunter, post:19, topic:759211”]
Proper striding helps you manage the pace, and adding a stride is a major flaw not a minor one in most every classes (crossrails or similar classes may be an exception, but you have to either consistently do the add striding or consistently do the step, you can’t mix and match).

I feel much more like it’s the pace that manages the striding. And I also don’t mean to downplay it’s significance, I think it just frustrates me because my horse’s pace can be so hard to nail down (I’ve posted about that before). When I ask for a canter, there are many different types of canter I may get, and it can take several laps around the warm up ring to get the canter I’m looking for. An opening circle ends too soon. I need a big, big circle and preferably 3 of them :sob:

I hate to whine about the hunters, but I feel like it can be very “your horse gets it or he doesn’t.” I get that it’s supposed to showcase a natural, relaxed horse, but maybe in that respect, it depends too much on a horse’s natural way of going with minimal rider interference. So as a rider, when you need to troubleshoot something, it just feels like there are no tools in the toolbox to do that.

When you’re competing against horses with a metronome canter that doesn’t change once on a whole course, it’s easy to look at that and think, “That’s just how that horse goes. That horse was born cantering like that.” And it kind of feels like that’s what you’re supposed to think, because so much of hunter training—for amateurs and kids, at least—emphasizes steering out of the corners and then leaving the horse alone. My horse might have a metronome canter somewhere deep inside, but I feel like I need more tools than “add leg” and “add hand” to get there.