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Popular Horse Shows in North America and their differences

Hunter, jumper, and equitation shows are extremely popular throughout North America, especially among amateur riders who love jumping. For those unfamiliar with the terms used, understanding the distinction between the three types of shows is usually difficult to discern. In this article, we will discuss Popular Horse Shows in North America and their differences.

The judging system makes a major distinction between jumper, hunter, and equitation classes. Although all three classes are conducted on obstacles, scoring is subjective in the hunter and equitation divisions and objective in the jump division.

Particularly hunter judges are judged according to how the horses perform. In contrast, jumpers are judged on time and number of errors. Then lastly, the main emphasis of equitation classes is on the style and performance of the horse. This article will dive deeper into the distinctions in each division:

Divisions of Jumper and Hunter Shows

Hunter jumper shows are extremely well-known throughout North America and much less frequent in Europe. A commercial hunter jumper association oversees the sport in the United States (USHJA).

Hunter jumper shows are divided into three divisions: hunters jumper and Equitation. All divisions require riders to navigate the course of an obstacle circle, and each is judged differently. We will look at all three divisions in greater detail:


The words of the USEF The USEF claims that the hunter division is rooted in the old-fashioned fox hunt. In the day, hunters rode their horses around the countryside searching for prey. To ensure they didn’t lose sight of the game, hunters frequently jumped their horses over fences or natural obstacles. This is the reason show hunting got its name.

In the end, hunters’ classes test the best hunting horse’s fundamental qualities, including a calm disposition, easy gaits, and quality jumping. Thus, the hunter horses of today or show hunters have to be trained well and attentive to the rider’s aid.

In comparison to jumping, hunter classes demand the use of a higher “artistic” and sophisticated riding style. They take place on the flat and over fences and are open to riders of all levels.

The typical Hunter course has 8-12 inches of natural-style fences that look like classic fox hunting challenges. They are usually less complicated than jump courses, with less complicated designs and a smaller maximum height.

While hunter classes serve more as a starting place rather than an ultimate ambition for professional riders, more than five national Hunter Classic U.S. competitions offer at least $26,000 in prize money.


Hunter classes need an artistic mind and a more artistic approach; the jumper division is about speed and smart riding. Both horses and riders need to be athletic and courageous to be successful in this sport. Show jumping, unlike hunting, is a very popular sport across North America and worldwide.

The jumper division is an objective scoring method that evaluates the speed of jumpers and the number of mistakes made during each round.

Under The USHJA, USHJA states that the rider and horse receive four points for each pole knocked down, 4 points for every refusal to jump, and one fault for each second that passes over the period needed to finish the course. The team is disqualified from the competition if the horse does not make three jumps.

Many jumping competitions include two rounds, the opening, and the jump-off rounds. If a rider finishes the course in the allotted time and clears all the jumps, they can proceed to the next round. The jump-off round is a tie-breaker round, where the rider who has the least poles on the ground is the winner.

The jumper course is more challenging than hunter courses and typically consists of between 12 and 16 jumps. In addition to competing against time, riders must be able to navigate higher heights and tight corners, and complex combinations to win. Below is an example of a typical round.

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Equitation classes are comparable to the hunter in that judging is completely subjective. While hunter classes focus on the horse’s shape and performance, the equitation division places the horse in front of attention.

To succeed in this class, riders need to have good posture and style and communicate effectively with virtually invisible aids throughout the round. Judges will look at the rider’s hand and legs and the seat and penalize any unnatural movements or fidgeting. 

The rider’s job in Equitation is to create illusions of “just sitting there.” Although horses aren’t evaluated for this type of competition, they must have trained professionals to harmonize with the riding.

Since equitation classes require an excellent method of riding, they are an excellent opportunity to begin for those who want to become show jumpers. The solid foundation built from this section will provide riders with the foundation for the success of their jumping career.

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