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Judges’ Pet Peeves: Hunter & Equitation

Featured Image Credit (CC)S. Carter on Flickr

It’s all in the details! Sometimes the littlest things can make a bad impression on the judge! 🙈

In my 30+ years experience in the judge’s box, and from having countless opportunities to officiate with hundreds of judges that I respect, I’d like to share with you some pet peeves that might help you to influence the judges favorably instead of negatively!

First and foremost, let’s talk about turnout.

As they say, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” That first impression is when you enter the ring and the judge first lays eyes on you. Well-turned-out includes a clean, tidy, traditional appearance.

Turnout-wise, here are some pet peeves:

  1. Dirty boots
  2. Poor-fitting tack
  3. Yellow tack
  4. Too-large saddle pads
  5. Big fuzzy boots for horse in equitation
  6. Poor braid job
  7. Spurs sticking straight up instead of level with boot seam
  8. Untucked shirts
  9. Blingy belts
  10. Bling on Spurs
  11. Bling on brow bands
  12. Charms on spur straps
  13. Huge bows on pony children that obscure the riders number
  14. Short hunt coats that look more like an untucked fitted shirt
  15. Martingales that are too tight or too loose
  16. Crops that are brightly colored, have charms or are too big
  17. Odd colored hunt coats, breeches or shirts
  18. Boots with snakeskin or multi-colored leather
  19. Horse in poor condition (either/or—weight and condition of coat)
  20. Unconventional bits
  21. Messy hair

Basically, anything that detracts from the horse is frowned upon. It’s a horse show, not a people show.

Performance-wise, here are some major pet peeves:

  1. Posting to the canter
  2. Twisting and pulling on inside rein over the jump to attempt to land the lead
  3. Poor sportsmanship!!
  4. Excessive speed
  5. Too slow of pace
  6. Tired, sore or sour horse
  7. Temper!
  8. Horse behind the bit
  9. Rider too heavy in the saddle, or that rides behind the motion
  10. Looking for lead or diagonal
  11. Horse over-bent in turn or bent to outside
  12. Pulling on the inside rein for lead change
  13. No release or backwards release over the jumps
  14. Jumping ahead of the motion
  15. Getting left behind
  16. Ducking over the jump

There are others for sure, but in general, keep in mind the origin of the sport. Traditional hunting attire is the theme, so clean, conservative, classic turnout is a must!

Your turnout, appearance, and performance reflects respect for yourself, the judge, and most importantly, your horse!

Good luck and have fun😊

Julie Winkel was also a contributor to the blog post: “What To Wear in the Show Ring”

Video Recommendations:

riders position on the flat

Form Follows Function
Cynthia Hankins
Top trainer, rider, judge and clinician, Cynthia Hankins, shares with us her insight into some of the common bad habits riders inadvertently acquire. In addition to pointing out these habitual position flaws, Cynthia demonstrates the correct, classical form stamped by the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System.
Running Time:  26 minutes and 18 seconds

View Video
riders position over jumps

Form Follows Function Over Fences
Cynthia Hankins
In this topic, the second in a series, Cynthia Hankins, shares with us her insight into some of the common bad habits riders inadvertently acquire – this time over fences. In addition to pointing out these habitual position flaws, Cynthia demonstrates the correct, classical form stamped by the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System. Make sure to watch Cynthia’s first video in this series, Form Follows Function.
Running Time:  13 minutes and 18 seconds

View Video

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Julie Winkel

Julie Winkel has been a licensed Hunter, Equitation, Hunter Breeding and Jumper judge since 1984. She has officiated at prestigious events such as Devon, Harrisburg, Washington International, Capital Challenge, The Hampton Classic and Upperville Horse Shows. She has designed the courses and judged the ASPCA Maclay Finals, The USEF Medal Finals and The New England Equitation Finals.

For more information, visit her website:

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. What a fabulous read. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. It is always a nice way to hear how showing is perceived through the judges eyes. As most trainers encourage their horsemen and horsewomen to present themselves as well groomed, respectful horse-person. Thank you again for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. We love Julie’s insightful posts and hearing that others do too!

  2. How do judges feel about riders who are slightly/somewhat overweight? I am getting back into showing but have a bit of heft that I’m still working on…

    1. Hi Katherine, thanks for your question. We sent it to “R” rated judge, Julie Winkel here is her reply…
      “As judges we are considerate of adults packing a few extra pounds as long as it doesn’t effect the horse’s balance and performance. I’ve judged many heavy set adults that ride a lot better than stick thin ones for sure! I admire that you are still working on getting back in shape, but by all means go show as it will further motivate you to work towards your goals!“

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