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Over What Height Jump Does a Young Hunter Horse Show Their Form?

Submitted by member: Phyllis

I have a new hunter prospect. He is adorable, but puts in the least amount of effort at the little jumps. He is 4 so we are taking it slow. My question is this, when do you know a horse has “it” for the hunters? For a horse that everything is easy, at what height of fence do you see their true form?

Answer by Julie Winkel

First of all, I commend you for acknowledging the importance of going slow with a four-year old hunter prospect. Not only is he still developing physically, but mentally as well.  The stifles and hindquarters need to become stronger through hill work (if possible) and transition work. Trotting is the gait to develop strength and conditioning, as well as teaching a horse correct jumping technique.

I really don’t like to jump the four-year olds higher than 3′, and usually not until the fall of their 4th year. If your horse jumps easily and isn’t showing a tight front-end and real use of his back and hind end, it may be due to the fact he has scope and he doesn’t need to make a big effort yet. Often times the horses that are so expressive and stylish over low jumps are also limited in the scope and stride department. I’ve had young horses that didn’t show great style until they were closer to six-years old because they were still growing and finding their balance. So there isn’t a concrete age or fence height that is going to determine if your horse is going to make it in the hunter ring, due to the fact every horse is an individual and matures at different rates. So be patient and don’t get suckered into trappy gridwork or gimmicky bits or draw reins to try to make him jump better. It’s best to teach him basics and let him develop at his own rate. Then you will find out if he is best-suited for the hunter ring or not.

Video Recommendation:

the ideal hunter horse by john french

The Ideal Hunter Type
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John French describes in detail the overall look and conformation that make up the ideal hunter type.
Running Time:  17 minutes and 9 seconds

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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 One Comment
  1. Also love and respect Julie’s take on training and riding. So considerate of the horse!

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