When it comes to winning an under saddle class, we first need a little background on what Hunter Under Saddle classes are being judged on. Let’s go back to the history of our hunter division – the hunt field. Image you are hacking home after a long day of hunting. You want to arrive home safely and efficiently. You want to have a horse that covers the most ground with the least amount of effort. You want a happy horse with a good expression, that goes on light contact and is attractive. That’s what the judge is looking for when evaluating an under saddle class. But here are a few things you might not know:
1) When the class starts coming into the ring, the class isn’t officially being judged until the class is called to order. HOWEVER, the judge has a short amount of time to make a decision, so as the horses enter the ring, the judge gets a first impression, then writes the horses number down on his scorecard IN A PRELIMINARY order. By the time the class is called to order, most judges have all the numbers written down and have already made an initial placing. So make sure you get in the ring early and make a good first impression! If your horse trots better than canters, enter and start at that gait or visa versa.
2) Know where the judge is sitting. If it is in a judges box midway down the ring, the judge cannot see you directly under the booth. Work on the quarter line. Have your number positioned slightly towards the outside (which is where the judge usually is).
3) Horses should been shown on light contact, per the rules. Not in a tight frame or ever behind the bit!! One of the biggest mistakes I see, besides an unnatural frame, is showing the trot too fast.
4) Make sure every pass counts. Plan your traffic pattern so you will be visible to the judge and not boxed in each time you pass in front of the judge. Stay out of trouble by watching out for bad behaving horses.
5) Look around at the competition. Stay nearer the bad movers to make your horse look better and not next to the best ones.
6) Line up as close to the center of the lineup as possible, with your number centered on your back. You are being looked at one final time, so act like you are the winner and present yourself like you care from start to finish.
I hope some of these tips from inside the judges box will pay off for you and your horse in the under saddle classes!