Monday, July 19, 2010

Hunter Under Saddle--Quarter Horse Style!

Hunter Under Saddle is the English equivalent of a Western Pleasure class. Horses compete in a group, on the rail and in both directions of the ring at a walk trot and canter. They are judged primarily on the quality of their gaits and manners. For the purposes of today's post, I'm focusing on the stock breed version of this class. All pictures were taken at last month's Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association Youth and Amateur Show which was held at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado.
The ideal Hunter Under Saddle horse should move out with a long, low, sweeping stride. Headsets will generally range from slightly above to significantly below level.
This bay horse was one of the biggest winners of the day both in the Under Saddle and Over Fences divisions. While I do not care for his very low headset, there was no denying the fact that this horse was a very good mover. I suspect he would have been the winner no matter where he held his head.
Although I did see a few "tropers" in the Hunter Under Saddle division, they were the exceptions rather than the rule. Most of the horses cantered out nicely with a long albeit slow stride.
This tall grey was also a class winner. Like many of the horses in this division, he was very Thoroughbred-y in appearance.
In addition to performing at the walk, trot and canter, the horses are also required to halt and backup.
After the horses have performed in both directions, they are called to line up in the center of the ring to await the results.
Roughly half of the horses in this division were braided with hunter style braids.
The other half wore bands. Many--but not all--of the banded horses went on to show in the Western Pleasure classes later in the day.
Although I did not see any horses competing with loose manes, I did notice one horse whose mane was completely roached off!
Tails were uniformly long, full and banged at the fetlocks. I did not see a single braided tail.
At a regular USEF hunter show, nearly every horse in the ring will be wearing a big dee ring snaffle. There were some of these bits at the RMQHA Youth and Amateur Show...
but there were also a lot of kimberwicks.Another popular choice was the Myler dee ring bit. At first glance this looks like a regular snaffle. However, if you look closely you will notice that this bit is fitted with a curb chain. Also, the reins and cheekpieces attach to the bit through "hooks" which give the bit a mild curb effect.
A couple other notes on turnout--every single horse showing in this division wore a number pocket saddle pad. That's something you don't see at a USEF hunter show, so keep that in mind as you dress your model hunter. Also, even in the Youth classes, none of the riders had chinstraps on their helmets.
Questions, comments, random thoughts? Please post them!

27 comments:

  1. Reins... loooong reins... pick up the reiiiins.... gah! I'd like to see one of these chicks ride a horse outside an arena, they wouldn't last ten seconds. They do look a little more specialized than the ones around here, which mostly seem to be western pleasure horses whose riders have borrowed an English saddle for the day.

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    1. The long reins are purposeful. :/ And if you're such a trail rider, I'd like to try and see you compete. I'm sure these girls can ride a horse just as well as you, if not better.

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  2. Hi I've been reading your blogs for ages and love what you write. Looking at these "Hunters" I was just amazed at how unhappy some of them were, look at their ears! Number 250 has lovely self carraige but 218 is so heavy on the forehand. I'm from Scotland and these classes and class types are sooo different from how we would ride a ridden hunter class. A real eye opener for me. Thanks again for all the wonderful information you give us.

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  3. As a primarily English rider (from England) I do find these classes odd to look at :-) They look like they're just doing a stretching exercise before the main class!
    Do you know what the rationale is behind the low headset and loose rein? Is it to show that the horse is well behaved/balanced without rein contact? Or just because that's the way the stock horses go?

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  4. I *want* the grey. I also love the bay. However, I would be immedately sticking them in another bit, a dressage saddle and teach them that contact is a lovely thing and they CAN carry their own damn head.

    Ordinarylitteart: Low head supposedly = a pleasure to ride horse - well trained, etc. I'm sure it did not start out like that though. You do get this around the other breed rings but not always to this level. It's also compounded when the judges place these lower head sets. (Perhaps it is the best of the worst in the class or some other thing.)

    BUT, I'm glad the tropers were not out in full force!

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    1. That IS self carriage for these types of horses. For HUS horses, this 'long and low' headset actually helps engage and bring up their topline.

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  5. Allie--there were quite a few of those Western Pleasure type horses in attendance. However, my eye (and my camera lens) kept going to the big Thoroughbred-y looking things, and generally those were the horses that were getting the top placings.

    Janice--I took A LOT of pictures of 218. He was a lovely, lovely mover despite being so low in front. Unlike the big grey, he did show over fences so I got to see his more natural form. It was an interesting comparison. Would anyone like to see the pictures? I have a feeling I am going to be sitting next to my computer all day tomorrow anyway (watching realtime NAN results!) so I'd be happy to post them if there's interest.

    Ordinarylittleart--I think there are several reasons behind the low headset. Teresa mentioned one. Another is that so many QH showers/trainers come from a Western background. They are used to looking at low-headed horses so it doesn't seem particularly odd. Also, a lot of these horses are Hunter Under Saddle specialists. Unlike real (USEF) hunters, a lot of them will probably never show over fences. This is all they do and they don't need to pick their heads up to do it.

    Worth mentioning--look at the way these horses are built. Their necks come out of their shoulders at a really low angle. They've been bred to go this way. It's not all training.

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  6. I have a hunter horse, and I show him in the allaround. It's funny because whenever I show him in halter (whether it be a AQHA show, or open show) he always gets first in that class. It confuses me since he is half TB, and usaully Appendixs (or any other lanky horse) don't succed in halter.
    I ride him with a very loose rein because all I use are my legs, sure at times I do use me reins, but 90% of the time it is legs. Also another reason people ride with loose rein is to show that the rider does not need to use there hands to lower the horses head set, most people that show in this class that ride tight are usaully trying to lower the horses head.
    Heres my boy: he looks wild eyed here but he's never like that.
    http://i305.photobucket.com/albums/nn207/__Horselover_Rocky/Whale3.jpg

    I love those pictures Braymere! I would love to see the over fences pictures, I plan to start jumping my boy next year.

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  7. Thanks for the additional info! Your horse is very cute. Here's a working link for everyone who wants to see him: lpjones01's horse

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  8. oooh... whatta cutie.

    I'm always up for over fences photos!

    I would disagree with this: Also another reason people ride with loose rein is to show that the rider does not need to use there hands to lower the horses head set, most people that show in this class that ride tight are usaully trying to lower the horses head.

    I've seen a lot of people just whack on their horse in a kimberwicke right before the gate. They "set" it like they would in Western and go right in. It's not that they need to lower a head set (and truly, if you get the butt going with you, you get the head following) but they don't truly know how to *ride* a horse, esp English.

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  9. I'd love to see the jumping pictures and reading the comments lets me understand the how's and why's of this type of riding.

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  10. Ipersonally like the bay with the white nose and hind socks much better than any of the others... probably in part because the two pics show his attitude as listening and thinking, not just angry like all the others.

    Personally, I hate the stock breed HUS idea. I want to put each and every one of these teams over an outside course! Or change the name from calling it "hunt" seat,because these people and animals as they go currently are a liability in a hunt field. It's ridiculous and sad what fads can do, truly.

    If a horse isn't competitive at open shows due to type/breeding, doesn't mean a breed should change what the requirements for a style are. They should still do field/equitation hunter hunt seat to the best of every given animal's ability. I think AQHA and the other stock breeds would benefit ENORMOUSLY from being judged in PERFORMANCE classes (like these supposedly are) by people that actually judge open shows in these classes. Don't make a new style of riding just because you can't do the real one correctly.

    Sorry, it drives me nutty.

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  11. Love the picture of the hus horses and great description.
    CONFIRMATION
    As for the rest of you who keep talking about how its unatural for the horse to carry its head low, the Appendix QH is bred for the confirmation of the HUS horse to be carried low, deep hocked and slow paced.
    RIDING ABILITY
    When we go out in the show pen, the horse is suppose to look like a pleasure to ride, you dont want to have a ton of contact on your horses mouth. There is no jerking or being hard on them most of the horses choose to carry there heads the way they are in those pictures the horses are also taught to work off your leg when you are trotting them you and are asking to lenghthen there stride most of them like to carry there head lower its easier for them to do so.
    BREEDING
    Anyways I know some of you don't like how the QH is going and that you don't like what its called and you think what they do is wrong but we do what we like to do and you do what you like to do we breed for what we want and you breed your dressage horses for what you need to do(did your horse know how to do a piaffe on its own with those big long legs?) you breed your jumpers strong enough to jump over fences so did your horse already know how to jump when you were training it or did it just go over the fence no problem? The barrel horses are bred for what they need to do they are bred to be short backed so that they can make those sharp turns the bigger horses long backed horses wouldn't never be able to make a tight turn at the speed they go! People breed for what they want to show. There is so many other breeds that people are breeding for what they want there horse to do.
    THE TERM HUS-
    The world is changing many things are called the same thing but are very different in a lot of ways! As for a stock breed, most of the QH Hunt seaters are elegant in the show pen. And you know what a lot the training is done in a western saddle but when it comes down to we can ride in whatever saddle you put us in. Also here is a question for you hunter jumpers or Dressage people can your horse go around in a rubber snaffle because a lot of these horses can! I dont want to be rude about how you train your horses but as it seems you deffently have a say in how AQ horses ae going! I would like to see your take your jumpers or your dressage horses and go around on a loose rein but doing that keeping there movement slow and steady! our horses are treated great they get the love and care they could ever want! If i'm not mistaken i have seen quiet a few horses doing the job there owners desire and they aren't very happy its not just in the AQ Circuit! I know my horse loves his job he goes out every morning we have a lesson and get ready for the show coming up he goes around the pen and does what he likes to do his ears are forward and he does his job very well! I love my horse and I wouldn't trade him for anything, and I know there is a lot of horses not happy doing there job on the AQ circuit but that is everywhere in every disapline!!!!
    ON THAT NOTE
    Everyone is entitled to there own opinion but be nice because i'm sure there is a lot of people that don't agree with how you show your breed of horse!

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  12. Love the picture of the hus horses and great description.
    CONFIRMATION
    As for the rest of you who keep talking about how its unatural for the horse to carry its head low, the Appendix QH is bred for the confirmation of the HUS horse to be carried low, deep hocked and slow paced.
    RIDING ABILITY
    When we go out in the show pen, the horse is suppose to look like a pleasure to ride, you dont want to have a ton of contact on your horses mouth. There is no jerking or being hard on them most of the horses choose to carry there heads the way they are in those pictures the horses are also taught to work off your leg when you are trotting them you and are asking to lenghthen there stride most of them like to carry there head lower its easier for them to do so.
    BREEDING
    Anyways I know some of you don't like how the QH is going and that you don't like what its called and you think what they do is wrong but we do what we like to do and you do what you like to do we breed for what we want and you breed your dressage horses for what you need to do(did your horse know how to do a piaffe on its own with those big long legs?) you breed your jumpers strong enough to jump over fences so did your horse already know how to jump when you were training it or did it just go over the fence no problem? The barrel horses are bred for what they need to do they are bred to be short backed so that they can make those sharp turns the bigger horses long backed horses wouldn't never be able to make a tight turn at the speed they go! People breed for what they want to show. There is so many other breeds that people are breeding for what they want there horse to do.
    THE TERM HUS-
    The world is changing many things are called the same thing but are very different in a lot of ways! As for a stock breed, most of the QH Hunt seaters are elegant in the show pen. And you know what a lot the training is done in a western saddle but when it comes down to we can ride in whatever saddle you put us in. Also here is a question for you hunter jumpers or Dressage people can your horse go around in a rubber snaffle because a lot of these horses can! I dont want to be rude about how you train your horses but as it seems you deffently have a say in how AQ horses ae going! I would like to see your take your jumpers or your dressage horses and go around on a loose rein but doing that keeping there movement slow and steady! our horses are treated great they get the love and care they could ever want! If i'm not mistaken i have seen quiet a few horses doing the job there owners desire and they aren't very happy its not just in the AQ Circuit! I know my horse loves his job he goes out every morning we have a lesson and get ready for the show coming up he goes around the pen and does what he likes to do his ears are forward and he does his job very well! I love my horse and I wouldn't trade him for anything, and I know there is a lot of horses not happy doing there job on the AQ circuit but that is everywhere in every disapline!!!!
    ON THAT NOTE
    Everyone is entitled to there own opinion but be nice because i'm sure there is a lot of people that don't agree with how you show your breed of horse!

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    1. I agree completely. Many people think that all race, saddle seat, dressage, bronc, and many other horses are mistreated and have horrible owners. Yes, that's true for some, but some people seriously don't realize that those are just the first stories that come up on the news. Have you ever heard that story about that average dressage horse that's just so happy to do his/her job. No. No one is going to write a story about that unless the horse is some amazing horse that's an international champion, etc. *sigh* I've tried to explain to many of them, but most of them are just too dull or stubborn to really think about it or just go to a horse show and meet some of the owners :/

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  13. @Allie, didn't your Mother ever tell you if you don't have something nice to say, don's say anything at all? I show this "style" English and also have an extensive history of Open Jumping & dressage... believe me this girl can handle herself out of an arena, how rude!

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  14. Judges around here are all QH judges, so if a horses head isnt down, you're so gone. Im so happy that my mare naturally puts her head down, and we ride on a loose rein. I just got her in Dec and shes only about 4, with no show training on her. We took her to a show and I just walked her around and she acted like she done it a million times. We dont know what breed she is, but were sure shes QH mix. :]
    - Leah

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  15. They look like TBs because they ARE. :-) Their two drops of Quarter Horse blood may get 'em registered that way, and some DO look a tad more QH-ey than others, but from what I've seen the successful QH HUS horses these days are about 98% TB. Just something else I don't get.

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    1. If they were 98% thoroughbred, they would not get AQHA papers, especially not full AQHA papers.
      It's not unheard of for a half/half (appendix) to get AQHA registration, but I am pretty sure they get 'appendix AQHA' papers instead of full quarter horse papers, but I could be wrong, or there may be exceptions.

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    2. Appendix Quarter Horses can advance to the regular registry through achievements on the racetrack or in the show ring. Here's some info:

      "AQHA has created a special registry and numbering system for these Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred crosses. These horses are considered Quarter Horses, but are named for the registry system created for them — Appendix. They are denoted by a registration certificate that is white with a gold border (or completely gold if you have an older-style certificate) instead of blue. Their registration numbers also begin with an X. AQHA has registered more than 600,000 Appendix horses to date.

      While Appendix horses are eligible to compete in all AQHA competitions with no stipulations, there are breeding restrictions. An Appendix horse can only be bred back to a permanent, or regular numbered Quarter Horse. An Appendix cannot be bred to a Thoroughbred or another Appendix horse and still be registered with AQHA. But, as is true everywhere, there are exceptions to every rule.

      Part of AQHA’s Mission Statement is to uphold the integrity of the Quarter Horse breed. If an Appendix horse can prove itself as versatile and worthy of being a Quarter Horse, AQHA will advance the Appendix horse, and that horse can now be bred to a Thoroughbred, Appendix or Quarter Horse, with the resulting foal being eligible for registration with AQHA. The requirements for advancement are an 80 or better Speed Index on a race track or a Register of Merit in the open division at AQHA-approved shows. (Amateur and youth ROMs do not qualify for advancement.)"

      source

      Theoretically, it's possible for a QH to be 98% Thoroughbred, but it would require many generations of Appendix horses advancing to the regular registry. It's not impossible, but it is fairly unlikely. However, I have no doubt that most of the horses pictured in this post are more than 50% genetically TB.

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  16. My HuS horse goes the same in the Arena as it does outside of it!! I last well over an hour let alone 10 seconds. I rode classical british english before and yes the reins came as a shock but once your horse is good, long and low its an amazing feeling as you feel him stretch out beneath you and lift that body. I must admit I am somewhat sup prised at the narrow-mindedness of some of the comments on this blog......don't knock it, till you have tried it! Happy Trails.

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  17. Hi
    Ok so i understand the whole english riding difference (hacks vs us hunters...) however the head set by judging rule must be no lower then the withers or just slightly above... on long soft length of rein! My hunter horse i have competed on bridless! i ride in a hackmore at home... and he will travel like that all the time... its all use of leg! I compete and have won at high level elementary dressage and at hunter and western pleasure (all on the same horse) having the trust and faith in your horse to travel on that light as a feather contact is unbeleivable and the rush of winning and knowing that you can canter from a stand still without touching his mouth awesome!! My gelding is 16.2 pure bred quarter horse (cutting and cow horse traditional bloodlines! I own his mum and dad) The narrowminded comments irritate me... the so called angry horses... those ears are listening my horse looks like an antenner when we go around his ears move dependant on which leg is stronger or im asking for something if his ears are forward he is either about to spook or he isnt listening to me... having a horse over bridled and "lifted" or "elevated" (once you have ridden both bareback you will know the feel) their back sinks out or bows when they are relaxed and level there backs are strong and supportive....
    Please us western showies our horses arent forced to travel like that if a horse travels naturally with there head UP it is actually a sign of a hot headed flighty horse... horses that are calm adn trusting naturally travel like that!

    I love the blog and the interest that yall show in the industry but please dont bag us out... i actually dont train my horse in an arena at home they become dependant on a rail and i want to be able to move my horse anywhere in a class without him trying to get back to the rail (or comfort zone)!!!

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  18. @Allie i ride a TB with loose reins. I used to jump him with loose reins. He fights any contact on the bit so i ride him with loose reins and he is fine.

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  19. Am I too late to comment, it is 2012!Everyone take a minute, look out in the pasture. A horse at ease does not carry his head behind vertical. Nor do our hus horses. They travel in a manner most natural to them. There is no argument. Just look at your pasture horses. They only get up when running away. They never travel behind vertical no matter what. Our horses are able to travel this way because of breeding, and trust. Our horses will ride this way both in and out of the pen. This is how they travel in the comfort of their own pasture. We do not have to be in their mouth and pulling their head behind vertical.

    That said here is the bottom line. We love our horses and treat them well as do you yours. This is what we do and you do something else. I came from the hunter/jumper world into the quarter horse world. You do what you do, we do what we do. There is no right and wrong - it is just different. It is all for the love of the horse and a great ride. I don't believe we need to beat one another up just because what we do is different.At the end of the day all of our horses are in a lovely dry stall, eating lovely hay and grain, looking forward to a safe and peaceful nights rest. It is a good life.

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  20. I hate to say this, but I find some of these comments rather rude. I own a western pleasure/hunter under saddle horse, and her natural headset is low. Also, I can ride her with loose reins and just legs. I have done this many times before with much success.

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  21. I hate to bring up the bad news, but I did find a copyright issue. I was browsing photos of hunter under saddle when I found this: http://imgarcade.com/1/aqha-hunter-under-saddle/

    Unfortunately, it seems that someone stole the 3rd photo on this post :/

    I checked around a bit on the page and it doesn't have any kind of citation.

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  22. Yes, I appreciate this. Whenever we ride a horse, then it should be comfortable. Tuffrider breeches are the best choice for those who are riding. Keep Posting.

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