Judging Horse Events — Hunter under Saddle/Hunter Pleasure

Horses October 31, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

"Hunter under Saddle" and "Hunter Pleasure" are different terms used by different organizations to describe very similar classes that have these requirements:

  • Riders must exhibit a horse with a bright, alert expression.
  • Horse must have gaits that show its working hunter potential.
  • Gaits must be free flowing, ground covering, and athletic.
  • Contestants compete simultaneously.
  • Must travel around the perimeter of the arena and perform a walk, trot, and canter using both directions of the arena


The event is judged on performance, condition, and conformation, including these criteria, while performing a walk, trot, and canter:

  • Functional correctness
  • Quality of movement
  • Good attitude and manners
  • Correct head set and head carriageHunter Under Saddle, Horse Judging

The Walk

  • Natural, flat-footed, four-beat gait.
  • Movement should be straight and true, long, and low.

The Trot

  • Two-beat gait.
  • Smoothness is more essential than speed.
  • Gait should be balanced, well cadenced, long, and low.
  • Knees should remain relatively flat with minimal flexion.

The Canter

  • A three-beat gait that is smooth, relaxed, straight, long, low, and ground covering.

The Hand Gallop

  • A three-beat definite lengthening of the stride canter.
  • Ridden in a two-point position.
  • A noticeable difference in speed.

A Good Hunter

  • Has long, low strides
  • Reaches forward smoothly
  • Lengthens stride at all gaits when asked
  • Has a relaxed, free-flowing movement
  • Is correct in all gaitsHunter Under Saddle line up
  • Is well cadenced
  • Is obedient, well mannered
  • Has a bright expression
  • Has alert ears
  • Responds to light hand/leg contact

View this slide show on How to Judge Hunter under Saddle.




  • Credit is given to the flowing, balanced, willing horse.
  • Contestants compete simultaneously.
  • Contestants must travel around the perimeter of the arena and perform a walk, trot, and canter using both directions of the arena.


Faults are given for:

  • Quick, short, or vertical strides
  • Being on the wrong lead
  • Breaking gait
  • Excessive speed/slowness at any gait
  • Failure to take the appropriate gait when called for
  • Carrying the head too high or too low
  • Over-flexing or straining the neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical
  • Stumbling
  • Excessive nosing out
  • Failure to maintain light contact
  • Dull, lethargic, or overly tired
  • Consistently showing too far off the rail


Disqualifications are given for:

  • Head excessively too low consistently
  • Nose behind the vertical consistently


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.