Judging Horse Events - Hunt Seat Equitation

Horses January 16, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

This event evaluates the ability of the hunter rider to perform various maneuvers on his or her horse which provides a base for natural progression to over-fence classes.

  • Tests an amateur or youth’s ability to ride, not solely the performance of the horse.
  • Contestants may work a predetermined pattern and/or perform rail work.
  • Emphasizes the ability to sit correctly, hold the correct riding posture, and control the horse precisely with subtle cues.


Judging is based on performance of patterns, posting trot, two-point position, and hand gallop.


Patterns may consist of maneuvers such as:

  • Changing gaits
  • Travel in a figure-8 pattern
  • Backing
  • Posting on correct diagonal
  • Counter-cantering

Sample Pattern

The Posting Trot

  • Correct diagonals
    • Evaluated at the trot
    • Rider must rise and fall (post) with the leg on the wall

Two-Point Position

Hand Gallop

  • A three-beat, lengthened canter ridden in a two-point position


This event is scored from 0 to 100, with 70 as an average performance.

  • 90-100: Excellent equitation, including body position and use of aids. Completes pattern accurately, quickly, smoothly, and precisely; demonstrates a high level of professionalism
  • 80-89: Very good rider who executes the pattern as well as correct equitation and use of aids. Excellent rider who commits a minor fault, or an excellent rider who commits a major fault.
  • 70-79: Good pattern execution and average equitation but lacking the adequate style and professional presentation to merit elevating to the next scoring range. A very good rider who commits a minor fault.
  • 60-69: Fair pattern that lacks quickness or precision. Rider has obvious position and/or appearance faults that prevent effective equitation. A good rider who commits one minor fault, or a very good rider who commits a major fault in the performance of the pattern.
  • 50-59: One major fault or multiple minor faults in the performance. A rider who demonstrates a lack of riding ability and knowledge of correct body position.
  • 40-49: Severe fault, two or more major faults, or multiple minor faults in the performance that demonstrate a lack of riding ability and knowledge of correct body position.
  • 10-39: Exhibitor commits more than one severe fault or multiple major faults in the performance, exhibits poor riding skills but completes the class and avoids disqualification.


  • Minor faults:
    • Break of gait at walk or trot up to two strides
    • Over- or under-turn of 1/8 of the prescribed turn
  • Major faults:
    • Break of gait, out of lead, missing lead or diagonal for one to two strides
    • Not stopping within 10 feet of designated area
    • Incorrect gait or break of gait at walk or trot for more than two strides
    • Obvious looking for lead or diagonal
    • Over- or under-turn more than 1/8 of prescribed turn, but not more than 1/4 turn
    • Head carried too high or too low
    • Over-flexing or straining the neck in head carriage so the nose is carried behind the vertical
    • Excessive nosing out
  • Severe faults:
    • Loss of iron or rein
    • Break of gait at canter, out of lead, or missing lead or diagonal for more than two strides
    • Lack of contact between rider's hand and bit
    • Touching horse or any part of the saddle
    • Cropping or spurring in front of the shoulder
    • Head carried too high or too low
    • Kicking other horses, exhibitors, or judges, or other disobedience
    • Excessive nosing out, over-flexing, or straining the neck


  • Fall by horse or rider
  • Failure to wear correct number in visible manner
  • Willful abuse
  • Illegal equipment
  • Off pattern
  • Illegal use of hands on reins
  • Knocking over cone
  • Excessive schooling or training
  • Working on the wrong side of the cone
  • Never performing the specified gait
  • Turning more than ¼ turn beyond specified number of turns

Examples of Equitation Runs

Example 1

Example 2

Saddle Seat Equitation Run


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