Hunt Seat Equitation

Pattern and Riding Tips

Hunt seat equitation requires a higher level of balance and timing between horse and rider. The class may require a pattern with some rail work, or just working horses on the rail.

Breed circuit shows usually require both a pattern followed by rail work. Most open shows leave it up to the judge to decide so you may or may not be asked to complete a pattern.

In a hunt seat equitation class the judge focuses more on the rider, and the rider's position through various maneuvers and gait transitions.

The guide below discusses what to expect when showing in a hunt seat equitation class, what the judge generally looks for, and some helpful hints to get ready for a hunt seat equitation class.hunt seat equitation

Class Breakdown

As stated above you may or may not have to perform a set pattern for the judge. Likewise, you may or may not have to complete some rail work with your horse. You will be expected to perform one or the other, or both.

If a pattern is expected, it should be posted for viewing at least an hour before the class begins. Patterns typically include a combination of walking, trotting (sit and/or posting), cantering (either lead), stopping, backing, pivoting, and possible lead changes.

If a pattern is posted there may also be a running order in which riders are randomly chosen to complete the pattern in an order. This is typically used at larger shows to save time. If you are not present and accounted for when it is your turn, you can likely be disqualified from the class.

As an exhibitor you will be judged individually while you work through your pattern. Once you have completed the pattern you may be excused or asked to find a place on the rail.

If asked to find a spot on the rail you will be performing some rail work at the discretion of the judge after all the patterns are completed. Depending on the judge you may only have to ride in one direction at all three gaits.

If you are riding only rail work you will be asked to walk, trot, and canter in both directions before being excused. Keep in mind this is not a pleasure class and though your horse's movement is a factor, the judge is judging you as the rider.

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Judging Criteria

When competing in a hunt seat equitation class the rider is the main focus of the judge. When seated on your horse your hands should be positioned just in front of your horse's withers and slightly above.

Your reins should form a straight line from your horse's mouth to your hands. You may want to maintain an appropriate bend at the elbow. About 90 degrees give or take should suffice.

You want to keep your eyes up while riding, shoulders back, and heels down. Pretty much everything your riding instructor will correct you for is mentioned in the AQHA handbook for appropriate riding position during a hunt seat equitation class.

While walking, the horse should be moving at a four-beat gait. In the posting trot, you must demonstrate posting on the correct diagonal. So if your horse is traveling around the ring with his right leg closest to the wall or rail, your rear end must be out of the saddle when the right leg and shoulder of your horse is forward.

During the canter and sitting trot, you need to be positioned only slightly in front of the vertical point. You don't want to be too far in front or you will throw yourself and your horse off balance. Make sure you sit deep in your saddle to maintain contact with your horse and prevent yourself from bouncing around too much.

Hunt Seat Equitation Pattern Work

Horse & Rider Faults

There are a few things you want to keep in mind to prevent disqualification from a hunt seat equitation class. You must wear a correct and visible number either on your back or one on each side of the horse's saddle pad. If you choose to pin the number on your saddle pad, make sure you have one on each side or you will be disqualified.

Other grounds for disqualification from a hunt seat equitation class include excessively schooling a horse or abuse to a horse, falling off your horse, or using inappropriate or prohibited equipment. If you are showing a breed circuit make sure you consult the rule book.

You may not be allowed to physically touch your horse while showing. You can also be faulted for the behavior of your horse. If your horse kicks at other horses or exhibitors, bucks, paws, or rears you will likely be faulted by the judge.

Class Preparation

When getting ready for a hunt seat equitation class the practice should begin before you even throw your horse on the trailer. When riding at home make sure you practice your balance and body position in the saddle. You want to first get comfortable with your horse at all three gaits with transitions made to each gait.

Once you feel you have the basics down, you can work on some simple pattern components. Serpentines, figure eights, and circles with diagonal changes are usually a part of the hunt seat equitation pattern.

When at the show, get a copy of the pattern (it is always better to pick up a pattern book) so you always have a reference to practice. Don't try to memorize the pattern or you may end up reinventing the pattern later. Nothing worse than questioning what the pattern is while watching a few people ride it in front of you. If you can't get a pattern book copy it down on a sheet of paper.

When practicing the pattern before your class, practice only bits and pieces of it. You never want to run through the entire pattern over and over because when it comes time to be judged on the pattern your horse may anticipate what you are going to be asking before you ask.

That’s it! Good luck out there and remember if you need more complete information about this class or other classes, make sure you read through the association rulebook.

Hunt Seat Equitation Flat Work

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