Hunters and Jumpers


Hunter and Jumpers 1
© United States Hunter Jumper Association



Discovering the Origins of the Hunters
The roots of today's Hunter sport can be traced back to a fox hunt, with the original hunter flanked with hounds, navigating the challenges of the open countryside and driven by the thrill of the hunt. Today's show hunter is asked to conquer similar tests of skills by competing over obstacles reminiscent of those found on a fox hunt. Judges are looking for great jumping style, quality of both looks and movement, as well as willingness, manners, and suitability of horse and rider. The over fence round in particular is judged on evenness of pace and consistency of distances as horses traverse a course of fences that simulate the coops, walls, gate, and such that would be found across a hunt field. Additionally there are classes referred to as Handy Hunters, where the judges' emphasis is placed on the execution of tight turns, creative approaches, brilliance, and pace. Modern show hunters are also exhibited on the flat -without fences. These classes are known as Under Saddle and competitors are judged for movement, manners, and quality in the gaits going in both directions of the arena at the walk, trot, canter, and at times the hand gallop.

Historically most hunters of the past were the Thoroughbred breed, however with the importing of quality Warmbloods from throughout Europe today's hunter events consist of an array of breeds competing successfully at virtually all levels.

From a Military Command the Show Jumper is Born
Unlike their counterparts of the Hunter world who were derived from an Aristocratic sport, show jumpers developed from a government decree- the Enclosure Act in the eighteenth century required military personnel, most of which were in the Calvary, to jump fences/obstacles in order to take the shortest route on their assigned journeys. The agility of the horses and daring abilities of the military riders were quickly sparked competitions internationally, until 1952 all Show Jumpers in the Olympic Games were active duty servicemen. Competitions today test jumpers under various conditions over a course of obstacles typically set in a technical layout that encompasses the majority of a grass field or fenced arena. The intent is to demonstrate the horse's energy, skill, speed, and obedience in jumping as well as the rider's horsemanship. Penalties are incurred for exceeding the time allowed to complete the course, for knocking down or refusing to jump an obstacle. Finishing with the least amount of penalties determines the winner.


The Sport Today


Shine_2011 USHJA IHD (c)United States Hunter Jumper Association
© United States Hunter Jumper Association

One common factor shared by Hunters and Jumpers of the past was the dominance of the Thoroughbred bred, however as with the Hunters, the faster pace and technicality of modern show jumping attracts a variety of horse breeds today.




2011 NAJYRC _YR (c)United States Hunter Jumper Association
© United States Hunter Jumper Association

The United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) creates new resources for education, advancements in equine welfare, and promotion of the industry. Two competitive programs that help USHJA achieve their mission, the World Champion Hunter Rider Program (WCHR) and, the International Hunter Derby Series provide today's professional riders and trainers a stage to spotlight the athleticism and beauty of the horse in performance.

Adult Equitation (c)United States Hunter Jumper Association

© United States Hunter Jumper Association


Created in 1995 to be the ultimate showcase for professional hunter riders, the WCHR program has now grown to include some of the most illustrious year end awards for the Professional, Emerging Professional, Amateur Owner, Amateur Adult, Children, and Pony riders. Members of the WCHR program qualify for Regional and National awards by accumulating points throughout the year at member events held across the United States. Point from each rider's top four WCHR events are then used to determine Regional and National standings, from these the top six regionally ranked and top ten nationally ranked in each category are invited to compete in the WCHR Finals held in October at the Capital Challenge Horse Show in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The pageantry steeped in traditions, along with the honor of receiving one of the historical perpetual trophies, has made this event one of the sport's most treasured events.

The USHJA International Hunter Derby program was developed in 2007 to bring the heritage and art of horsemanship to the forefront of the show ring. The USHJA "Derby" classes highlight the high performance hunters by providing them with the opportunity to compete over courses and obstacles that recall the history and excitement of the American Hunter Discipline and System, while earning significant prize money in the feature class at many of the country's most prestigious horse shows. One of the goals of the program is to receive approval of the Hunters as an international discipline of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). This program took a big step in the direction of achieving this goal when USHJA held International Hunter Derby demonstrations during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010. It proved to be a huge draw and confirmed a worldwide interest in show hunters.

Additional Information

For additional information contact:

    United States Hunter Jumper Association
    3870 Cigar Lane
    Lexington, KY 40511
    (859) 225-6700