Walk into any major hunter/jumper show on the East Coast and there’s one name you’re likely to find at least once, but maybe two or three times, at the top of the week’s professional hunter divisions: Scott Stewart. Few riders have dominated equestrian sport the way that Stewart has the American hunter world in the last two decades, staking out a long and decorated career on some of the finest horses the country has produced.
Stewart, who began his training in the equitation ring alongside coach, Bill Ellis, took his first job at Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Connecticut in 1984. During his more than 10 years at Ox Ridge, Stewart had the opportunity to work with legends including George Morris and Bill Steinkraus, and developed his own skills as a hunter and equitation trainer—an aspect of his career that he continues to embrace.
Today there are few, if any, championship hunter trophies that don’t bear Scott Stewart’s name. He has won the World Champion Hunter Rider (WCHR) Professional Finals trophy five times—more than any other rider—and the Devon Leading Hunter Rider award a dozen times. Like Robert M. Parker, whose critical dominance of the American wine industry helped popularize a certain style of wine, Stewart’s competitive success has helped to define a new style of show hunter; a “type” of horse that’s recognizable by the way it looks, moves, and jumps in the ring. In fact, judges and savvy amateurs, alike, can often pick out a “Scott Stewart horse” even before the announcer calls out its name.
So when it comes to our own performance, who better than Scott Stewart to ask about those sticky, little hunter points that seem to haunt us all?
At the Hampton Classic Horse Show this August, we caught up with the very charming Stewart to pick his brain about just of few of these common foibles. From seeing a distance to warming up for big classes, here are some tricks of the trade from one of hunter riding’s all-time greats.