“I ride hunter/jumpers,” is how you’d probably reply if you happen to jump sticks on horses and someone only moderately horsey asks you what kind of riding you do. And it is true that many top riders compete in both hunters and jumpers, and that many of the principles you learn in one can easily be transferred to the other. But when, like many other riders in America, you grow up riding hunters and switch over to the jumpers in later life, the learning curve can feel—rather steep. Here’s why.
1. The courses look different. LOTS different.
Remember the hunter days of single, line-diagonal, line-diagonal? Yeah, those days are gone forever.
2. And there’s a good chance you’ll need to remember two courses, not one.
“I made jump off? Mazel! Now where the &*@#$ do I go?”
3. But if things get even remotely exciting on course, you’ll instantly forget everything you memorized.
The jumps are numbered, but you’ll be too frazzled to read them.
4. You will learn to live and die by the sound of the start buzzer.
You’ll even hear it in your dreams.
5. And you’re going to need to buy some gear. A lot more gear.
High-tech open front and hind boots? Check. Breastplate with running martigale attachment? Check. Riser pad? Belly guard? Check, double check.
6. The one thing you’re not going to need? An artfully braided mane and tail.
(Because nobody has time for that.)
7. Unless you’re showing in the classic, in which case, you’ll need chunky jumper braids secured with rubber bands.
It’s so great. The whole process will take about 15 minutes, max.
8. You’ll also need a pair of white breeches.
Yep. Bright, skin-tight breeches as white as new fallen snow.
9. Speed is now your friend, not your enemy.
To be accurate, we should say, “ground-covering impulsion”. But, yeah, fast.
10. You’ll also be introduced to a concept known as “the time allowed.”
That smooth, deep, square-cornered track that you’re used to in the hunter ring? That is NOT compatible with the time allowed.
11. In fact, get used to the idea of cutting corners.
You know how your hunter trainer always said, “Use your corners to give yourself more time?” Forget that. Your trainer’s new favorite adjectives are “quick”, “just around”, and “efficient”.
12. And your ideal takeoff spot? That’s going to be different too.
You’re looking for the base of the jump. Closer… nope, closer still… like you’re actually going to jump from underneath the 4′ oxer. Yep, there you go.
13. Jump height is a relative term.
The hunter rules of 2’6″, 3′, and 3’6″ no longer apply. Now it’s just “Big”, “Scary Big”, and “Don’t-Even-Look-at-Them-While-You’re-Walking-or-You’ll-Throw-Up Big”.
14. Also, everything is now in meters.
(Don’t Google the conversions, you’ll just scare yourself more.)
15. On the plus side, it’s about to get SO much more fun shopping for hunt coats!
Just be sure to use your new style freedom to color-coordinate with your horse (and your ear bonnet).
16. And it’s refreshing to know that in the end, you only have yourself (and the clock) to beat.
No more judges, no more politics—the fastest time wins. Plus it’s fun. SO MUCH FUN.