Q: I see lots of horses—hunters, especially—jumping what feels like a lot of rounds, sometimes multiple divisions at shows. How much is too much? 

A: That’s a hard question, as each horse is so different.

As a trainer, I am very cautious about how much my horses jump. This can be challenging, as most horses need to be ‘set up’ for their junior or amateur riders to keep them going as smoothly as possible.

For the jumpers, I really limit how much they jump, as they need fresh legs to be successful! Hunters and equitation, on the other hand, can be very tricky in this regard. Every horse is unique, but I’d say, for the majority, a professional (or warm-up) division during the week, and then one amateur or junior division during the weekend is more than enough.

Sometimes, I will only do a couple of classes with a professional (instead of a whole division) depending on the horse. For sure, I am the trainer that will not let a client show in double divisions in one day—and not, in most cases, in multiple classes either. You must pick and choose if the show offers a lot of things you could do in one day. Trainers often struggle with managing their clients’ expectations, but I just flat out won’t allow it.

As a judge, this topic can be SO frustrating. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t want to judge a horse and rider when I see them coming back in the ring a million times. I feel so bad for the horse and I think USEF needs a rule on this! You shouldn’t be able to do multiple jumping-round classes in a day, and for sure, not more than a couple of divisions in a week.

Having a full division take place in one day, or asking a horse to jump a couple of classes every day of the horse show with multiple riders—to me, as a judge, that’s animal abuse. I can tell you it’s a very special unicorn that can do that job and still be great from the first class to the millionth class!

“Mom” me hates seeing horses do too much, and I feel that I am very protective of my own horses in this regard. I believe in a professional keeping horses on their game and training them to be straight and jumping them in the ring when it’s needed. But if that’s the case, then I might not have my kid do as much showing that week it’s too much on the horse.

Once again, it truly all depends on our horses, and what they need. But when horses do too much, or are over-used, that’s not good for anyone.

Dana Hart-Callanan is a successful hunter, jumper and equitation coach, an ‘R’ judge, and a sales broker. In this column, she answers common questions about A-level sport. Send your questions to news@horsenetwork.com for consideration in a future column.