Famed hunter rider and trainer, Peter Pletcher is well-known for his incredible knowledge of riding and his ability to coach his clients and their horses to numerous National titles and honors. With over thirty years of experience in the business, Pletcher brings his expertise to hunter riders in the video below, “Unnecessary Drama in the Hunter Division.” He discusses five points that have become a growing trend in the hunter ring, but take away from the horse in the end.
Pletcher starts, “After talking to some judges that judge a lot of the hunter horse shows, there seem to be a few things that are taking away from the hunters as opposed to what you want to see in the ring.”
For his first point he says, “One of the things I think that seems to come up the most is the position of the rider after a line or a single oxer. The drama of laying up on the neck and staying over as the horse canters away seems to take away a little bit of what the hunter judges are actually judging.”
Pletcher continued, “We need to remember they are judging the style of your horse’s jump and a lot of times when the rider gives a giant crest release and lays up on the neck, it takes away from the horse’s jump. This is opposed to what the riders think it looks like – that the horse appears to be giving a beautiful hard jump – when in reality I think it takes away from the picture. More times than not, you see that in the hunter ring now. To me, it’s very distracting and very unnecessary. I believe, and I think a lot of hunter judges believe, that it takes away from the picture of the classic hunter. You didn’t see that type of riding, position or release years ago in the hunters. Rodney Jenkins, Bernie Traurig, Charlie Weaver – they were great riders – they didn’t do that. They had a nice connection, nice release.”
Pletcher furthered his points, adding the second offense.
“Point two of unecessary drama: watching a hunter go around the course, one of the pet peeves that I see… and [one of] the last things I wanna see, is somebody giving [the horses] this help off the ground in front of the jump. To me it looks like they’re doing that as maybe they are training to help them from hitting the jump or touching the jump – it is so distracting and, for the judges, I think it looks like maybe this horse is going to rub the jump… it’s not about the horse again. It’s about the rider getting in the way and it’s offensive. To me, it’s ugly.
“Third point of this discussion, and I’m very guilty of it myself, is when a horse enters the ring and starts to canter there seems to be a lot of posting going on in the canter. I think the idea is to be connected, sitting back like I said before about the other famous riders in the past – you did not see this posting at the canter as much as we see it today. Like I said, I’m very guilty of it. I do it to get in a rhythm, but as a judge if you’re cantering around posting – there are people that do it drastically – it takes totally away from the horse and it’s ugly.”
Adding to his list of qualms, Pletcher continued on to say, “Point number four for our unnecessary drama – a lot of times you see riders trying to get the horse to land on the correct lead. There’s nothing more ugly and getting in the way of your horse as some people do trying to get the horse to land on the correct lead. It really throws the horse’s balance off. Yes, it might make them land on the correct lead that you want to go, but as you witnessed I was way off to the side. Another thing I’m going to show you without the jump, riders step way out and it totally looks ridiculous.
“And the fifth point that I’d like to share with you is the under saddle class. We’ve all gotten a little bit lazy in the standing up, posting at the canter. The canter is supposed to be smooth, fluent, just a little bit slower than a gallop. A lot of people have gotten to where they stand up the entire time of the canter in the under saddle. This position in the under saddle, the horse gets way down on the forehand. Sure it’s a little more comfortable for the rider, but does it show the horse off? Not so much. Many years ago the rider sat the canter. Somewhere along the way, a fad began about posting to the canter… and I believe probably what really happened, if the truth be known, the horses are a lot, if you will, more ready now a days than they were.
“To prove my point even more, if you have a horse that’s a little bit hot, and you stand up in the stirrups or post to the canter take a feel and let go – it’s very distracting first of all -but it automatically alerts the judge I need to watch that horse more because maybe it’s getting ready to blow up, maybe it’s too tense to be in this under saddle class. As I stressed, I think it became a fad that maybe people just took on, and now they’re using it as a teaching aid. Like I stressed the great riders before didn’t do; they sat, and I know for a fact a lot of those horses were hot. I think the standing in the stirrups or two-point, they used to have to do a hand gallop…I think a little bit of that may have filtered in. Again as a judge, if I were judging I would look for that smooth horse that a rider can sit and be in perfect balance with – I think the balance issue is what is at hand with people standing in their stirrups and posting the canter, etc. I think posting the canter is just a laziness for the rider. I’m pretty guilty of that.
Think about it rather than react to it.”