Any show horse must be well schooled and obedient and give you and the judge a good ride. But there are subtle differences in the type of ride various horses give.

In the show ring, a hack must be light in the hand and, according to the old definition, you should be able to canter holding a glass of water without spilling it . Hunters and cobs must be “up to the bridle” without leaning and pulling, while a riding horse should be responsive to the rider’s aids and obedient.

The classes

Hunters must have substance and quality. For showing, they are divided into the following categories:

  • Small hunters (left) Horses in this category must be 148cm to 158cm (over 14.2hh but not over 15.2hh).
  • Lightweight, middleweight or heavyweight hunters. A lightweight hunter (above) should be able to carry up to 12st; middleweights, 12st 7lb to 14 st and heavyweights, 14 st plus.
  • Ladies’ hunters .These are defined as “suitable for carrying a lady” and are most likely to be a light to middleweight type hunter. They’re nearly always ridden side-saddle.

Cobs are powerhouses on short legs and must be between 148cm and 155cm in height (over 14.2hh but not over 15.1hh). A lightweight cob should have at least eight and a half inches of bone and be able to carry up to 14st and a heavyweight should have a minimum of nine inches of bone and carry more than 14st.

Riding horses can be small – 148cm to 158cm (over 14.2hh but not over15.2hh), or large – over 158cm (15.2hh and over). The British Show Hack, Cob and Riding Horse Association’s definition is that a riding horse should be “between a hack and a hunter [in type] with quality, substance, good bone, correct conformation, presence and true action”.

Hacks are the last word in elegance and their breeding is usually Thoroughbred or Anglo-Arab. There are classes for both small and large hacks. Small are 148cm to 154cm (over 14.2hh but not over 15hh). Large are 154cm to 160cm (over 15hh but not over 15.3hh). The rule book definition is: “The hack must be a pleasure to ride and have excellent manners… the movement should be smooth and graceful with a true pointing of the toe.”