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A guide to show hack classes: height sections, type and how to impress the judges

Elegance, manners and all important quality are just three things a winning show hack should possess.

Read H&H’s guide to this ultra-competitive showing class…

Hack height divisions

Under British Show Horse Association (BSHA) rules, hacks are split into two categories – small and large.

  • Small hacks are horses four-years-old and over, exceeding 148cm but not exceeding 154cm
  • Large hacks are four-years-old and over, exceeding 154cm but not exceeding 160cm

According to the most recent BSHA rule book a hack should be of the following type:

The ideal show hack is of Thoroughbred type and should be capable of carrying an average adult. The hack must be a pleasure to ride and have excellent manners. The hack should be in self- carriage and be light and soft to ride, it should also have correct conformation with the emphasis on quality and elegance. The latter stems from a well-set on head and neck combined with a good length of shoulder. The movement should be smooth and graceful with a true pointing of the toe. To achieve these qualities the hack must be extremely well schooled.

The marking system

The BSHA recommends that judges use the following percentages when judging hacks:

  • Ride — 40%
  • Conformation – 40%
  • Individual show — 20%

Tack and turnout

Show hacks should be shown with manes plaited, and the tail should be pulled and cut to a few inches below the hocks. A hack should wear a straight-cut leather saddle with a brown bridle and a coloured browband. Unlike the chunky bridles in show hunter classes, the leather may be of a finer type than those used for hunters and riding horses.

“I really don’t like to see huge browbands with too much bling on them,” says hack judge and breeder Emma Edwards-Brady. “It’s also very off-putting for a judge when they are given an uncomfortable and badly fitted saddle to ride in.”

While in show hunter classes riders are dressed in tweed, competitors must wear navy blue jackets.

Your final preparation for entering the show ring on a hack should include the following:

  • Neatly sewn-in plaits
  • Show sheen
  • Hoof oil
  • Chalk-white socks
  • Gloss on the nose and eyes to highlight
  • Quarter marks can also make for a professional and polished look, if done well
  • Tack needs to be well fitted and complement the horse
  • A neat sheepskin numnah that doesn’t cover the horse up too much

Way of going

“A hack should be supple and smooth to ride,” says Emma. “I like to see balanced transitions and changes of rein — everything about a hack’s way of going should be about elegance.”

“One of my pet hates is when pony riders come into horse classes and do very fast trots,” adds judge and producer Jo Bates, rider of multi-garlanded hack Elusive. “It drives me nuts because I hate to see a horse being pushed out of its stride.”

Hacks should be well schooled and responsive to the aids.

“I like to be able to wrap my legs around a horse and feel them bend easily,” continues Jo. “It’s really important to be able to push them away from the leg and suck them up into the rein.”

Individual shows

Individual shows should not last longer than one-and-a-half minutes and must include walk, trot, canter, rein-back, and stand still, as well as obedience to the rider’s leg.

The judge will not ask a hack class to gallop.

Always be aware and courteous to all the other competitors in the go round.

Avoid presenting a hack in the ring that can’t do a proper rein back.

Article continues below…


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Where to compete

All major shows which include classes for cobs, hunter and riding horses will have classes for both large and small hacks, culminating in a hack championship.

At smaller shows, the small and large hacks may be put together or may even be judged together with the riding horses.

The biggest accolades a hack can win are the Royal International (RIHS) hack championship, or the hack of the year final held at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in October.

In 2019, Forgelands Hyde Park (Jayne Ross) landed both the RIHS and HOYS hack titles for owner Miranda Wallace.

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