‘Giving young horses the best experiences possible’: change to four-year-old hunter classes

  • A leading showing society has announced that four-year-old hunter classes run under its rules will no longer require a ride judge.

    The Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB (GB)) now states that judges will not ride the exhibits in four-year-old hunter classes, with the exception of championship classes such as those held at the National Hunter Supreme championship show, where a ride judge will assess the entries.

    Competitors in SHB (GB) four-year-old hunter classes should also not be asked to gallop as a class by the judge, but they should change the rein.

    Judges will ride any four-year-olds presented in novice classes, and there will be a special award for the highest placed four-year-old in novice classes.

    Ruth Flack, chairman of judges, rules and show committee for SHB (GB), said: “The demise of four-year-old hunter classes has been slow and steady. The numbers forward have been reducing and this has made it more difficult for shows to sustain the class in the schedule.

    “We asked producers and breeders what we could do to encourage people to show their four-year-olds and most thought that it would be better if they were not required to be ready for a ride judge so early on in the season. It’s daunting for any person to take such a young horse into the ring and ask a judge to ride it, especially on a cold, windy day in a strange environment.

    “Some horses may need time to learn without the added pressure of a different rider introduced at their first few shows. We all want to give our young horses the very best experiences possible at the start of their careers and this rule change gives owners the chance to prepare them over a period of time.

    “It’s hoped that this new rule will encourage owners to bring their youngsters out and for shows to hold classes for four-year-olds. We aim to give this rule a try for a period of time to see if the classes are used more.”

    The society’s first four-year-old class of the season will be at the spring show at Addington Equestrian on 21 April.

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