What to wear for working hunter classes

Turnout is all important for any showing class, so make sure you and your horse look the part when making your working hunter debut with Horse & Hound’s expert tips.

Whether you are competing in a working hunter class at county level, or at your local village show, you need to ensure your turnout is both correct for the class and of the highest standard to impress the judges.

Top working hunter competitor Louise Bell says: “Attention to detail goes a long way so it’s worth making a special effort.”

Badly fitting jackets and “tack that could stand up on its own” are common blunders that Louise warns against, so if you have a jacket that is less than a perfect fit, take it to a tailor to be altered and gain that professional edge. And make sure your tack is supple and spotlessly clean.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for help,” advises Louise, “You can also learn lots by watching riders at the big shows.”

She suggests arriving two hours before your class to give yourself plenty of time to sort out any problems.

“You want enough time to redo your horse’s plaits if they have been rubbed out in the lorry. You have to enter the ring looking the part.”

The working hunter rider

A correctly secured skull cap or riding hat that meets current safety standards (PAS 015; VG1; ASTM F1163 04a onwards; SNELL E2001; AS/NZS 3838 2003 onwards) must be worn by riders at all times when jumping under British Show Horse Association rules.

Traditional velvet hats with a flesh coloured harness and a fixed peak are in keeping with traditional hunting dress, but a skull cap with a smart velvet or silk cover is acceptable, and the latest fixed peaks hats are also being seen.

A classic tweed jacket is correct for daytime classes, while a navy jacket should be worn for evening championships.

Juniors should wear brown jodhpur boots, while intermediates and seniors should wear long, black leather boots. Traditionally these would have straight tops and garter straps, but long black boots with curved tops are increasingly being seen.

Jodhpurs or breeches need to be canary or beige, not white, and your shirt should match. A stock or tie can be worn in a toning colour with tan or brown gloves.

Hair should be neatly secured in a hairnet and tied back with a scrunchie or ribbon if necessary.

A body protector is recommended for the jumping phase of working hunter classes.

Meet working hunter champion Harley Foxtrot


The working hunter horse or pony

Tack for working hunter classes should be plain in either dark havana or black leather, although the later is less popular. There are no restrictions on bits, martingales or nosebands.

Bridles should be plain with no bling or anything coloured. Rolled or padded browbands and nosebands are acceptable as long as they are all in the same colour eg: no white piping/padding.

It is important to note that there must be no change of tack between the jumping and flat/ridden phases, so if you decide to wear a martingale for the jumping, it must stay on for the whole class.

The only exception to that rule is protective boots. Dark-coloured brushing boots are allowed for the jumping phase, but must be removed before the ridden judging. The inside of the boot must be smooth, the fixations must be non-elastic velcro and no hooks or straps may be used. The rounded rigid part of the boot must be placed around the inside of the leg. No hind boots or bandages are permitted in senior classes.

If a numnah is required it should match the tack, be kept close to the saddle and not interfere with the shoulder. Saddlecloths are not appropriate. The girth should be a dark colour, preferably leather to match the saddle.

If a rider is short or has small stirrups they should ensure their ‘groom’ brings a spare pair of stirrups into the ring so that the judge can use them when they ride.

Horses should be shown with plaited manes, and tails should be pulled at the dock and shortened to hock level when carried. Any feathering at the fetlock should be trimmed, as should the ears, jawline and whiskers.

NOTE: The above turnout suggestions do not apply for M&M workers where ponies are expected to be shown in their natural state, and working cobs should be hogged.

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