New Pony Parent Horse Show Guide Part I: Vocabulary



If your kid is waiting for spring not because the weather is warmer, but because spring means horse shows — Congratulations and welcome to being a horse show parent!

A horse show is a lot like visiting a foreign country. You don’t know what to expect. Odds are both you and your tiny tot are nervous, and there is just so much you don’t know. Add to that the fact that your trainer is obviously also quite busy doing her job before the show (entries, stalls, etc) so you don’t want to bother her with your silly questions (***note: no such thing as a silly question! Promise!). To combat this new and strange world, let me give you a basic idea of what to expect try to explain why it all takes so long.

Photo by Lauren Mauldin

Let’s assume your tiny tot is heading to a local “C” rated or schooling show, because the local circuit is a perfect place to start. Of course, your personal tiny tot, might not be so tiny. Maybe your fist show is with your 15 year old moody teenager, or your 11 year old attitude-filled tween – I’ll cover the beginner divisions mostly, and give you a brief explanation of the rest of the show.

First a bit of vocabulary. Classes are the individual judged sections that make up a Division. Divisions are made up of 2-3 classes, as a general rule. Each class is pinned 1st through 6th place (usually), and each place carries a numeric value. At the end of the division, the entry (rider/horse combo), with the highest number of points is the Champion of that division, and the entry with the second highest points is Reserve Champion.

Photo by Lauren Mauldin

You with me so far? Alright, let’s continue! Hunter/Jumper shows have 3 types of classes, at it’s most basic level. The 3 main disciplines being judged are the Hunters, the Equitation (aka “the eq”), and the Jumpers. If your child is doing the walk/trot, or walk/trot/canter, they will have one class judged on equitation, one on hunter, etc. They will go both directions, line up in the middle, the class will be pinned, and they will stay in the ring and do the exact same thing 2 more times. That is why your child may ride the exact same in all 3 classes, but win one, and be 5th in the next (maybe her eq is flawless, but her pony just wasn’t the prettiest hunter in the class).

Let’s break down these disciplines just a bit.

A Hunter over fences round. Photo by Lauren Mauldin


Hunter classes are judging the horse. It’s derived from an ideal fox hunting horse, hence the “hunters.” To be a successful hunt horse in the field, he needs to have a large ground-covering stride so that he can go far, exerting minimal energy. He should be calm and unfazed by scary horse-eating monsters that may lurk in shadows, with an alert and pleasant expression. When jumping, he should jump clear and clean so as to not hit the fence, like a horse in the field might encounter.


The eq classes are based on the rider’s position and her ability to effectively navigate her horse. Judging is a subjective art, but in a beginner class, they would be looking for the rider’s heels being down, eyes up, hands still, steering to avoid other ponies, being on the correct diagonal.

A jumper round. Photo by Lauren Mauldin


Now, your first show likely will not include your child doing the jumpers, but you will probably see some jumper classes. Only 2 things count in the jumpers: time and rails. The goal is to get around the course of jumps in the fastest time possible, while not knocking down any rails. Going over the time allowed or knocking down a rail, results in faults. The winner is the entry who completes the course in the fastest time with the fewest faults.

This should give you a basic understanding of what your child will actually be doing at their first show. Next time, we will go over preparation and clothing for the big day!

About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, and perpetual amateur in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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