The 9- What it’s Like to Score a 90 in the Hunter Ring

Photo by Lauren Mauldin


As a hunter glides around the ring, a judge watches with a careful eye, marking down points on a sheet and figuring out what score this certain horse will get. The score a hunter receives is on a 100 point scale, the judge makes marks for how they maneuver the course (find out how hunter judging works here). Although the scores are on an 100 point scale, a score of 100 is very rare. Only a few top riders and horses have ever had a so called perfect round.

Most riders are happy to hear a score somewhere in the 80s, usually guaranteeing them a top spot in the class. Even a score in the 70s reflects a good round. While scoring a 100 is near to impossible, scoring somewhere in the 90s is in the realm of possibility even though it’s uncommon. Just points away from receiving a perfect score, achieving a 90 is something that riders of all ability celebrate.

What does scoring a 90 feel like? What does the round feel like? How do riders feel when they hear that top score announced? Several riders explain their experience of scoring a 90 or above:

Isabella David and Wellspring’s Roxstar winning the Do-Trot-In Children’s Hunter Pony Derby. Photo courtesy of Isabella David.

Isabella David on scoring a 91 with Wellspring’s Roxstar in the Do-Trot-In Children’s Hunter Pony Derby at the 2018 Briarwood Farm Derby Day:

“Scoring a 91 felt AMAZING! During my course, I could tell I was bringing out the best in my pony, and at the end, I knew it was the best course I had ever ridden. It was fantastic to be rewarded with such a high score. My trainers and I couldn’t have been happier! One day, I hope I’m lucky enough to top that!”

Lanie Walkenbach and Early August on the way to scoring a 90. Photo by Laila Klinsmann.

Lanie Walkenbach on earning a score of 90 with Early August in the Large Junior Hunters 16-17 at the 2018 Blenheim June Classic One:

“Earning a 90 with my horse Early August [Auggie] was one of the most exciting moments of my riding career this far. My trainers at Elvenstar have been working with Auggie and me to put in the most consistent trips possible. While I was going around the course, every single jump felt amazing and consistent. Auggie was jumping beautifully and we showed excellent pace throughout the course. I was so excited when I heard my score was a 90 that I was kind of in shock. I had received an 89 before, but had never broken the barrier to a 90. To top it off, Auggie and I received the Smartpak High Score 3’6” Junior Hunter award, the SmartPak Overall High Score of the Show award, and the WCHR 3’6” Junior Hunter High Score Rider award. It was so fun earning these awards with Auggie and I’m so grateful to get to ride an amazing horse like him.”

Sandra Dalman after hearing Sky Fall’s score in the National Hunter Derby at the 2017 Lake Placid Horse Show. Photo by Vyla Carter.

Sandra Dalman on scoring a 91.5 on Sky Fall in the National Hunter Derby at the 2017 Lake Placid Horse Show:

“My face says it all. The round felt effortless and the horse was being pretty good, but I did not except to score a 91.5. In that moment, I was surprised and elated, maybe a bit of disbelief. I was riding a green horse, and that was his highest score yet! I felt like I won that day, even if I didn’t win the class. All the hard work, effort, and dedication had paid off in that moment!”

Emma Pell and Rebel Yell at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. Photo by Teresa Ramsay Photography.

Emma Pell on scoring a 90 in the Medium Pony Hunters at the 2018 Upperville Colt and Horse Show with Rebel Yell, a pony owned by Thora Pollak:

“I still cannot believe I scored a 90 in the hunter ring at Upperville! I could tell that Rebel was excited to be at the horse show, even when we were schooling the day prior to competing. Competition day was no different! Rebel felt amazing; his jump was in perfect form and he was hacking with grace and confidence. I knew he was ready to win, so I had to up my game and give him a round to remember! Now was our time to shine. After jumping the final jump in our class, I had a smile from ear to ear. At that moment our score wasn’t important, we just had the round of a lifetime! I was so happy with Rebel’s performance and how I rode the course. Then, as I was exiting the ring, the announcer said: ‘with the high score of the day, Emma Pell and Rebel Yell, earn a 90 for that round.’ I was so proud of what Rebel and I accomplished, that tears filled my eyes. Being an equestrian, means lots of hard work, dedication and long hours, not to mention highs and lows. Scoring a 90 in a hunter class is a dream that I have always hoped to achieve, and for me, that dream came true and proved that hard work pays off.”

Becky Gochman and Catch Me. Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography.

Becky Gochman on scoring a 90 with Catch Me in the Amateur Owner Hunters 36+ at the 2017 Capital Challenge Horse Show:

“Scoring a 90 with Snoopy at Capital Challenge was icing on the cake. We had an incredible year, but he is a bit of a tricky horse…so I was not sure how it would go showing him indoors. As we were going around I felt both of our confidence build. By the end of the course I was so happy that we kept to our plan and it felt super smooth. Anything is possible with a super talented horse like Snoops!”