Showing 101 - Hunter/Jumper Shows

The Month Before

Get Your Attire in Gear

It’s important to make sure your rider has all the required attire for the show.  You can borrow, buy used, buy new, or even check Goodwill for various items. There are also plenty of Facebook groups that people list on with amazing deals on used items. Here is a list of the basics:

No question is too silly

Really talk with your trainer. Be honest with each other. Is your child truly ready for a show?

Make sure they are fully prepared and confident that they are ready.

Read the Rule Book

If your child is competing in Hunter/Jumper - spend the time to review the rules here.

The Week Before

The Day Before (for Riders)

The Morning Of

Arrive on Time and Prepared

Arrive at the barn at the specified time to load your horse. You will typically be loading around 5-6 am depending on show time and location.  

If you can’t eat before you leave home, bring your breakfast with you and eat on the drive to the show. Make sure you eat protein for slow release energy, carbohydrates for fast release energy. And plenty of fruits and fluids to take along and keep you going.

When you arrive at the show grounds, unload your horse and let them walk around and see the sights for a few minutes.  Tie him to the trailer when he’s settled.

Once your horse is settled, give your horse a light groom and get tacked up for schooling. This will be a warm up, so avoid wearing show clothes so you don’t get them dirty. Bring warm up clothes like a jog suit to wear over your show clothes and keep them clean.

The Only Blank Check Sport

The horse show office is not kidding when they ask you to leave a signed blank check. If you haven’t given your check to your trainer, make sure you do that as soon as you arrive, as she may check the whole group in at the same time. Once the office receives your check, they will issue your number. Keep track of your number—put it somewhere safe. This is how the show keeps track of your classes and ribbons.

You can also get a copy of the class schedule, as it sometimes indicates how many competitors are in each class. Sometimes this can also give you a rough idea of when your rider’s class will begin.

During the show (for Riders)

Warm Up Ring - Riders Beware

Your trainer may have you school in the warm up ring before the show begins. This can lead to many riders and many horses trying to get their jumps in at once. Be aware of where you are at all times. Don’t stop in front of a jump to chat or rest. Stay on the rail whenever possible. Call out your lines so others can hear you.   Make sure you are listening to your trainer for instructions of where to go.  

Pay Attention to the Schedule

When you arrive, ask your trainer how long until your first class. If it is more than an hour and half, you have time to chill out – go watch other classes or sit and visit with other exhibitors. But keep track of the time!

If you like to wear a little makeup, keep it conservative. Hunter jumper judges favor a natural look.

Don't put on your show coat until about 10 minutes before your class. Otherwise it may get dusty/dirty from the warm-up ring

When you come out of the ring, go to your trainer so you can discuss the round.  Then prepare for your next round.

Paddock Master: The Emcee

Each ring is called a paddock, and the person coordinating the riders is the Paddock Master. When you and your horse are ready, you trainer will put your number on the list (along with a few others from your group). Your group will rotate through all of its jumping rounds in a division, usually maintaining the same order each time.  This helps the judge know what round (class) is being ridden. The order may change if someone else needs to rotate in or a rider is not ready.

Terms used by the Paddock Master:

When you are about to enter the ring, tell the Paddock Master your number and what class you are about to ride (i.e. 511 for Hunter 1).  Your trainer will be at the in gate with you and may also tell the paddock master your number and class.

At some shows, all of the over fences classes are ridden before the flat classes, and some reverse that. Your trainer will let you know which to be ready for. Flat classes are ridden as a group, while riders are in the ring by themselves when jumping over fences.

The Paddock Master will announce the class results soon after the class, and will have ribbons available when the results are announced.

Ribbon Colors:

Please keep in mind that the paddock master is responsible for doing many tasks at once. Please direct your questions to your trainer.  They are responsible for working with the Paddock Master in every instance.   You may pick up your class ribbons from the paddock master.

Hunter/Jumper Classes and Scoring

For each division, there will be an overall winner and runner up for the horse and for equitation. The overall winner in the division is called the Champion, and the runner up is the Reserve Champion. There will be larger ribbons and sometimes prizes for these awards. Those are usually available in the show office, or from the announcer.

Points are awarded as follows:

1st: 7 points

2nd: 5 points

3rd: 4 points

4th: 3 points

5th: 2 points

6th: 1 point

The horse with the most points in the classes that judge the horse in a single division (i.e. Hunter 1, Hunter 2 and Under Saddle for 2’ Courses) will receive a Champion ribbon and the second highest score will receive Reserve Champion.

The rider with the most points in the equitation classes for a single division (i.e Equitation over fences and Equitation on the flat) will receive a Champion ribbon and the second highest score will receive Reserve Champion.

Enjoy the Experience

SMILE! Judges like to see that riders are having fun - let them see it on your face!

Showing should be the opportunity to "show" everyone what you have accomplished with yourself and horse partner and should be approached just as relaxed as that and the only way to be relaxed about it is for the rider to be confident and ready. It should be a competition with yourself so that each show is simply about improving from the previous one. Horses and riders learn with each turn around the ring...and you keep on. As you get more experience, then you establish goals of "qualifying" for this and "winning" that...but that comes later as confidence and ability improves to then enter different levels of shows (schooling, open, rated, etc.). It’s about the love of the horse as a partner and that should always be in the mind of the rider. Once the rider realizes it’s not really about them as an individual, the nerves tend to settle for most.

Have Fun and Do Your Best. Be aware that you represent your barn and trainer, so your behavior is important. Be prepared for a very long day. Don't get so wrapped up in ribbons that you forget to have fun.   Cheer on your team mates and always be encouraging - they will do the same for you!

Be professional at all times.  Treat your horse with respect and take care of him/her at all times.  


If you are watching a class/other competitors, please clap at the end of their round ... whether they are your friend or a complete stranger. Horse showing can drum up a lot of nerves and anxiety and there's nothing better than hearing people clapping as you finish your round (even if it wasn't a perfect round).

During the Show (for Parents)

Feed your kids. Not snack food but a lunch of some kind. Full happy tummies make for happy children. Your kids are already going to be exhausted so at least help a bit by getting food in them. Try to avoid heavier foods and stick with fruit and lighter fare.  Water and Gatorade/Sports Drinks are a must, especially during  the hotter months!  Your child will be physically active, please plan accordingly.

Carry a show towel. Bring a clean towel that can be used to wipe down your rider’s boots and anything else that may need it prior to entering the ring. Microfiber towels are great as they can also rub out dirt on clothing. Lint rollers are also your friend. It is very important for both rider and horse to look clean when entering the ring. You might even need to wipe the soles of your rider’s shoes!

Let Your Trainer Do their Job. Do not go to the warm up area, this is for trainers and riders only. Please refrain from coaching your child.  The show environment is confusing enough and your child needs to listen for their trainer.  Let your trainer do their job and please support from the sidelines.

If the trainer decides to add or drop a class for your rider, they may ask you to take the form to the office - make sure you do this, as it will affect your bill!

Cheer from the Sides. Due to the hectic atmosphere at the in gate, keep clear of the area. This is where your trainer will be with your child. Your best option is to support your rider from the sidelines.  Your trainer has enough going on with coaching several students without parents standing behind them making comments. This also distracts the students from focusing on the trainer and their horse.    

Interaction with the Paddock Master. Your trainer will handle interactions with the Paddock Master.  They have many responsibilities regarding the riders in the arena and need to be left to do their jobs.  Your trainer is responsible for coordinating all communications with the Paddock Master.

Don’t Talk to the Judge. Parents should never walk up to the judge and ask them a question If you are questioning the results, talk with your trainer - they can usually tell you why your rider placed the way they did. If there’s a legitimate question, the trainer can lodge a protest or complaint.  Talking to the judge whether you are a parent or trainer is grounds for suspension and disqualification from the show.  There are channels to go through and your trainer is aware of them.  

Enjoy the Show. The trainer will make sure your rider is where they need to be at the right time, as well as provide instruction as needed.  It’s best if parents cheer and take photos from the sidelines and leave the coaching to the trainer.  All you should worry about once the rider begins their rounds is photos and water!  You may get a call on your phone from the trainer asking you to send your kid to the ring or warm up area, especially if she/he is coaching and your kids class is about to start.  

Talk to people and ask if you’re not sure, it's a great way to meet new people. However, it’s best to avoid commenting on other rider’s rounds out loud, since you never know whose parents are sitting right behind you.

After the show

Check out at the show office. They will total your account based on classes ridden, office fees, ambulance fee and annual membership. You should only be billed for classes ridden, if any were dropped, they should have a record of that. You can complete your blank check at this point!

Get your receipt printed out as it shows where your rider placed, and may be important later for end of year points/standings.

Many Hands Make Light Work. All horses, tack, equipment need to be loaded into the trailer.  Once back at Grace, all horses should be unloaded, along with tack and equipment. Clean out both the tack compartment and the horse compartment so they are ready to go for the next show.  Everyone should pitch in to make this quick and easy.    

Give your horse a big pat and check on him the next day and hand walk him around and let him graze but give him the day off. Relax yourself and get ready for the next week of lessons and working towards the next show.  

Clean your tack, wash and store your show pad, clean your show clothes, clean your boots.  Keep your tack and equipment in good order .  If you are using school tack you are responsible for taking care of it.  

Have fun, and know you are blessed to have the opportunity to do this !!

Show Checklist

Horse Supplies

  • Halter and lead line (plus a spare)
  • Water buckets/clips (in trailer)
  • Hay net loaded with hay (or two)
  • Horse Treats

Human Supplies

  • Sunscreen/pain relievers
  • Hat/umbrella
  • Snacks and drinks in cooler (water and gatorade)
  • Folding chairs
  • Small towel
  • Lint roller
  • Safety pins
  • Camera/cell phone
  • Brush, hair elastics and hair spray

Grooming Kit

  • Brushes
  • Curry comb
  • Mane brush
  • Hoof pick
  • Showsheen/detangler
  • Flyspray (especially in summer months)

           Sweat sheet/cooler/blanket as needed


  • Saddle
  • Bridle
  • Girth
  • Saddle pad (show)
  • Crop (if needed)
  • Spurs (if needed)


  • Coverups for grooming/warmup
  • Boots
  • Garters (for paddock boots)
  • Breeches/Jodhpurs
  • Show coat
  • Show shirt
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Hair net
  • Belt


  • Coggins certificate (Trainer usually has binder)
  • Check made out to Grace Riding Stables for trainer fees
  • Blank check made out to show barn name/signed