Why I Hate Hunter Shows

I keep resolving to not go to hunter shows anymore, but then I get distracted and end up at a hunter show.


This isn’t to say that I dislike hunters or think you’re dumb for liking/doing hunter shows. Whatever sport you enjoy is the one you should do. I am not trying to put anyone down and I am 100% sure someone can and has done the same sort of post on why they hate eventing or why they hate endurance. I get it; everyone likes different things. And I love that there is so much variety in equestrian competition. But hunter shows are not for me and this is why.

Hurry Up and Wait


I don’t get this. If you were entered in this flat class and you’re not in the ring, you should be scratched. Sucks to be you. Why 11 competitors have to walk around in the baking hot sun for 10 minutes while the show organizer runs around looking for the 12th competitor is beyond me. Scratch them, screw them, screw everything, let’s get this started.


And the endless waiting at the in gate for the jumping classes is beyond me. In theory, this could be run like dressage: with times. It’s one person in the ring for x amount of time. Do the math, assign the times, move on. But no. Instead there’s this craziness:


Inability to shut up and ride

At the LAHHA schooling show, there were a few people petitioning to have the flowers removed from the jumps because they were spooking their horses. Hello! That’s the point of a schooling show: school the damned flowers. At the show I went to this weekend, I had several people complain that the mule was spooking their horses. A) their horse was not spooking and B) man up and ride your own freaking horse.

Do you even ride?

I am actually very careful to move Nilla away if a horse is spooking at her. I have had that happen like twice ever. I once had to walk her to the far end of a field at an endurance ride. However, most horses are not scared. Some are curious and might want to stare and be distracted, but that’s your cue to ride, not cry to your trainer about the scary mule.

Shitty Subjective Judging

Now, I’m the first person to admit I’m not a hunter rider. And Nilla is not a hunter style mule. I don’t go to shows thinking we should win all the ribbons. But I do expect that in a hunter class, if one of the horses is so insane that it is jigging instead of walking, has to stay on a small circle on the inside of the ring because it can’t be near the other horses, and twice causes the judge to call for a walk two seconds after canter starts because it was bucking, that that horse will not get a ribbon.


Also, if it’s a freaking schooling show and the rules for your division specifically say you can trot between fences, it’d be cool if the judge didn’t mark down for trotting between fences. I actually asked the judge afterwards and she confirmed she thought trotting was not allowed. I had to pull out the show premium and show her. Needless to say we did not place in the jumping classes.


In the future, I’ll be sticking to eventing and dressage. I could see going to some H/J shows and just doing jumpers, where the hurry up and wait would persist, but at least the judging is objective. But really, I like class times. And I prefer the “get it done” attitude of eventers.


Is there an equestrian sport you particularly dislike? Or maybe one your horse hates? I’m sure I could do an entire post on why Nilla hates dressage.

37 thoughts on “Why I Hate Hunter Shows

  1. Teresa

    I haven’t shown hunter is well over a decade. I found it hot, stressful with long stretches of boredom and short stretches of ‘ohmygod’. That said I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t go to small local one. I agree with you on all of the above. I have watched hunter classes and then thought WTF at the ribbons.

  2. Emma

    Hunters aren’t my favorite for a few reasons (I struggle with the hurry up and wait too, even tho I understand why classes are run the way they are run) but definitely wouldn’t swear the discipline off. It’s not my strength tho haha

  3. Hillary

    In my experience with Annie even when trotting is allowed I believe a horse that canters will usually place higher.

    People complain in all disciplines but it definitely seems to be more prevalent in the HJ world.

  4. Appydoesdressage

    Ugh for every single reason you listed I also dislike hunter shows. When do I ride? No one knows!! When can I go? No one knows!! Why were we placed that way? No one knows!! If you don’t ride with a BNT it seemed like you weren’t even considered by ring stewards. Ride with a BNT and suddenly classes are held because your TRAINER can’t be ringside. SMH. I have done it, but I don’t like it for anything other than over fence experience. I like my ride times thank you very much.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I do also like the transparency of eventing. You can know why someone placed how they did because there’s a score sheet.

  5. Stacie Seidman

    I was reluctant to read your post because I show hunter jumper and obviously I love it or i wouldn’t do it. I have a few thoughts to add to the conversation:
    First, you’re seeing the worst of the worst by attending schooling shows. The hurry up and wait will be ten times worse because people are there for practice. Things are more likely to move slower because young horses are having trouble getting around, needing to make circles, etc. Most of the time, rings are held because either the trainer or the rider are showing in another ring. It’s tough to avoid. Horse shows wouldn’t make any money if they didn’t wait for conflicts to resolve. It’s annoying, but it happens.
    At the larger shows, you usually do have a general idea what time you’ll ride. Horse show managers know how many entries are in every class, and by doing the math can give a reasonable estimate. Of course it doesn’t always go to plan… but hey, horses!
    Second, those people whining about flowers and mules should be slapped. Total agreement with you on this one.
    As for judging… that also is going to be inferior at a schooling show. You don’t need credentials to judge a schooling show so they can hire literally anyone. I’ve judged a schooling show before and I have no business judging anything! The judge really should know the rules though. Sheesh. While the horse you described is clearly not ribbon worthy, it is a schooling show so the judge probably let them stay in the class for that reason alone. At most rated shows, they would have been excused. As for them getting a ribbon, I’m hoping they got last place? If so, it’s pretty common that they give all six ribbons unless you’re excused from the ring. However, if they weren’t last, I have no answer there… I guess it falls under the anyone-can-judge umbrella.

    1. L. Williams

      What Stacie said, the worst of the worst happens at schooling shows, especially schooling shows with a certain reputation (not saying that is LAAHJA but like SAHJA which is really far away has a sterling reputation!)

      I do recommend if you decide to do a schooling show again, Peppertree in Livermore does a Jumper only show which may be more to your liking 🙂

      1. Olivia Post author

        I did look at a Peppertree show at one point. I’ll keep your recommendation in mind next time I want to do a jumper show.

    2. Olivia Post author

      Thank you for reading anyway and for your insight. I’m really not bashing you or other hunter riders. This was just my list of dislikes. The flipping out horse was placed 5 out of 14. It was not a case of a last place ribbon. As for schooling vs rated, mules are illegal in rated hunters, so I have no choice but to attend schooling shows only. At this show there was only 1 ring. The missing competitor was inevitably found at their trailer unaware they were signed up for that class or still in the warm up ring because they just felt like taking more time despite the loudspeaker announcing their number.

  6. megan

    i used to do jumpers, and my dad always came to watch (bless him). at my first event i was like “ill be jumping at 12:36” and he did not understand how theyve managed to sort out ride times yet at jumper shows i was rider 87 and go knows what TIME i would actually ride

  7. Sarah

    Yikes. I don’t think I could handle hunter shows, mainly for the hurry up and wait. I have pretty annoying nerves about showing still so prolonging the inevitable wouldn’t go over well with me. I don’t think there is an equestrian sport that I hate really. At breed shows the showmanship classes are boring as hell though. I’d never want to do showmanship (especially since I have a gelding and there are a bajillion in the non pro geldings) just because I feel like I’d fall asleep waiting on my turn.

  8. Madeline C.

    First off… I never thought standing next to a Mule would be an issue… Ever… But also I didn’t think at B’s first schooling show that he’d be terrified of the small Great Dane-sized pony either. Terrified to the point of, “I’M MUST RUN HIM OVER!” Still, that’s odd. I’m with you on the Hunter-shows. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and getting sun burnt and dehydrated and then finally you get into a flat class and it’s “All trot please all trot” 4-5 times in a row and then finally your jump class. I honestly thought that’s all their was and my OTTB handled it well and so does B, but I just can’t. Plus, if you want someone to come watch you? “What time do you go in?” *Blank stare* “Ummm… Well it’ll feel like never but just when you’re about to leave, two classes after that.” That’s why I’m dying to give the eventing thing a try!!!!!!

    1. Olivia Post author

      Haha. Two classes after you leave is exactly when I’ll go. We had some barn people come to watch and they kept asking when we were going and I was like, I just cannot say.

  9. Dom

    This is precisely how I feel about the hunters. As for the spooking at the mule thing, you forgot a meme. It’s the batman slap and it says:
    “Can you stop doing that? It’s spooking my…”
    *Slap* “Train your damned horse!!!”

    1. Olivia Post author

      You will never know. Or it’ll be when you finally give up and get off to go to the bathroom thinking you might as well take the time.

  10. Lauren

    I’d gather that a lot of the reasons you don’t like hunter shows have more to do with the type of hunter shows you have been going to.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I went to one that I liked. I am legally not allowed to show rated hunters so it’s not like I can ever experience anything other than schooling shows.

  11. Sara @ The Roaming Rider

    Never been to one, but the lack of a riding time seems a bit odd. I am sure there is a reason behind it, but I wouldn’t think it would be too hard to create at least a best educated guess based off the number of entrants. Of course, that is why I love endurance. “TRAILS OPEN!” and the rest is all on you to sort out.

  12. Pixie

    I used to love Hunter Trails but recently have been more into dressage – but working as a photographer at quite a few big shows I think I hate shows full stop! OK so maybe not all of them, but the pushy mothers who almost grab you and tell you what to shoot (when you in the ring next to the judge so have to shoot what wont get in their way) or moaning as they think the photographer is spooking their horse! To the over enthusiastic mother demanding WHY aren’t the pictures available to BUY NOW when the class finished 20 seconds ago!

    1. Olivia Post author

      Yes, the parents at this most recent show were a pack of nuts. I actually had one take me aside and try to lecture me on how I should handle my mule in case any horses were scared of it.

  13. Carly

    Our next show is a hunter show because it’s literally right around the corner from my barn, is super cheap, and allows us to get those much needed low key schooling over stadium jumps off property rounds in. Hubby has been begging me not to make him go to take pictures he hates hunter shows so much! 😛

    1. Olivia Post author

      Your poor husband. He knows what he’s in for. I like the idea of hunter schooling shows for all the same reasons: close, cheap, low key, but I am just not feeling it.

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