“Competition is healthy in life. It is the only time in which you'll find tangible evidence of the strive to constantly better yourself. It is a positive thing to Learn also to lose. Just for the mere fact in life : you can always be better. I choose to compete with horses because while I strive to be better, they have always forced me to be honest with myself. And they have always been empathetic to that struggle for truth.” -Linnea Willis

We compete in the world of show jumping. This is broken up into three sub-categories: hunters, equitation and jumpers. Hunters are judged subjectively on the degree to which the horse meets an ideal standard of manners, style, and way of going. Hunters have meticulous turnout and tend toward very quiet, conservative horse tack and rider attire. Hunter bits, bridles, crops, spurs, and martingales are tightly regulated. Conversely, jumper classes are scored objectively, based entirely on a numerical score determined only by whether the horse attempts the obstacle, clears it, and finishes the course in the allotted time. Jumpers, while caring for their horses and grooming them well, are not scored on turnout, are allowed a wider range of equipment, and may wear less conservative attire, so long as it stays within the rules. Formal turnout always is preferred; a neat rider gives a good impression at shows.

In addition to hunters and jumpers, there are equitation classes, sometimes called hunt seat equitation, which judges the ability of the rider. The equipment, clothing, and fence styles used in equitation more closely resemble hunter classes, although the technical difficulty of the courses may more closely resemble jumping events.

Associations and Competitions

On an unofficial scale, local barns will put on Schooling Shows with divisions that are unrecognized on a state, national or international level as ways to “get your feet wet” with horseshowing. These horseshows do not have recognized or licensed officials, i.e: Stewards/Rule’s Representatives, judges, course designers, etc and that can help keep the costs more affordable. These environments tend to be much more laid back and subjective in quality of standards.

The Colorado Hunter Jumper Association (CHJA.org) is our state association which consists of a membership that actively competes at shows recognized by the association. In order for these shows to be recognized, they are held to a quality of standards listed in the CHJA Rulebook. A recognized Rule’s Represenative (Steward) and an approved judge must be at the facility. These shows offer a standard of classes to be recognized at the Year End Banquet’s Award, as well as host Medals for members to compete in to qualify for our State Medal Finals. CHJA has a Member Benefits task force that brings various clinics to its members for minimal fees. Local shows tend to be a weekend long and no more. [i]

The United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA.org) is our National association. The standards at these shows are much higher, ensuing that the experience and amenities you shall receive will be of absolute top quality. The presentation of the facility is higher, the prize money is higher, and your staff and officials have more stringent tests and requirements. These shows are also done over an entire week as to give horse and rider ample time to settle in. [ii]

Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI.org) is The International Governing Body of Equestrian Sports - including three Olympic disciplines - Jumping, Dressage and Eventing.[iii]


The most notable difference between hunters and jumpers is the technicality of the courses. Show jumping courses include combination fences, sharp turns and several changes of direction, all requiring adjustability and athleticism. Jumper fences can have a wide range, from 2’3” (0.75m) up to 5'3" (1.60m) in Grand Prix show jumping, and well in excess of 7' (2.2m) in puissance (progressive high-jump) classes, with a much greater width. Show hunter courses include smoother lines, fewer combinations, and wider turns, reflecting the fox hunting tradition and the cadence needed for riding in large fields. Show hunters, are shown over fences no greater than 4'6" in height (as displaced in the relatively new "Performance Working Hunter" classes), even at the highest levels, but are expected to display a cadence and elegance that is not necessary in show jumping.

Equitation over fences courses test a rider's skill and form. They look like a hunter course, but contain more technical elements, such as intermediate difficulty combinations, tight turns, and difficult distances between fences, which are often seen in show jumping. These courses reach 3'9" in height at the highest competitive level.


Jumper classes are held over a course of show jumping obstacles, including verticals, spreads, and double and triple combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction. The intent is to jump cleanly over a set course within an allotted time. Time faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowance. Jumping faults are incurred for knockdowns and blatant disobedience, such as refusals (when the horse stops before a fence or "runs out"). Horses are allowed a limited number of refusals before being disqualified. A refusal may lead to a rider exceeding the time allowed on course. Placings are based on the lowest number of points or "faults" accumulated. A horse and rider who have not accumulated any jumping faults or penalty points are said to have scored a "clear round". Tied entries usually have a jump-off over a raised and shortened course, and the course is timed; if entries are tied for faults accumulated in the jump-off, the fastest time wins.

In most competitions, riders are allowed to walk the initial course but not the jump-off course (usually the same course with missing jumps) before competition to plan their ride. Walking the course before the event is a chance for the rider to walk the lines he or she will have to ride, in order to decide how many strides the horse will need to take between each jump and from which angle. The higher levels of competition, such as "A" or "AA" rated shows in the United States, or the international "Grand Prix" circuit, present more technical and complex courses. Not only is the height and width ("spread") of an obstacle increased to present a greater challenge, technical difficulty also increases with tighter turns and shorter or unusual distances between fences.

Unlike show hunter classes, which reward calmness and style, jumper classes require boldness, scope, power, accuracy, and control; speed also is a factor, especially in jump-off courses and speed classes (when time counts even in the first round). A jumper must jump big, bravely, and fast but also must be careful and accurate to avoid knockdowns and must be balanced and rideable in order to rate and turn accurately. The rider must choose the best line to each fence, saving ground with well-planned turns, and lines and must adjust the horse's stride for each fence and distance. In a jump-off, a rider must balance the need to go as fast as possible and turn as tightly as possible against the horse's ability to jump cleanly with good scope.



Refusing or Running out at any fence: 1st: 4 faults; 2nd: elimination (ELM)
Fall of the horse, the rider, or both: elimination
Touches: If a horse touched a fence without knocking it down, zero faults
Rail down: 4 faults
Failure to break the timers starting or finishing would result in elimination.

Hunters and Equitation:

Hunter classes are judged using the numerical scoring system, much like grade school. Scores can range from in the 90s down into the 60s. The following are some of the possible reasons for the different scores.

Scores in the 90s – This is an ‘A’. This score is not commonly given, as the round would require that it be beautifully executed by a top quality horse or very accomplished rider.

Scores in the 80s – This is a ‘B’. This score could indicate a special horse or top rider having a good round with some subtle discrepancies.

Scores in the 70s – This is a ‘C’. This score could reflect an acceptable round produced by an average horse or intermediate rider. It could be an excellent performance by a horse of less quality, or a more novice rider. This could also be a trip by an exceptional horse or rider that had some notable problems.

Scores in the 60s – This is a ‘D’. This score could reflect that either there was a significant error by a quality horse or good rider, or there were serious flaws with the style of the horse or rider. A ’65’ is generally the range of scores for missing a lead change, a lot of cross cantering, skipping a change, or adding a stride in a line (except in short stirrup or lower level classes). A ’60’ is often given for bucking, bolting, kicking out, leaving a stride out of a line, and/or use of the whip.

Scores in the 50s – This is an ‘F’! Such a low score usually means that major problem(s) occurred during the round such as a dangerous jump, e.g. scrambling as the horse leaves the ground due to a bad distance or poor communication; excessive speed, out of control, etc. A score of 55 is given automatically for breaking stride (trotting on course). A score of 50 is usually given for adding a stride in a combination. A score of 50 is given for loss of an iron or rein in an equitation class. A score of 45 is usually given for a rail down in the hunters division. A rail down in equitation classes constitutes a 4 point deduction of the original score.

Scores in the 40s – This score usually indicates a first refusal or extra circle on course.

Scores in the 30s – This score usually indicates a second refusal or extra circle on course.

Elimination or no score – Horse and rider are usually eliminated and/or not given a score if there is a third refusal, the rider goes off course, leaves the arena before finishing the round, or if there is a fall of horse and/or rider.

Hunter Round:

Equitation Round:


An approved ASTM/SEI equestrian helmet with a harness is always required and is a practical necessity to protect the rider's head in the event of a fall. Tall boots are required, usually black. Breeches are traditional in color, usually white, tan, or beige. A dark-colored coat usually is worn (although under the rules of the USEF tweed or wash jackets are allowed in the summer and lighter colors are currently in fashion), with a light-colored (usually white) ratcatcher-style shirt and either a choker or stock tie. In hot summer weather, the judges may waive the coat rule in extremely hot weather. Gloves, usually black, are optional, as is the plaiting of the horse's mane and tail.

At FEI Grand Prix levels, dress is more strictly controlled. Riders must wear white or light-colored shirts, white ties or chokers, black or brown boots, white or light fawn breeches, and red or black jackets. In some circumstances, members of international teams may wear jackets in their country's respective colors or add national insignia.

The Horse

Show Hunter: Horses used in hunter over fences and hunter under saddle (or "flat", non-jumping) classes are called show hunters, and are judged on their movement, way of going, manners, and jumping form. Conformation is judged to some extent as well. Thus, smooth, quiet-moving, well-built horses with good temperament are desired. Good manners, performance, quality and conformation are emphasized. The horse should have a long stride with very little knee action, good jumping form with correct bascule, and should be well-mannered. For top level competition, movement and jumping form become increasingly more important.

Show Jumper: The show jumper is generally a horse that has more power and energy than a show hunter. Because only jumping ability is scored, conformation, manners, and way of going are critical only as far as they affect soundness and ability to jump. Jumpers are often taller and more powerfully built than hunters, often with a bit more speed. Some are far more temperamental, though excellent jumpers must be manageable as well as athletic.

Equitation Horse: Hunt seat equitation classes judge the rider only, including his or her position on the flat and over fences and overall effectiveness while riding. Therefore, it is not imperative that the horse has perfect movement or jumping form, but it needs good manners and an attractive way of going that does not detract from the rider's performance. Although temperament is not judged, horses with a more tractable temperament are generally easier to ride, and can therefore helpvriders demonstrate their skills. The ideal equitation mount has less bascule than the show hunter, because it is easier for a rider to maintain the correct jumping position on a "flatter" horse that does not throw the rider out of the saddle when it jumps. However, a show jumper is not ideal either, as the horse may be less smooth in its way of going and too excitable in temper for the rider to maintain steady and correct form over a course. The horse must jump safely and not carelessly rub rails. The movement of the equitation horse is generally more collected than the show hunter, which allows the rider to better adjust the stride for tricky combinations.[iv]

Optimal Results

To achieve the best results, it is important to remember that this is a sport. This is why we require a minimum of three rides a week be accomplished in order to show. The more dedicated the rider, and the more time put in the tack – the better the results become.

Creating a bond with a horse is also important. It helps establish the most consistencies over course. The rider knows more of what to expect and can adjust accordingly. This is next why we recommend leasing a horse.

Lastly, owning your own horse allows for the most time in the saddle to be had and also to create the better bond! Riders and horses tend to grow together. If you’re interested in becoming a first time horse owner, please inquire about our informational packet!

As you wish to establish yourself as a Competitor, it is important to delve into as many shows as you can as you can afford to! This can either be at the local level or the national level (CHJA Shows or USHJA Shows). It is expected that your first few horseshows will have a huge learning curve. We must learn “how to show” as much as we learn “how to ride”. These two things may seem like they should go hand in hand, but there is an incredible amount that goes into a single show.

Questions You’ll Answer:

  • What is a show schedule and time estimate?

  • What does a day at a horseshow look like?

  • Signing-Up/Checking In: Office, Arena

  • What can I do to be prepared to enter the show arena?

  • What is my course? Where do I learn it?

Competing at a Local Level

CHJA Year End Awards CHJA Medal Finals
The CHJA Year End Banquet is hosted by the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association (chja.org). A dinner is hosted, with a silent auction, awards and ribbons given to overall best competitors in a division. Points are accumulated towards year end awards by the ribbons earned at each horseshow. First through sixth place ribbons, grand champion and reserve champion ribbons all have point values assigned.

The CHJA Medal Finals is hosted in September or November of every show year. You qualify by competiting in a select Medal. This medal will be offered at multiple horseshows, and you must accumulate points to qualify for it. This could be three first places, or a combination of any first through six place points to accumulate the necessary amount. Medal Finals is a great preliminary competition on the local level that will set you up to compete at a USHJA Zone level, which can lead to USHJA National Finals.

Competing at a National Level

Qualifying for your Zone Finals and Zone awards is a much similar process to going to the CHJA Year End Awards, but it is done by earning points at a USHJA recognized horseshow.

The USHJA Zone Jumper Team Championships provide riders with a competitive team experience and an opportunity to earn Zone Horse of the Year points in the Children's and Adult Amateur Jumper (1.10/1.15m), 1.20/1.25m Junior and Amateur, and 1.30/1.35m Junior and Amateur sections. The Championships are held by zone and consist of both team and individual competition.

For a chance to qualify, riders must complete an application and earn a minimum of 20 points in their respective section(s) at USEF-licensed competitions held with fence heights of that section during the qualifying period. View the calendar for detailed information on dates and deadlines for each set of Championships. Riders must also meet all other eligibility and qualification requirements as outlined in the Championship specifications.

Additionally, competitors in the Championships are considered USHJA Emerging Jumper Riders for the year(s) for which they participate. They have the opportunity to earn the title of USHJA Gold Star Emerging Jumper Rider and a coveted spot at a USHJA Gold Star Clinic. As part of the USHJA Emerging Jumper Rider Program, key sport leaders, including the US Equestrian Youth Chef d' Equipe DiAnn Langer, will be monitoring each set of Championships to assess talent among Championship competitors

The FEI North American Championships for Child Riders, Junior Riders, and Young Riders provide an exciting opportunity for riders in various age groups to compete against their peers in a Championship format similar to that of that of international senior Championships like the Olympic Games. Competition in each age category is held over the course of multiple days and features both a Team Competition, with Teams fielded by Zone, and an Individual Competition. You are eligible for Young Riders up to 21 years of age. This is a great format to set yourself up for the Grand Prix arena and potentially a professional career of serious repour.

Every horse enrolled in the USHJA International Hunter Derby Program that earns a minimum of $500 in USHJA International Hunter Derby classes, while enrolled, at competitions is eligible to compete. The Championship prize money was $280,000 in 2016, and once again 80% of the entry fees as well as a portion of enrollment fees will be added to the guaranteed $100,000 to create the total prize money purse. The entry fee for the Championship is $1,000. Eighty percent of the total prize money will be awarded to Overall Section A final standings. Twenty percent of the total prize money will be awarded to the Overall Section B final standings. The Derby Challenge will offer $10,000 in prize money, paid out to the top twelve horses.

The USHJA 3'3" Jumping Seat Medal provides Junior exhibitors with the opportunity to develop their equitation skills over a Jumper-style course. Year-end awards will be awarded to the top 12 riders in both the newly formed Eastern and Western Leagues.

Additionally, riders who earn 10 or more points in Jumping Seat Medal classes are eligible for the USHJA 3'3" Jumping Seat Medal Finals. Finals will be hosted on either coast, and qualified riders may choose either location. The 2017 Finals is a test to determine members' interest in a 3'3" equitation final that aims to help riders gain experience in a format similar to that of the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Program. Courses include at least eight fences set at 1.0m (3'3") in height, at least one double or triple combination, and at least three spreads from 1.0m to 1.15m (3'3" to 3'9"). Natural fences, a Liverpool, and a small water jump may also be included at the course designer's discretion. The medal class is judged on the rider's equitation style, technical merit,judgment and execution of an efficient, time saving pace and track.

The USHJA 3'3" Jumping Seat Medal is open to Junior active members of the United States Equestrian Federation and USHJA who have not reached their 18th birthday as of December 1 of the current competition year (per USEF rules). USHJA has many more programs like these that are available for your pursuit! Please feel free to investigate more at ushja.org

Average Estimate of Competition Fees

(NOT included: coaching, training, haul or membership)

CHJA Shows

EMT $15
Office Fee $25
Grounds Fee $15
Stalls (per day) $40
Classes (six classes are done on average) $20
Medal Classes $25
CHJA Average Facility Total $175
CHJA Membership (yearly) $45
CHJA Horse Membership (yearly) $45

USHJA “A”+ Shows

Office/Facility Fee $45
Medic Fee $10
Late Fee (per horse) $50
USEF Fee (Per Horse) Drug & Medications $8, USEF $8 $16
USHJA Fee: (Per Horse) $7
USEF Show Pass Fee (Non Member) Per Person $30
USHJA Show Pass Fee (Non Member) Per Person $30
Horse/Tack Stall – Full Show (One stall per horse. Additional tack and feed stalls and bedding are divided among the number of HORSES at the show. Bedding is typically $10/bag. Plan to pay for ten.) $350
Jumper Nomination Fee (If Applicable) $170
Credit Card Charge 3%
Class Fee $40
Division Fee $180
USHJA Average Facility Total $750
USHJA/USEF Membership (yearly) $165
USHJA/USEF Horse Membership (yearly) $80

[i] “About the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association.” Colorado Hunter Jumper Association, www.chja.org/about-chja.

[ii] “About USHJA.” United States Hunter Jumper Association, 2016, ushja.org/content/about.aspx.

[iii] http://www.fei.org/

[iv] Hunt Seat. (November 8, 2017) in Wikipedia. Retrieved on March 3, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_seat