• SnowyCreekEquestrian

Horse Showing with Snowy Creek 101

Horse Showing with Snowy Creek

You have been working so hard on your riding and now it is time to literally show it off, at a horse show. Our recommendation is for you to start with a grassroots show ( we are going to some TTC and maybe some Waters Edge Farm Shows this year) if possible, which we schedule a few times per year, as the schedule permits. The grassroots show will get your feet wet, from there things get a bit more involved… this post is to help keep it as clear as possible… I’m going to try to explain what the shows are and how they run, and then how Snowy Creek as a team does does the shows.

Equitation Classes-

Equitation classes- which some horse shows run as a division but most run as only a flat class and a jumping class, with no championship points counted are judged by the rider. Although you want a willing, well schooled horse to help the rider, this class is being judged on how well their rider can communicate with the horse, explaining what they want and look smooth and in control while doing so. The courses are typically a bit more challenging which helps the rider demonstrate to the judge that they are in synch with their mount. They ride with more connection to better tell their horse what they want.

Equitation classes are run as “age equitation” – Equitation 11 and under, Equitation 12-14, Equitation 15-17 and Adult Equation. They are also run as a “Medal Class” which is usually a jumping class in memory of someone or named after who is sponsoring it- EJ Haun, Bryan Jones, Dover Medal, ASPCA Medal etc… Each state organization usually has medals with the finals at their year end show. NCHJA ( North Carolina Hunter Jumper Association) has a Children’s and Pony Medal as well as their E J Haun Medal for the Junior riders (confusingly Junior hunters are more advanced than the children’s hunters- more on that later) SCHJA has their state medals, and then there are National Medals- held at the prestigious horse shows that take even more effort to qualify for. The Pennsylvania National Horse show held in Harrisburg, Pa, The Washington International Horse Show, held in DC, and the USEF National Horse Show, held in Lexington Kentucky ( but in earlier times held at the Madison Square Garden in NYC) make up the Fall Indoors shows. The Devon show in the spring is another show that takes dedication and skill to qualify for.

Our riders compete in both the equitation and hunter classes, especially at the lower levels. Hunter divisions make up most of what we compete in however equitation classes push us to better our riding overall. It is only at the higher levels ( 3’6) that riders start specializing in one or the other.


Hunters refers to the type of class as it is judged. The hunter is the horse, and the class is being judged on the smoothness and quality of the round. The horse (hunter) should appear to need minimal guidance from the rider, making it seem like the horse is on auto pilot. In actuality the rider is riding their butt off, but doing so with a looser rein and staying lighter off their back. Although the rider is actually not being judged in a hunter round, good riders are helping the horse put in a smooth, seemingly effortless rhythmical trips. A hunter course being jumped should be simple, permitting the rider to be less involved with managing the trip. A quality horse will have good form- a tight front end means that their front legs are brought up high and evenly. They should have a round bascule, a big, yet slow, uphill balanced stride, and good lead changes. On the flat they should have ground covering long strides with minimal jerky upright movement ( no prancing!) Good turn out- meaning the horse is clean, in good physical condition, ideally with a shiny coat, and well fitting tack is also important. This also applies to equitation classes however the emphasis is different. Hunter divisions start at the 2′ short stirrup level for beginning riders 12 and under, 2′ Long stirrup for 13 and older. From there the progression is 2’6 Pre-children’s or 2’6 Pre-adult hunters, then 3′ children’s and 3′ adults before 3’3 juniors and 3’3 amateur and 3’6 juniors and 3’6 amateurs. The length of time the rider stays at each level depends on the rider and their horse. Everyone accelerates at different rates and it is never a good idea to move up just because your friend did. Your instructor has your best interest in mind, listen to them.


Classics are judged on the hunter. Classics are mostly held with the division you are competing in. It is another class with higher prize money awarded for the top 8 placings. It also is awarded more points. To make the show run more efficiently and to save time, if you are entered in the classic; the second class of your division on the first day of competition counts not only for the division but also as the first round of your classic. On the second day of the division the top 12 from the day previous would do a separate “Classic” round. Unlike a Derby, there isn’t a “handy” trip, the second trip of the Classic is usually a little bit longer, perhaps 9 or 10 jumps instead of the normal 8.


Derbies have become very popular as a stand alone event. At the A show level for the horses there are National Derbies which are 3′ with higher option jumps of 3’3 for additional points and International Derbies which are a minimum of 3’6 to 4’3 with 4 high options even higher! In both levels the first round confusingly is called the Classic Round, and is a longer course like all the hunter courses; consisting of jumps found in a field hunt… coops, hay, brush, stone and brick walls etc. The second round is reserved for the top twelve riders from the first round who qualify for the Handy round. The Handy round consists of a shorter course and to gain extra “handy” points riders are taking the most efficient track possible, and in doing so, demonstrating the braveness, agility, and athleticism that would be required if you were in fact on a real hunt course with trot jumps, quick turns, and hand gallops frequently used by the course designer. It was developed to be the hunter version of a ” Grand Prix” which the jumpers have… more on that later. There also are Pony Derbies- typically held at the height the pony normally would jump in their regular division, which aren’t quite as popular as Derbies held for the horses but are nonetheless gaining popularity. For both the horses and ponies, there typically is a good amount of prize money- the minimum is $2500 for a National Derby with more and more having $5000, $10,000 and in some shows even $25,000. At the International Derby levels commonly they are $10,000 to $50,000. with the USEF Finals at $100,000. Bear in mind that that prize money is split among the top 8 placings, with the winner normally getting about 30% of the overall purse.


Jumpers seemingly are the same as hunters… horses jumping over jumps. The emphasis on how they are judged is far different however. It would be like comparing speed skating to figure skating. Both involve people skating. Hunters are like figure skating- the rounds are judged subjectively with form and technique being evaluated. Jumpers are like speed skating. Form and technique for both rider and horse are not judged; it is only the end result, getting a clear round (not knocking any of the poles down) and being the fastest time wins this class. Very simply and objectively judged. Nonetheless form and technique are very important in the jumpers in order to put those clean fast rounds in. Good equitation is important to ensure that you aren’t interfering with your horse, it also means that you are communicating well with your horse and as a team you are tacking the course.

Snowy Creek riders learn in the hunter and equitation divisions before getting to compete in jumper divisions. Most hunters do not compete in the jumper ring and vice versa. Hunters are judged on a quiet, smooth stylish way of going, and jumpers are judged on speed and carefulness of their round, typically more spirited.

Some horses that specialize in the equitation can also double up as a hunter or a jumper, those special ones that are good in all but not great in any are referred to as “three ring horses” They are great for the lower levels of all three disciplines. Like the hunters, there are lower levels to start with, progressing to the Grand Prix level. Nonetheless, jumpers shouldn’t be tried until the rider has a firm grasp of the show ring, especially the equitation show ring. You will see at the shows the riders and their horses who skipped this step and are downright scary to watch.

C Shows-

C Shows are typically the next step after a Grassroots show. Less competitive than an A show, they typically are a bit less expensive as well, although it is quite a leap from the Grassroots show. Most Shows are Saturday and Sunday, and in preparation we leave the Friday before. Most C Shows are only a one day show, and so over the weekend there actually are two shows- one on Saturday, another on Sunday. Sometimes there is also a Friday warm up division as well. This means that you have the potential to earn a champion tri-color ribbon each day. This is awarded to the most points earned in the division, with second overall earning a reserve champion ribbon. A hunter division is made up of two jumping classes and one flat class for C shows. There is an option for 2 people of the same level to share a horse at a C show (typically the BRHJA, SCHJA, and NCHJA C shows) where one rider will ride Saturday and another Sunday

A Shows-

For the A show to be able to be sanctioned by USEF (the governing body) certain standards have to be met although in recent times the C shows have become so competitive that they rival the A shows with more than qualified facilities, judges, jumps, footing (very important to us equestrians that tour horses are competing on an excellent surface/ footing – ensuring that our athletes stay sound) Nonetheless, at C shows to stay competitive, they try to up their game, A shows are required to. A shows also are required to award prize money for their hunter divisions, especially the more advanced division which is typically credited to your show bill. But make no mistake- this is NOT a money making proposition! Even winning your division you typically are paying a show bill. A shows typically have hunter divisions consisting of 4 jumping classes and one flat class which are held over two days. So each day would hold half the jumping division and then the flat class making up the fifth class of the division would be held on one or the other day. Attending a more prestigious show also requires a more qualified “A Show” level horse. And at A shows it is strongly suggested that your horse be braided. It would appear that there are lots of downsides to competing at the A show level however the upside is that you are amongst serious competitors, with most everyone treating this as a sport as opposed to a hobby. These shows and the training that goes into the preparation for these shows takes dedication which is demonstrated by our riders and their families. We take great pride that our riders and their mounts are very competitive at the A show level, even among some of the best in the country. Nonetheless we take even greater pride knowing that we are developing great riders who are learning the measure of hard work, knowing that you only get out what you put in. The horse doesn’t know what you paid for it… it only does what it is supposed to do by having a connection and bond with their rider that has to be earned. A lot of great life lessons take place at the barn around horses!


At both the C and A Show level there are year goals that can be set which make it competitive and fun. Rather than being satisfied with a successful weekend ( which is okay too!), points can be accrued for Derby Finals, Pony Finals, Junior Hunter Finals, Zone Finals… To be eligible for these goals, both rider and horse and horse’s owner if not the rider, usually need to a member of the organization of the final that they are vying for. For this reason, if you are even slightly competitive you might want to look into becoming a member of the organizations sanctioned by the show you are attending. We mostly go to state sanctioned shows; NCHJA ( NC) SCHJA (SC) as well as organizations- PSJ (Progressive Show Jumping Association) and BRHJA ( Blue Ridge Hunter Jumper Association) USEF ( United States Equestrian Federation) A and B shows require that you are a member of their organization or pay a steep non member fee. All of these organizations have a year end banquet with year end prizes awarded in recognition of all the hard work put in for top placings. All of these organizations have websites with a list of Points earned as the year progresses.

Snowy Creek Team


Regardless of the level – A, B or C Shows, when you are ready to attend these shows we will need information from you to fill out your entry blanks. Basically we will need from you everything you are not supposed to give out to anyone. We will need your date of birth for entering in the correct classes, social security number to give to the shows for potential prize money earned, and a credit card to pay for the classes. We should already have your address, phone number and email address, which is also required on an entry blank for a horse show. Become a member (and be sure your horse is as well) to BRJHA.com, NCHJA.com, SCHJA.com to get started… With the Usef membership you will also become a USHJA member. The United States Equestrian Federation has many disciplines within its organization, and the one we need need is the United States Hunter Jumper Association one. You need to become a member of both which the website will lead you to do… a three year membership is the best deal assuming you are in it for at least that much time…

Sign Up-

Sign up on the sheet on tack room door. Make sure you sign up if you are going and you remove yourself if you decide otherwise. Note that there are deadlines for these. Sometimes it is too late to add or subtract a stall from our count so it is best to be as early as possible to avoid paying a stall and scratch fee if canceling late, or not getting to go if signing up too late.


In preparation for showing we strongly suggest you go to the Camden Tack Room or Farmhouse tack for all your show apparel needs. The Camden Tack room and Farmhouse tack are well versed with the know how to outfit you properly. Their staff knows what our preferences are and how to help you achieve it regardless of your budget. they are a bit of a drive but well worth the drive since you can be sure that you won’t be having to return it the next day.

Group Text-

We are adding a group text app, if you sign up for horse shows we will get you added. The week of or slightly earlier we start a text stream dedicated to that particular show with everyone attending. We start out reminding everyone to have their trunks packed with everything they wish to take at the end of the barn closest to the trailers. In these trunks be sure that the bridle and girth are packed if you aren't going to be there to school the day we arrive. Ideally you take your saddles but if that is too troublesome, ask which vehicle we are taking and you usually can put it in the cab of that truck. We need you to have a leather halter with a lead shank with a chain on it, along with a set of wraps in front of your horse’s stall ready for us to put on to ship. On the group text we will ask for everyone’s arrival day and approximate time. This helps us plan how to best prepare you horse. We typically go on the day before we start showing in order to school at the show facility, understanding that some of our riders don’t have that luxury. In these cases we will help. We set up lessons, let you know where on the show grounds we are stabled, team dinner plans, daily arrival times on show days and other helpful tips with the group text. The group text is another way to share all the cute pictures that I love getting to post on our Social Media pages.

At the Show-

All the show fees are listed on our current rates sheet, ask if you would like one. We have a groom ate the shows to feed, clean stalls, clean and fill up water buckets, medicate the horses with their medication and then help out if they have time. I say help… they are not responsible to tack, untack, bathe, wrap, unbraid. They are there only to help. We expect our riders to be an active part of preparing and putting their horse away. If you are interested in full care, where your horse is tacked up and handed to you and then put away, let us know that is an option for addition charge.

When you come to the shows it is best to pack sun screen, a tumbler to fill with the gallon jugs we are bringing (going green) a sun hat, a rain coat, Also it is a good idea for the parents to get together about snacks during the day, we have the small fridge, and the freezer.

Patience and humor at the show are also welcome, especially when the schedule gets crazy. A show day is a hurry up and wait kind of day. We have some great families that bring out beverages (all for of age parents) as well as healthy snacks. We discourage a lot junk food brought as snacks- fruit, nuts, crackers etc are ideal. It is also important that our riders eat and drink well and regularly while competing, we’ve encountered many riders fading due to a lack of this.

We are proud of our accomplishments as a team and look forward to filling up our team banner with all the ribbons earned at that week’s show. After the show we take all ribbons back to the barn and hang them up for a week, this allows all the other members of the barn family to see how well you did. Make time at the show to watch and cheer on your fellow team mates, as well as watch the levels you wish to aspire to, a great way to learn more from. Some of our riders are quite handy with a camera and take great pictures of us which they share as well -

This is all the info I have for you at this point… I’m sure I’ll amend it as I remember other pertinent information that is useful to you being as informed as possible before and during your time with us. And if there is something I’ve forgotten or need to better explain- don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks

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