The Difference Between Hunter and Hack Classes

To the untrained eye, the differences between a Hunter and a Hack may seem pretty minor, if not, almost indistinguishable. A horse is a horse, of course, or is it? But for experienced equestrians, the differences are as obvious as the differences between dressage and cross-country.

To help clear things up for new or confused riders, or if you are over explaining the differences to your non-horsey friends, here’s a guide on the differences between Hunters and Hacks.

Show Hacks.

Show Hacks are quality animals, most probable of thoroughbred heritage. Horses should have a nicely rounded back, naturally elevated in the front and flexed heads at the poll. Show Hacks should also possess the following qualities:

  • Clean limbs.
  • Refined features.
  • Good conformation.
  • With soft-flowing, accurate and with graceful rhythm in movement and paces.
  • With exceptional presence.
  • Well-mannered and obedient, but not to the point of appearing mechanical.
  • Should appear well-schooled and obedient.
  • Well conditioned and in gleaming good health.
  • Should project a beautiful overall outline.

Show Hacks usually possess a finer bone structure than their Hunter counterparts. They are particularly well-proportioned, especially in the neck and head. They are flashy but with delicate appearance. Judges seek a horse with an undeniable presence that seemingly projects “look at me.”

Rider Dress Code for Show Hacks.

Taking great pride in your appearance and that of your horse make a big difference. The way you feel and the impression the judge sees is vital when you first enter the ring.

The general code of buff:

  • Fawn or Cream breeches.
  • Neat collar and tie.
  • Blue, black, or tweed jacket.
  • Plain black long boots.
  • Brown gloves.

Do check with the organisers to be absolutely sure what is allowed. The gist is, you and your horse want to be noticed for the right reasons, not because you want to be look different.

Hunter Hacks.

Hunter Hacks are not expected to have the same refinement as a Show Hack. They are also quality animals but of the heavier set, reminiscent of “working horses.” They are expected to exude an impression that they are capable of hunting over a variety of terrains all day with the most beauty and relaxation.

If Show Hacks are in a model competition, Hunter Hacks are in a beauty pageant. It is where pristine turnout, quality of movement and jump, quiet temperament paired with effortless rideability is the ultimate goal.

Hunter Hacks should possess the following qualities:

  • An ideal Show Hunter will have significantly greater depth of girth and overall heavier bone.
  • Should have short and well-defined cannons with sufficient forearm and second thigh for strength and action.
  • Should be able to cover the ground in all paces with a well-balanced gallop, moving from the shoulder, and with hind legs well under.
  • With clean, strong hocks and a flat knee.
  • Must possess an overall natural balance.

In the same way as a show hack, the hunter should exude presence and an imposing “look at me” quality.

Correct Attire for Riders in the Hunter Ring.

A clean and neat, traditional appearance gives you a competitive edge in the hunter ring. 

  • Hacking Jacket – Preferably plain tweed, with acceptable colours being green, brown, or blue. Your chosen colour should go well with the mount. Plain navy and black are also acceptable.
  • An approved safety helmet must be worn.
  • A shirt to tone with the jacket, and a plain, discreetly patterned tie. It is also acceptable to wear stock or ratcatcher.
  • Breeches or Jodhpurs should be fawn, beige or banana in colour.
  • Long boots are required for older children and adults.
  • Gloves should match the rider’s boots and must be plain.

In summary, there are distinct and clear differences between a Show Hunter and a Show Hack. If you happen to have a horse that lies somewhere in the middle, it is suggested that you enter a few smaller shows and compete in both divisions.

Although, it is not permitted to compete in both classes within the same show since it is considered poor etiquette. Young horses will eventually gain more mass and bone as they mature, so don’t be wary to revisit your decision at the start of each season.

Perhaps the more notable difference between the presentation of an Open Hack and a Show Hunter is that the Show Hunter is more subdued, makeup is more blended and less is often best.

It is more common for Show Hunters to display quartermarkers, but it is advised they be more bold and workmen like with larger checkers over smaller ones. Browbands should be in plain leather. Blingy browbands are permitted for Open Hack classes.

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