Rules, Regulations, and What the Judges Want to See!

The Ontario Equestrian Federation hosted a Hunter/Jumper Judges Clinic on May 2nd and 3rd, with Barbara Mitchell (EC Senior & USEF ‘R’ Status Hunter, Jumper, Equitation Judge) and John Taylor (Senior EC & FEI Jumper Judge). I attended this clinic not as a judge, but as a rider and competitor. From that, I took away an entirely different perspective. While I participated in learning how to complete score cards, fill out staggers, and make quick judgment decisions, I was also learning what the judge is looking for, ring etiquette, and rules and regulations that must be followed.

Reading the rule brulebookook from front to back is something that, like most competitors, I had never really thought of as something that I needed to do. Sure, I have occasionally referenced the rule book to check for a class specification, legal tack, or some other miscellaneous item. But I have never actually read it front to back before because I assumed that I knew the “gist” of things after so many years of horse showing. The rules change on an ongoing basis, and it is our responsibility as trainers, riders, competitors, and even parents – to know the rules and regulations of a horse show we are competing in.

To download and read a copy of Rules and Regulations, Section G (Hunter, Jumper, Equitation, and Hack) click HERE, or visit the Equine Canada website under Rules. To read and download a copy of Rules and Regulations for all other disciplines such as Breeds, Driving, Eventing, Dressage, Western, Endurance, Reining, Vaulting, and Para-Equestrian click HERE, or visit Equine Canada’s website under Rules.

Using some topics covered in the two days of the Hunter/Jumper Clinic, and a quiz that they gave the participants themselves, here is a short quiz for you to see how much you know about some of the rules and regulations for EC rated shows (such as Bronze, Trillium, or ‘A’ Circuit Shows).


1. When does a judge begin judging a horse in a hunter or equitation class over fences?

a) When the horse steps into the ring
b) When the horse begins its first circle
c) During the approach to the first fence

2. TRUE or FALSE – At least 75% of the obstacles must be at the required height as long as conditions allow.

3. The minimum number of fences required in an EC rated hunter class are:

a) 6
b) 7
c) 8
d) 94.

4. TRUE or FALSE – A parent may jog a pony, children’s or junior hunter:

5. TRUE or FALSE – A horse that has not completed any of the over fences classes in his division cannot place in the under saddle class.

6. TRUE or FALSE – Boots and protective conservative colored bandages are permitted in hunter equitation classes.

7. Which of the following riders are allowed bit converters in hunter and equitation classes?

a) Any junior or amateur rider in hunter classes 3’0 or below
b) Riders in all jumper equitation classes
c) Riders in all hunter and jumper equitation classes
d) Riders competing in ‘B’ & ‘C’ equitation classes

8. After being eliminated or retiring in a jumper class, the rider may make one attempt to jump a courtesy jump. The jump may be:

a) A single fence already jumped
b) Any single jump on the current course
c) Any jump including a combination.
d) A jump not on course and not flagged.

9. Under the current National Table A rules, what are the penalties for the following:

a) Knockdown _________
b) Refusal–first disobedience _________
c) Refusal and dislodging the jump _________
d) Second disobedience _________
e) Exceeding time allowed in first round by 3 seconds _________
f) Exceeding time allowed in jump off round by 3 seconds _________
g) Exceeding the time limit _________

10. TRUE or FALSE – The ground jury may authorize the rider to enter the ring on foot with the help of another person.

11. How many times may the rider whip a horse per disobedience? ____________


1. A) When the horse steps into the ring. 2016 Article G401.2, Page 24.

2. TRUE. 2016 Article G302.1, Page 16. Minimum height allowed is 3” below maximum.

3. C) 8. 2016 Article G403.4, Page 25. Minimum number of 8 in recognized classes, no fewer than 7 in miscellaneous classes. Course shall include at least one change of direction.

4. FALSE. 2016 Article G401.6, Page 24. All horses and ponies showing in junior classes must be jogged by a junior. All horses and ponies showing in amateur classes must be jogged by an amateur.

5. TRUE. 2016 Article G401.3, Page 24. The horse may go in the under saddle class, but cannot be pinned for any awards without completing at least one over-fences class in the corresponding division. A hunter under saddle class or hunter hack class must never be the first class of a division.

6. TRUE. 2016 Article G1005.4, Page 91.

7. A) 2016 Article G202.6. Page 11. AND D). 2016 Article G1005.1, Page 90.

8. B) Any single jump on the current course. 2016 FEI Article 241.2, Page 60. The athlete has the right to jump one single obstacle, after retiring or being eliminated, providing that the obstacle is part of the course of the current competition. This does not apply to elimination from a fall.

9. A) Knockdown: 4 faults. B) Refusal (1st disobedience): 4 faults. C) Refusal and dislodging jump: 4 faults + 6 seconds. D) Second disobedience: Elimination. E) Exceeding time allowed in first round by 3 seconds: 1 fault. F) Exceeding time allowed in Jump Off round by 3 seconds: 3 faults. G) Exceeding the time limit: Elimination. 2016 FEI Article 232, Page56 and 2016 FEI Article 236, Page 57

10. TRUE. 2016 FEI Article 225, Page 53.

11. A horse should never be hit more than three times for any one incident. The whip cannot be used to vent a rider’s temper. Such use is always excessive. The whip is not to be used after elimination or after a horse has jumped the last fence on a course. The whip is never to be used over hand. The use of a whip on a horse’s head is always excessive use. If a horse’s skin is broken, it is excessive use. A person identified as misusing or excessively using the whip will be disqualified at the discretion of the Ground Jury. 2016 Article G115.2, Page 9.

“THE SILCOX PRINCIPLE” Never, ever discuss a rule without the rulebook open to that rule!!

The odds are, there was at least one question that you were not certain of the answer, perhaps you did not know, or perhaps the rule was updated since you last checked. Barbara and John both stressed the importance and responsibility for not only judges, but trainers and competitors to know the rules and be up to date. At the very least you can avoid elimination or disqualification from something silly, such as wearing the wrong piece of tack or equipment. Perhaps it will even give you an edge to learn the rules and regulations; for example, you will know what the judge is looking for, how they are scoring, and as such what you should work on with your horse! The rules are ever-evolving, so it is important to stay informed!


Below are some articles from the 2016 EC Rule Book: Section G Hunter, Jumper, Equitation and Hack, that Jumper coaches, riders, and even parents/viewers should be aware of!

Article G502 Tack and Equipment

Here are some rules on Tack and Equipment from Article G502 Tack and Equipment (Page 28)

Draw Reins, Standing Martingales, and German Martingales must be used in a safe manner, and are permitted in the schooling area. Draw reins are permitted over fences if used in the following manner:

  • Attached to the girth, running through the front legs, and secured at the neck
  • Attached to the breastplate
  • Attached to the girth at the billet straps
  • Attached to the ‘D’ rings at the front of the saddle
  • Standing martingales, German martingales, and draw reins secured as above are permitted in jumper classes up to 1.15m. Junior, Amateur, or Non-Pro riders MAY NOT compete in draw reins or German martingales.
  • Blinkers or sheepskin on cheek pieces more than 3cm in diameter measured from the horse’s face are not permitted in competition. (Note: Sheepskins allowed on nosebands (Shadow Rolls) have no restriction to size.)
  • Running martingales must be unrestricted, and used with rein stops as shown here.

    Running martingales must be unrestricted, and used with rein stops as shown here.

    Running martingales must be unrestricted, and must be used with rein stops where appropriate.

Article G504 Prizes (Page 30)

  • In all Jumper classes, prizes must be allocated 1 for every 6 entries with last place equal to or exceeding the entry fee. 1st prize may not exceed 1/3rd of the total prize money offered in a class.
  • In the case of any tie for prizes, prize money will be added together and divided equally amongst tied competitors.

Article G604 Amateur (1.0m, 1.10m, 1.20m, 1.30m, 1.40m) Jumpers (Page33)

  • Open to any horse ridden by an amateur. Amateur riders must possess a current EC Amateur Card which is purchased annually. (See Article G108 on page 4 for Amateur qualifications.)
  • A horse/rider combination is permitted unlimited upward movement, but downward movement is restricted to only one level. These movements are based on the level of the first class in which they competed.

Class Specifications

  • Article G607 (Page 34) states that 75% of jumps must be set at specified height and width.
  • There are two tables of penalties, Table A and Table C. The scoring is different in each of these tables. For example, the first fault in a Table A class results in four penalties, but does not result in any penalties in a Table C class. For more information on faults and penalties for each type of class, take a look at Chapter VI – Tables of Penalties on page 56.
  • There are many types of jumper classes such as Puissance, Six Bar Competition, Masters, Gambler’s Choice, Take Your Own Line, etc. For a full list of classes and how they are run and scored, take a look at Chapter XII – Competitions on page 68.

FEI Article 201 Arena, Schooling Areas and Practice Obstacles (Page 40)

  • While a horse is in the arena during a competition, all entrances and exits must be physically closed.
  • Practice obstacles may only be jumped in the direction for which they are flagged. No part of the obstacle may be physically held by any person. Obstacle material not provided by the Organizing Committee is forbidden under penalty of disqualification and/or fine.
  • Ground lines may be placed directly underneath the first part of an obstacle, or up to 1m away on the take-off side. If there is a ground line used in front of the obstacle, a ground line may be used behind the obstacle at an equal distance up to a maximum of 1m.
  • Combinations are permitted as long as there is enough space and they are built with correct distances. When training areas are crowded, only single obstacles may be used.
  • The schooling areas must always be supervised by a steward when in use.

FEI Article 203 Bell
The bell is used to communicate with riders. It is the rider’s responsibility to know what the bell means, and to obey it. It is interesting to note that after the bell has signaled a countdown, the ground jury has the right to interrupt the count-down due to unforeseen circumstances. Incidents such as, but not limited to, disobedience and falls, occurring between the signal to start and crossing the starting line are not penalized. After the bell has rung, crossing the starting line in the correct direction for a second time before jumping the first obstacle is counted as a disobedience/refusal (4 faults). For a full list of what the bell may signal to riders, check out FEI Article 203 on page 42.

FEI Article 219 Disobediences (Page 51)

  • The following are considered disobediences and are penalized as such:
  • Refusal
  • Run-out
  • Resistance
  • Circles, no matter where they are on course or for whatever reason. It is also a disobedience to circle around the last obstacle jumped unless the track so requires.
  • Notwithstanding the above, circling for up to 45 seconds after a Run-out or Refusal (no matter if the obstacle has to be rebuilt or not) to get into position to jump an obstacle is not considered a disobedience.

ecFEI Article 221 Refusal (Page 52)
It is a refusal when a horse halts in front of the obstacle, which it must jump whether or not the horse knocks it down or displaces it.

Stopping in front of an obstacle without moving backwards, and without knocking it down, followed immediately by a standing jump is not penalized.
• If the halt is prolonged, the horse steps back, either voluntarily or not, even a single pace, it counts as a refusal.
• If a horse slides through an obstacle, the Judge in charge of the bell must decide immediately if it is to count as a refusal or as an obstacle knocked down. If it is decided it was a refusal the bell is rung at once and the athlete must be ready to attempt to jump the obstacle again as soon as it has been rebuilt.

FEI Article 222 Run-Out (Page 52)

  • It is a run-out when the horse escapes the control of its rider and avoids an obstacle which it has to jump, or a compulsory turning point, which it has to pass.

FEI Article 223 Resistance (Page 52)

  • It is a resistance when the horse refuses to go forward, makes a halt for any reason, makes one or several more or less regular or complete half turns, rears, or steps backward for any reason.

Eliminations, Disqualifications, and Fines

  • A horse and rider may be subject to fines, elimination, and/or disqualification for a number of reasons. For a full list, take a look at Chapter VII – Fines, Yellow Warning Cards, Eliminations, and Disqualifications on page 59 of the rule book.


Day two of the clinic was geared towards Hunters, Hack, and Equitation. Below are some references to rules and regulations geared toward the Hunter, Hack, and Equitation divisions, as well as some notes on what the judges are looking for, and how they score the rounds!

Article G202 Tack and Equipment (Page 11)

  • When required to return to the ring for conformation or soundness (jog), entries must be presented in a bridle.
  • Bitless bridles are not permitted in the hunter ring.
  • Bits: All bits must be humane in nature. Snaffle bits may be with or without cheeks. Wire snaffle bits, either single or double are permissible. It is permissible to use a snaffle with fixed slots for cheek pieces and/or reins. Bit guards are not permissible.
  • Nose nets and ear plugs are permissible.
  • Reins are to be made entirely of leather. However, in case of bad weather, at the discretion of the judge, rubber reins may be used.
A pelham converter as shown here, may only be used in Junior and Amateur classes 3' (0.90m) or below.

A pelham converter as shown here, may only be used in Junior and Amateur classes 3′ (0.90m) or below.

  • Pelham converters may be used in Junior and Amateur classes in 3’ (0.90m) or below
  • Conventional standing and running martingales (with rein stops) are optional, except in hunter hack and under saddle classes in which they are not permissible.
  • Bandages and boots are not allowed. However, in the case of bad weather, at the discretion of the judge, steward, or competition committee, tendon, ankle, and bell boots may be worn. Boots must be removed before the horse jogs for soundness.
  • Whips: must be no more than 75 cm in length, or weighted at the end in the arena, schooling area, or anywhere on the competition grounds. The exception is dressage whips up to 120cm are permissible on the flat in schooling areas.

Article G401 General Rules Pertaining to the Conduct of Hunters (Page 24)

  • All hunters are judged on their jumping style, manners, and way of going.
  • A performance starts when the horse enters the ring, and ends when he leaves.
  • Juniors showing any horse in a jog for soundness must wear approved protective headgear with the attached safety harness fastened.
  • All horses and ponies showing in Junior classes must be jogged by a junior. All horses and ponies showing in amateur classes must be jogged by an amateur.
  • No horse or pony may show “Hors Concours” in hunter classes or divisions.

Hunter Classification, Classes, and Divisions

For a full list of class specifications and classifications (Ponies, pre-greens, juniors, adult amateurs, etc.) please refer to Chapter 3 on page 15.

Article G204 Hunter Championships (Page 13)

Points for championships (Champion and Reserve Champion) are awarded on the following basis:

1st Place = 7 Points

2nd Place = 5 Points

3rd Place = 4 Points

4th Place = 3 Points

5th Place = 2 Points

6th Place = 1 Points

In the case of a tie, the championship and/or reserve will be awarded to the horse that has accumulated the most points over fences. If there is still a tie, the tied horses can be shown on the flat to determine champion and reserve. Tossing a coin to break the tie is permissible if all participants agree.

It is interesting to note that in the event of a tie for a Championship in the Hack Division, horses shall be shown in hand and judged on conformation as per Article G1207.2 on page 104.

Article G402 Division of Hunter Classes (Page 24)

Shows may not split classes with less than 40 entries. They are permitted to split classes with over 40 entries, but must split classes at 50 entries.As an option to dividing classes by every other number, competitions may use the California split where all entries are judged as a single class and awarded prizes as follows:

1st Place = 1st Prize

2nd Place = 1st Prize

3rd Place = 2nd Prize

4th Place = 2nd Prize

5th Place = 3rd Prize

6th Place = 3rd Prize

7th Place = 4th Prize

8th Place = 4th Prize

9th Place = 5th Prize

10th Place = 5th Prize

11th Place = 6th Prize

In a California Split, championships are awarded as follows:

Horse with highest points = Champion #1

Horse with second highest = Champion #2

Horse with third highest = Reserve Champion #1

Horse with fourth highest = Reserve Champion #2

Tips for Hunters from Barbara Mitchell

  • Judges are training the coaches as to what they want to see in the ring. Thus, it is important for judges to reward good and proper riding.
  • You are being judged the moment you enter the ring and until you leave the ring!
  • While braiding is not mandatory in the rule book, it can be a tie breaker due to turn out.

Tips for Hunter Over Fences Classes

  • If your horse is a good mover, trot across the ring before picking up the canter.
  • You may not always hit the perfect spot, but a good rhythm = a good jump. The pace should be smooth like a metronome, with the horse maintaining their pace through-out the course and finishing on the same pace as they started. Horses should leave the ground and land in the same rhythm.
  • Ideally you should stay on the lead you entered a line with. Some horses may prefer to jump off their comfort leg and will swap leads. Frequent lead swapping may be a training or pain issue.
  • You should stay on the landing lead in a line, in bending lines as well (even if it is counter cantering).
  • When making lead changes, it is preferable to make the change before the first corner, then end, then approach to the next line. If your horse does not have a lead change, stay on the lead. Do not trot and break stride!!
  • Barbara gave us a great hint for determining the number of strides in a line based on the measurement given in feet. Deduct 2 from the first number. For example:


Tips for Hunter Under Saddle Classes

  • Now it is time to reward the good mover! You are being judged the moment the first horse enters the ring.
  • The walk is still 1/3 of the score, so do not let your horse become lazy or unfocused. The canter is slightly more emphasized in the score.
  • Movement is judged 1st, manners are 2nd.
  • MAKE SURE THE JUDGE CAN SEE YOUR NUMBER! Make sure your number is visible just slightly to the outside, and do not forget to move it when you change direction. The judge cannot pin you if they don’t know your number!
  • Hunters should maintain a light contact. Judges would rather see a nose poked with a nice picture, over see-sawing hands to “frame” the horse because it shows misunderstanding of aids and flatwork.


One of the most important things to note for the Hack division is that each class is judged against a different set of standards.

  • Riders must change the frame and presentation for each individual class!

Article G1301 Show Hack Horse or Show Hack Pony (Page 105)

  • Show hacks must have vitality, animation, presence, balance, and clean fine limbs showing supreme quality. Soundness is required and blemishes may be penalized. Braiding is optional.
  • The walk should be straight, four-beat and flat footed.
  • The trot should be free, light, and crisp, may be required as follows:• On contact in a more upright frame
  • Collected with rider sitting
  • Extended – on contact – medium speed with legs moving forward with impulsion and the rider posting or sitting.
  • The canter may be required as follows:

• Collected
• Normal
• Extended
• Hand gallop under control

  • Judged on 55% Performance, 20% Quality, 15% Conformation, and 10% manners.

Article G1302 Road Hack Horse or Road Hack Pony (Page 105)

  • The horse and pony must present an appearance of overall substance with refinement. Soundness is required and blemishes may be penalized.
  • The walk: straight, four-beat and flat footed with medium contact.
  • The trot: straight and true; may be required as follows: Normal on light to medium contact, Strong trot
  • The canter: normal on light to medium contact.
  • Hand gallop under control.
  • Judged on 55% Performance, 20 % Substance, 15% Conformation, and 10% manners.
  • Halting and rein back may be required.

Article G1303 Pleasure Hack Horse or Pleasure Hack Pony (Page 106)

  • The type and characteristic is similar to that of the Road Hack Horse/Pony.
  • To be shown on a light contact, at a flat footed walk, normal trot, easy canter; not to gallop.
  • Judged on 45% Performance, 40% manners, 15% Conformation.
  • The pleasure horse should be “unflappable” and a nice mover. The kind of horse you could put your Grandmother on!


In an equitation class, the judge is looking for the rider who produces the best results, with the best form. Neatness is a first requisite regarding rider’s dress. Turn-out is important. Bling can detract from the horse, so conservative coloured equipment is best. It is important to note, that equitation riders cannot pat their horse before leaving the ring.

Stirrup irons must be silver or grey in order for the judge to be able to see proper foot placement.

Stirrup irons must be silver or grey in order for the judge to be able to see proper foot placement.

Article G1005 Tack and Equipment (Page 90)

  • Only regular cavessons with snaffles, pelhams, double bridles, or kimberwicks are permissible. Pelham converters are allowed only in ‘B’ and ‘C’ classes.
  • Running and standing martingales are not permitted in a flat class, except in the flat phase of the medal classes where further testing over fences may be required.
  • Boots and conservative coloured bandages are permitted in hunter equitation classes.
  • Stirrup irons must not be affixed to the rider’s foot or boot in any manner. Black or coloured stirrups are not permitted and if used, will result in elimination.

Article G1006 Classes (Page 91)

  • Classes may be open to all junior or amateur riders, or may be restricted as shown below. Junior and amateur classes may never be combined.
  • Junior A Rider: a rider who is 15, 16, or 17 on January 1st.
  • Junior B Rider: a rider who is 12, 13, or 14 on January 1st.
  • Junior C Rider: a rider who is under 12 on January 1st.

Article G1008 Class Routine Over Fences (Page 92)

  • Each contestant will enter the ring and may circle once if desired before approaching the first fence. The rider shall then proceed around a course of no less than eight jumps, keeping an even pace throughout.
  • If elimination occurs during a ride-off, the contestant shall be placed last of those chosen for the ride-off.

Article G1009 Tests (Page 92)

  • The judge must choose a minimum of two individual hunter equitation tests according to the regulations set forth in this article. No other tests may be used.
  • If any test or part of a test is to be ridden without stirrups over fences, the riders must remove stirrups completely before commencing the test.
  • Please see this article for a full list of approved tests. It is your responsibility as a competitor to know what you may be asked to perform!
  • Some examples include:
    • Dismount and mount
    • Jump low fences at walk, trot, or canter
    • Flat or jump without stirrups
    • Pull up between fences, except in a combination
    • Counter canter

The above rules are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure you can see why it is important to read the rule book and stay up to date and informed so that you can be a conscientious competitor! If you see any rules that are being violated, make sure you find the show steward to report the issue!

The OEF hosts many seminars/clinics throughout the year on a variety of topics. If you are a serious competitor or coach, it is definitely worthwhile to attend these events in order to gain knowledge and perspective!

Knowing the rules, regulations, and what the judge is looking for likely will not create an instant championship. But, perhaps it will help you polish up a few things that may lead to a more complete, and appealing package for you to present to the judge! Having a picture in your mind of what the judge is looking for, and how a performance should look will help you to train more effectively at home through clear intention!

Horse showing can be very expensive, time consuming, and stressful at times! The best thing you can do to help minimize your stress, and better your experience, is to know the rules! Don’t forget to always be courteous to your fellow competitors, trainers, and judges. And most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

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