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The Show Hunter
One of the most controversial subjects in the showing of hunters is that of weights. The three weight classes are lightweight (that is not to carry more than 12 stone 7lb), middleweight (12 stone 7lb to 14 stone) and heavyweight (14 stone and over). People always have and always will argue about a particular horses's weight, because it is not height that carries weight but the bone below the knee. This is measured with a tape measure just under the knee. Approximate guide measurements are: lightweight 8 1/2 inches; middleweight 8 1/2 to 9 inches; and heavyweight 9 inches and over.
The Lightweight Hunter:
The lightweight classes at the major shows are usually the best filled and often contain some really high-class horses. The ideal type for this class are thoroughbreds or seven-eights bred and with a good height of 16.1hh-16.2hh with about 8 1/2 inches of bone.
The lightweight should be a good mover and be able to gallop and must have plenty of presence to stand out amongst the others in the ring. He should be well schooled and light in the hand. A true lightweight should be an ideal ride for ladies and lightweight men to ride, hunt or even event. The lightweight also often doubles as a ladies hunter which is ridden side saddle.
The Middleweight Hunter:
The ideal pattern for a middleweight is about 16.3hh and with about 8 3/4 to 9 inches of bone. He should ride bold and take hold of his bridle. The middleweights are usually the most sought after of all the show hunters as they are a good size and type for the hunting field. Many judges are satisfied by the middleweight hunter which can prove useful in hunter championships.
The Heavyweight Hunter:
The true heavyweight show hunter capable of carrying over 14 stone is a rare commodity today. The quality heavyweight show hunter is the monarch of the ring and the envy of everyone. His trot is not as spectacular as that of the lightweight or middleweight, but is still long and low with little or no knee action. The true heavyweight need not be more than 17hh but should have 9 or 10 inches of bone. Where the blood heavyweight comes into his own is in the gallop. Here he leaves his common brothers floundering behind him.
The heavyweight does need time to mature and is best not shown until he is six years old. Often people show their heavyweights too fat and unfit, which can lead to trouble.
The Small Hunter:
The true small hunter should be based on the miniature middleweight pattern but only up to 15.2hh in height. He should be short of leg with a good deep body and, to use an old term, a 'very butty type'. He should have a lot of character and presence about him to be good. Movement in a small hunter needs to be especially attractive as it is not unusual to have about twenty competing together at any one time.
There always seems to be controversy on small hunter heights, many people maintaining that they are over 15.2hh. A good sort of 15.2hh appears from the outside of the ring to be higher than it is, and so much depends on the animal's wither being high or low.
The Ladies Hunter:
Ladies Hunters can be entered by Small, Lightweight, Middleweight or Heavyweight Hunters. The ladies hunter must be well mannered, give a smooth ride and have just that touch of elegance to finish off the final look.
The horse is ridden in a side-saddle (by ladies only!) which most take to straight away. Various coloured habits are seen in the show ring but the majority are made of navy or black wool though tweed is sometimes also worn.
The Working Hunter:
At the larger shows the working hunters are divided into two sections: the lightweight (up to 13 stone 7lb) and heavyweight (over 13 stone 7lb). The definition of a show working hunter is a good-looking horse that jumps smoothly and quietly. He should be well schooled with correct conformation, athletic movement and a good, level temperament.
A good working hunter must be able to jump rustic fences of about 3ft 6" to 3ft 9" in the confinement of a ring but at a good hunting pace. Some horses do find this difficult so will need lots of practise at home.