How to win at Hunter Trials!

Hunter trials are great fun and this time of year there’s plenty of them about to have a go at. You can enter either individually, or if you have a friend, you can have a go at pairs, where you both ride the course together – great if you have one less experienced horse- or even rider (!) needing a bit of moral support.

So, how does it all work? Well, generally the course will include a variety of cross-country rustic fences of varying degrees of difficulty and height.  There is often a water jump, too!


Usually, there will be a “bogey” time which may or may not be revealed by the organisers – usually it’s not declared until after the last horse has finished the course. The aim is to go clear and get as close to the bogey time as possible. The bogey time will usually be confined to a certain section and will be marked on the course. Riders are usually encouraged to ride at a ‘good hunting pace’, so practice riding in a steady gallop rhythm at home, without going too fast or slow.

Sounds a bit hit and miss? Well, it can be, but there are a few things you can do to ensure your success. Here we reveal our 5 top tips to the ribbons!

  1. Fitness First

Don’t go expecting your horse or pony to romp round the course with ease if you haven’t put the fitness work in first. Hunter trials can be quite physically demanding on both horse and rider, so make sure you have done enough canter work at home so that your horse can last to the end of the course. The same goes for you, too!  Get fit first!

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

Take every opportunity you can to practice XC fences with some XC schooling sessions. There are plenty of courses all over the UK open for XC training, and many Pony Clubs offer training sessions, too. Have a go at all different types of fences, and learn those that your horse needs extra care at.

  1. Walk the course thoroughly

There are a couple of things you need to be thinking about when you walk the course. As well as looking at which fences you will jump, also consider which lines you will take in order to ride a smooth, efficient round.  It’s all about speed, clear rounds and of course, safety. Often, a fence will have two or even three different height options marked out by different coloured flags – make sure you are clear about the colour for your course and jump the right fence!

  1. Look and Learn!

If you can, take the time to watch other riders tackling your course. It will give you clues and tips on how best to jump the course, and will give you an idea of any particular fences that are causing problems, giving you time to work out a strategy for your ride.

  1. Practice Dressing

No, we don’t mean getting dressed! Rather when competing in pairs, there may be what’s known as a dressing fence which is a jump that should be tackled side by side with your partner in perfect synchronisation! Pairs who jump the fence just out of time from one another will incur five penalties, and pairs who jump the dressing fence one behind the other will incur 10 penalties – so have a go at home to get it right, away from the competition pressures.

Armed with these top THP pearls of wisdom, all that remains is to get out there and have a go! Enjoy!

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