Show Hack or Show Hunter…What is the difference?

A new year means dusting off those competition boots and getting back into the competition ring. After 2 years of constant pushbacks and challenges, many Show Societies are excited to be bringing their shows back, bigger and better than ever! And with that comes the reawakening of the age-old question, is my horse a Show Hack or a Show Hunter?

In today’s blog, we look to the rule books to see what really defines a hack from a hunter, and provide some pointers on choosing what category is best for your horse.

Show Hacks

In a traditional English setting, the “Hack” mount was one used not for high degrees of work, rather they were the mode of transport from the stables to the hunting fields, where a rider would dismount their Hack and mount their “Hunter”, ahead of the day’s work. These origins have led to the ideas of the Hack mount being less of the working type.

Under the Equestrian Australia National Show Horse rules, a Show Hack is defined as a “quality, comfortable, well mannered, and educated riding horse, being sound of wind and limb”. It is further added that a Show Hack should work forward and free, be nicely rounded and elevated in front, with the whole picture being pleasing to the eye. Judging is broken up into 3 sections, with the overall quality of the horse, holding the highest weighting in decision making.

  1. Conformation and soundness
    a.  A Show Hack should be correct and evenly balanced.
  2. Manners, paces and education
    a. A Show Hack should be obedient, showing clearly defined, soft regular paces
  3. Workout
    a. A Show Hack of an open level is expected to display education, often asked to show two types of canter changes, and lengthening of both the trot and canter

These guidelines often see the Show Hack ring to consist of very flashy and eye-catching types. As quality is foremost, presentation is used by the exhibitor to enhance the horses’ features, and take away from any potential flaws. Show Hacks usually display a finer bone structure than their hunter counterparts, and are particularly well proportioned, especially in the head and neck. Typically, in Australia, the Show Hack ring is dominated by Riding Pony and Thoroughbred breeds, due to their flashy but delicate appearance.

Show Hunters

The ideals for the Show Hunter type are drawn from the tradition of big, bold horses that would traverse the English countryside, hunting. Due to this, the Hunter has more of a working type presence, making them notably stronger, and more solid in structure, than their hack counterparts.

The National Show Horse rules definition reiterates these values

“A quality Show Hunter must create the impression that it is capable of hunting over a variety of terrain… and he must do it comfortably and safely for his rider”

Judging is different to that of the Hacks, with 4 components each holding an equal weighting into the decisions.

  1. Type and General Impression
  2. Conformation
  3. Straightness of Action and Freedom of Movement
  4. Workout and Manners

Unlike the Show Hack, the Hunter is not expected to display a lengthening of the trot or canter. Rather a gallop is often demonstrated. Additionally, the Hunter is less forgiven for errors or poor manners, as inconsistency or a display of disobedience, is seen to be failing the expectation of carrying the rider safely, as per the definition of the type.  Due to their solid bone structure and strong presence, the Australian Show Hunter scene is largely dominated by Welsh and Warmblood breeds.

Deciding what category your horse is best suited to can be hard, and may even change from when they are youngstock to a mature horse. We recommended doing your research! Have a look at picture galleries from Royal Shows, Grand Nationals and Horse of The Year Championships, what line up would your horse fit into? Ask the opinion of knowledgeable friends or even a judge at your first show, it can take some time to train the eye to pick the features, and they are the professionals! Although you may re-visit your decision over time, just remember that you may only compete as a Hack or a Hunter at a single show (not both). For higher levels (Horse of the Year, Royal Shows) some further restrictions around changing between Hack and Hunter may be enforced, so check your states rule book!

The Equestrian Australia National Show Horse rules referenced in this piece are from here.

Written By Sharne H.


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