What is a Hunter Trial and What are the Rules?

Hunter Trials are a real test of partnership and skill between horse and rider over a cross country course. Hunter Trials are great for riders of all abilities, this grassroots competition features classes from inviting 50cm through to technical 1m tracks, and also includes an 80cm pairs class.

Competitors tackle a numbered cross country course, which is timed. The competitor with the least amount of penalties and closest to the optimum time is the winner.

In the pairs class there is an extra ‘Dressing Fence’ prize, this is normally judged over a specific jump which the riders tackle side by side in perfect synchronisation.

Preparing for a Hunter Trial

Before entering a hunter trial event, it is important that both you and your horse are fit, as the optimum time is based on the British Eventing metres per minute (mpm). A great way to practice your metres per minute, is to mark out 100m and then see the time it takes for you to complete the distance and work towards the following metres per minutes depending on the level you wish to compete at.

Class Speed
50cm 405m/min
70cm 420m/min
80cm 435m/min
90cm 450m/min
1.0m 475m/min

When competing at Eland Lodge it is worth considering that the cross country course is set over the rolling Staffordshire countryside with both open mature grassland and woodland forming. It is worth practising and going cross country schooling on different terrains to allow your horse to become accustomed to the going and also to be fit enough to tackle the hill sections.

Walking a Hunter Trial Course

When walking the course (on either the day before the competition or on the day), make sure you focus on the fences you are required to jump and the lines before and after the jump.

Class Coloured Flag
50cm Red
70cm Blue
80cm Purple
90cm Orange
1.0m Pink

A more challenging jump may have a black flag option, which is an alternative obstacle or element that can be jumped rather than the direct route. They will have the same number as the direct route and both sets of directional flags will have a black line. The black flag option normally takes more time to complete than the direct route.

At the Competition & Penalty Points Explained

It is important to ride away from your fence to ensure a consistent rhythm and balanced round which will produce a more consistent round overall. If you are unsure of a particular fence if is worth watching how other competitors tackle the fence.

As well as riding to the optimum time, it is important to go clear on the cross country course. However, if you have an issue penalties will be imposed for a refusal, run-out or circling only when the fence judge deems that a competitor has presented a horse to an obstacle.

A refusal is when a horse stops i.e. is no longer moving forward. The rider should turn the horse away and re-present at the obstacle. If a rider tries to jump the obstacle from a standstill, this constitutes dangerous riding and will be penalised accordingly.

A horse is considered to have a run out if the body of the horse (head, neck, shoulders and pelvis – legs are not included) fails to pass between the extremities of the obstacle flags.

A competitor is considered to have circled if they pass round the back of any element of the lettered combination in an obstacle composed of several elements or it crossed its tracks between the elements. As long as the rider has not presented the horse to an obstacle then circling between separate numbered obstacles is allowed without a penalty.

Error Penalty Points
First Refusal, run out or circle of the horse at an obstacle 20 Penalties
Second refusal, run out or circle of the horse at the same obstacle 40 Penalties
Third refusal, run out or circle of the horse at the same obstacle Elimination
Third cumulative refusal – Novice and above Elimination
Fourth Cumulative refusal – BE105 and below Elimination
Fall of the competitor anywhere on the course Elimination
Fall of the horse anywhere on the course Elimination
Trapped horse Elimination
Error of course not rectified Elimination
After more than 2mins of continuous disobedience Elimination
Omission of obstacle or boundary flag Elimination
Retaking an obstacle already jumped Elimination
Jumping the obstacle with crossed flags Elimination
Exceeding the time limit (twice the optimum time) Elimination

Qualifying for the Elandlodge.com National Hunter Trial Championships

If you are lucky enough to go clear and are placed in the top three of an Eland Lodge Qualifier, then you will qualify for the ElandLodge.com Hunter Trial National Championship Final which will be held on Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th September 2021. The National Championships is a culmination of over 195 qualifying events held throughout the UK.