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Hunter Jumper Lingo

Hunter Jumper Lingo

So now that you have a basic understanding of what’s going on in the ring, it’s time to make you sound like an old pro. Here’s your chance to impress someone with your hunter/jumper knowledge and really understand what all those people are talking about at the in-gate. Just like any other sport, there is a “hunter jumper lingo” that is used to describe what’s going on. For those that aren’t familiar with this hunter jumper lingo, it sounds like a lot of gibberish and makes absolutely no sense. But if you have an understand of a few key terms, you’ll not only understand what the people around you are talking about, but you’ll sound like you’ve been on the scene for years.

Typical Hunter Jumper Lingo

Add / Added / Add Stride

Each line of jumps in a hunter jumper course has a set number of strides as designated by the number of feet they are set apart by the course designer. When a horse gets an additional stride in a line [ie five strides in a line set for four strides] that is called an “add.”

Big Eq

Refers to a set of equitation classes where junior riders jump 3’6” and higher and includes the following classes: ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship, USEF Pessoa Hunt Seat Medal, WIHS Equitation and USEF Show Jumping Talent Search. Additional “Big Eq” classes are offered regionally such as the E.J. Haun Horsemanship Medal in the southeast or Capital Challenge Junior Equitation Championship in Maryland.



If a horse “chips” a jump, it means he took a very short stride right before the jump. It’s usually very unpleasant, and rough, something that you most certainly do not want to do in the hunter or equitation rings. It removes the fluidity that you’re aiming to achieve during your round when you stutter-step dramatically as your horse’s feet start to leave the ground.


At the canter horses have two “leads,” left and right, determined by which one of their front legs is “leading.” A “cross-canter” is when a horse is on one lead with his front legs and the other lead with his hind legs. It’s very unbalanced and difficult to ride, requiring a lead change (flying or simple) to readjust for the horse.

Handy or Handy Round

A horse described as “handy” means he is quick on his feet [think of a lightweight boxer]. A “handy round” is a type of hunter course which includes additional elements of difficulty to test a horses’ handiness such as a rollback, bending line or trot jump. These have recently become more popular at horse shows, using them as a way for judges to test horses and riders in a more challenging fashion than the typical hunter course.

Handy Hunter Course

Lead Change / Late Change / Skip Change / Simple Change

Horses have two leads at the canter and are expected to be on the correct lead at all times [left lead when going left, right lead when going right]. If a horse lands off a jump and is on the wrong lead [ie right lead when going left] they must perform a “lead change.” A “flying” lead change is most optimal and occurs when the horse performs this action during the canter. A “late change” means the horse performed a lead change, but it happened a bit later than ideal. In the hunter ring, this is a slight fault. Horses and riders are expected to be on the correct lead by the time they reach the end of the ring. A “simple change” means the horse did a lead change by going down to the trot or walk and did not perform the more sophisticated flying change. A “skip change” is a very quick simple change, usually taking only one stride.

Left Behind

If the rider falls behind the horse’s motion over a jump, she has been “left behind.”

Long Spot

The opposite of a “chip.” If a horse takes off far away from a jump, it is called taking a “long spot.”


Another name used when referencing an Equitation class. Sometimes medals have more than one component, starting with a scored first round, followed by a secondary “test” for the top three to six riders in the class. These tests may be a shortened course, a question asked by the judge or a flat phase.

Hunter Derby Exhibitor


This term is used to describe a horse who helps his rider out. These are the tried and true show horses who know their jobs very well, and typically do it all without any fuss. (Also see the word “saint.”)

Quiet Hands or Legs

A quiet rider is one who does not make any drastic or sudden movements with their aids [such as hands or legs]. They almost appear to not be making any movement at all.


A horse with “scope” means he has a lot of jumping ability and can probably jump fairly high. This quality is particularly to those competing in Jumpers, as horses that are regarded as “scopey” are usually very good at keeping jumps up and not knocking down rails.

Lantinus and Lynch


If a horse is tense or nervous, they will react to strange sights, sounds and smells by trying to run away which is called “spooking.” They also might “look” hard at something, much like we would if we saw something out of the ordinary.

Square Knees

When a horse’s knees are even over the top of a fence. This is optimal for the hunters.


This is another term for a horse’s stride, and will often be heard as “That horse has a lot of step,” which means the horse has a big stride. This does not refer to the horse’s speed, but just the length of his stride as he canters around the course. Also, “step” may also be used when one is talking about a course, and getting the “step” while riding down the lines, meaning getting the correct, set number of strides as designated by the course designer.

Swap Out

Sometimes right before a horse takes off over a fence, they will change canter leads either in front or behind, but typically not both. This is called a “swap out.” It is the rider’s job to ensure that they are using their aids correctly and effectively to prevent this from happening.


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

10 thoughts to “Hunter Jumper Lingo”

  1. i really wish you were doing this series (and i was reading it) during my IHSA days lol… would have saved me a lot of confusion (and probably kept me from saying a lot of silly things) 🙂

  2. Just found your blog (after you commented on mine a few times I went looking for it, but had the hardest time finding it!) 🙂 Yes, I’m computer illiterate. Love the dictionary – it’s actually taught me a couple terms!

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