One of the things that makes hunter/jumper shows so complicated are unrated divisions. Many shows choose to add divisions that aren’t technically recognized by the United States Hunter Jumper Association or the United State Equestrian Federation to increase entries and provide more opportunities for weeny adult amateurs like myself to actually get in the show ring. Usually these unrated hunter jumper divisions are lower in height and have various experience qualifications for horse and rider. Sometimes the names of these divisions vary by region, or the name may be the same across the nation, but the rules for eligibility differ. In a nutshell, unrated hunter jumper divisions are super confusing and there’s really no rhyme or reason to them. In all honesty, your best bet to enter correctly is to read the prize list, the rule book and/or contact the show organizer. But in case your running short on time, here are a few popular unrated hunter jumper divisions, what they are and who is typically eligible to compete in them:
Short Stirrup is typically for younger riders [aged 9-11 or under] that have not shown higher than 2′ or 2’6″; the exact age limit and fence height restriction will vary by show. The division typically consists of several over fence classes with fences set around 18″ – 2’3″, as well as a flat class. Some shows will host a Short Stirrup Hunter division, judged on the horse and/or a Short Stirrup Equitation division, judged on the rider.
Long Stirrup or Limit Rider is an unrated hunter jumper division similar to short stirrup, but for older riders usually age 12 and over with the same height restrictions [not shown higher than 2′ or 2’6″]. As stated previously, the exact age limit and fence height restriction will vary by show and the division usually consists of several over fence classes with fences set around 18″ – 2’3″, as well as a flat class.
Rusty Stirrup is a difficult division to pinpoint, as sometimes it is used interchangeably with Long Stirrup and other times is used to further separate riders jumping 18″-2’3″ by age. Generally, riders must be 18 years old or over to be eligible to compete in rusty stirrup divisions.
Beginner Hunters typically show at fence heights of 18″ to 2′ and the division is for to horses and ponies with limited show experience, such as those who have never shown over fences at 2’6″ or higher or within their first year or two of showing. Sometimes in this unrated hunter jumper division simple lead changes are not penalized, but double-check the prize list to be sure.
Beginner Rider is a division intended for riders of any age beginning their show experience. Fences are usually set at 18″ to 2′ and classes are typically open to any rider who has never shown over 2’3″, although some shows will restrict the class to those who have never shown over 18″.
The Hopeful Hunter division is for less experienced horses with heights ranging from 18″ to 2’9″. Typically at unrated schooling shows, Hopeful Hunters show between 2′ and 2’3″ and will be judged on suitability, manners and way of
going. It is important to read any information in the prize list on this division, as rules vary widely from region to region.
Green As Grass Hunter division is typically for horses who have not shown prior to the current year, however sometimes it is opened to horses in their first two years of showing as well. Fence heights range from 18″ to 2’3″, although 2’3″ is most popular.
Very Green Hunter is open to horses with limited experience in their first [or sometimes second] year of showing. Fences are usually set at 2’3″, but sometimes can be up to 2’6″.
Novice or Maiden divisions typically refer to a number of blue ribbons won by the rider or horse [typically less than three] at this level or above. Fences are usually 2’3″ to 2’6″.
Puddle Jumpers or Itty Bitty Jumpers have fences set at 18″ – 2′ and are generally for very inexperienced and/or green horses. Sometimes Itty Bitty Jumpers go up to 2’3″, and the name is used interchangeably with Beginner Jumper or Debut Jumper.
Beginner Jumper or Debut Jumper classes can easily be all over the board as far as fence height, ranging from 2′ to 2’6″, however the most popular height is 2’3″. Typically this division has no qualification, except for sometimes restricting the maximum fence height the same horse can jump at that particular show.
Hopeful Jumper classes are usually set at 2’9″, but can be as low as 2’3”.