Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hunter VS. HUS

So my last post about the WP horse brought up quite a discussion. One I want to open up more. OK, by trade and training I am a Throughbred, Warmblood loving 'A' rated hunter jumper gal. I grew up in that world and I love it! I still do. People would say to me "What's up cowgirl?" or "Oh you're a cowgirl then?" HELL NO! I'm an ENGLISH hunter rider.

Me, personally I like my hunters to be hunters and my western horses to be western horses. The classic look of a nice TB under saddle is breathtaking to me. The horses have a nice head, elegant carriage and cadence. They drive from their hind quarters, oh it's just gorgeous.
BUT, WP riders want a piece of it too and AQHA/APHA offer that, it just looks different. Doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it, it's just not what 'A' system riders are used to. That long and low frame and head. A Very flat kneed trot, no animation at all. They all still ride on a loose rein, not collected at all, well maybe that IS collected to them. They want a piece of the hunter world, but they do it the AQHA way, which is a western horse in english tack.

SO! Here is my question to you. Let's put them head to head. Which do you like better and why? OR, why don't you like one or the other.


GoLightly said...

Well, you know which one I like better.

Door #1.

I can't wrap my head around having no head in front of me, rather it's on the floor.

SweetColonel said...

okay i just read in one of your other posts that you are in the seattle area, your horse is named raven and you grew up riding a pony named cheerios. I grew up riding a pony named cheerios in the seattle area, a buckskin pony, and I know a grey Arab named raven. i used to ride with patty head at cedar downs. if you are the person I'm thinking of, we used to show together. I won't say your name in case you are trying to stay anonymous but my name is kate and my horse is named Rocky. This could be a total coincidence but is your Raven a grey Arab?

Heather said...

I don't think it's unreasonable to believe a horse can do both. Be high headed on the bit and low off the bit. But, at the same time, I think WP people expect the horse to put their head WAY TOO LOW! Down and relaxed is one thing, but somethimes I have to look at noses to make sure they weren't dragged.

And I can't imagine trying to jump with their head pointed to the ground. There's a reason they put their head way up approaching a jump... because they want to SEE the jump before they jump it. If their nose is pointed down, they won't see it until it's under them.

But, at the same time, there are English disciplines (not hunt per say) that expect the head to be way too high, or too arched, or whatever. I don't show, so I have the luxury to just let my horse put her head where it's most comfortable for her.

Elise said...

I always thought HUS was the same as Hunter/Jumper only no jumps. Ie, the HUS horse should look like he could go over a jump if one were put in front of him. Then I moved to a barn with "english pleasure" paints. 4 beat canters in an english saddle make me want to run and hide. Then again I took eventing/dressage lessons to learn to ride.

WhatTheHay said...

Personally I like the higher headsets. I don't mind it low, but as long as it's level and not pointing to the ground. I just don't like it when it looks like the horse is going tumble over forwards.

Then again, I learned to ride on Saddlebreds (I mostly ride saddleseat but can ride hunt). One day my instructor decided to shake things up a bit and put me on one of the QH...he's not a peanut roller but definitely lower than what I was used to. It took me some time to get used to not having those ears in my line of sight ;-)

Donkaloosa said...

A hunter should look like a hunter, not a WP horse. I rode WP, I also have ridden hunters. If you put a jump in from of the AQHA HUS horses, they'd trip right over it. I also hate the "hands in the crotch" style of riding. I don't know why they don't call the class what it is: WP Under English Tack.

twhlady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sandycreek said...

I think both horses heads pictured are extreme, #1 is too high, #2 is too low! I like both ways of going, an over fences horse needs to be able to see the jump, so too low a head is certainly not good there, it's head is going to be elevated more to be able to find his distance, but I don't want a giraffe head either!
I have horses that go in the true hunter world and in AQHA shows, you have to find which way of going suits your horse. I like a happy horse and rider for whatever they want to do.

twhlady said...

Personally I like the Englidh Hunter better. I like my horses looking in front of me not at the ground under their nose. I just started riding lessons and I was corrected several times for looking through the horses ears. I am just used to it because my TWH and TB's carry their head high. I was on a $20,000 reigning horse and I am just not used to a horses head being even with my hips. I am used to looking at ears.

cattypex said...

"If you put a jump in from of the AQHA HUS horses, they'd trip right over it. I also hate the "hands in the crotch" style of riding. I don't know why they don't call the class what it is: WP Under English Tack."


I still don't get AQHA HUS - it is the POLAR OPPOSITE of EVERYTHING I ever learned is "Correct" in how a horse should move and rider's equitation.

1) AQHA: Puppy paw seesawing hands on the buckle of the reins
H/J: Quiet hands, thumbs up, soft and elastic contact with the bit

2) AQHA: head WAY down low, restricting movement in the shoulder while back end is trailing behind, moving SLOOOOOWly.
H/J: Horse's head is up, looking around for the next fence, alert expression. Crisp, controlled but brilliant movement.

3) AQHA: Rider leaning forward, often with roachback.
H/J: Rider sitting poised, workmanlike, and as forward as is warranted depending on gait.


Like the immortal and crusty George Morris, I believe that all English disciplines today are requiring horses to be overflexed.

AQHA people don't seem to understand that a horse's head & neck are essential to good balanced movement - he needs to USE them.

Oh, heck. Here's a much better photo of classic, correct riding on the flat:

Horse forward: CHECK.
Horse collected: CHECK.
Rider maintaining soft but effective contact: CHECK.
Hindquarters engaged: CHECK.

See, the whole idea is... if a jump popped up in front of this horse, he could go right over it, no sweat.

I will shut up now. I get so freakin' RABID over this topic. *sheepish*

cattypex said...

(Also note the absence of funky bits, forceful noseband or extra equipment like martingales. Just a snaffle & regular cavesson, and wonder of wonders - the horse's mouth is closed. There's simplicity, softness, and that famous "workmanlike" thing: a state of readiness combined with calm alertness. Simple - but not easy.)

If I were judging this horse, I'd say he'd had a lot of quality hours of steady work under a patient, awesome-handed rider. He looks almost sleepy, but I suspect (from the rest of the photos in the article) that he was just in mid-blink. He looks like a really NICE horse to ride: a good sport, not sour, and top-notch movement.

Does he look a tad chubby?

SolitaireMare said...

I don't know if you do blog awards but The Zombie Chicken Award awaits you at my blog! Stop by and pick it up when you can! Enjoy!

And as a life-long Hunter/Hunt seat Equitation rider, I have always thought the "peanut roller" HUS looks ridiculous. A horse in that frame would never be able to negotiate a course of jumps or ride in the hunt field. I agree with catty, it should be called western pleasure under english tack


monstersmama said...

I LOVE the HUS look, I have shown HUS for 6yrs in the time I did that I also did some hunter not 'A' but some local schooling stuff to get miles on my green horses. I prefer hus because personally it looks more comfortable. Then again, here in Alpharetta, people think being in your horses mouth is way to ride. I prefer grace and comfort. And as far as the peanut rolling THANK GOD they are cracking down on it because that takes away the whole point in being in a frame! Love the blog btw

cattypex said...

"being in a frame"

That phrase is what's gotten us into this whole "head position" mess in the first place, whether you're talking Dressage, WP, H/J, Saddleseat....

I think the original purpose of "being in a frame" meant what a lot of us here think of as "collected, correct for the discipline, engaged HQs, pretty movement."

But just like a lot of people think that purty spots make a purty horse, they also think that if you park your horse's nose & neck in the proscribed place, you're doing it right. And don't worry about how the horse is actually MOVING, or even take into account his conformation.

CurtsBooks said...

The horse on the left looks like a horse a person can actually ride and have fun.
The horse on the right is going to fall on his face & dump the rider.


CurtsBooks said...

Cattyplex--thanks for the photo. That is so lovely.
And I agree w/what you said.

cattypex said...

I would SO love to ride that horse... he looked so awesome throughout the whole article.

He would teach me a lot about what a world class horse should feel like!

JohnieRotten said...

Chips Chocolate Kiss looks horrible.

Definitely not forward at all!

Trainer X said...

Sweetcolonel you should email me! Solataire mare Thank you so much for my award! It's killer! Cattypex you crack me up I love you!

sterling said...

I like #1 myslef; not having a head in front of me seems like riding a broken broomhandle; they really can only go in a straight line. If a horse's head is on the ground, he's most likely on the forehand and uncollected. Plus, I like to have a taught reign on my horse at all times at higher gaits simply because if he needs help, I can help him, and if he needs correcting, I can correct him immediately.

HUS is technically supposed to be judged like a jumper riding on the flat. Which horse would be most suitable to head at a fence? Which one moves freely and looks like it could follow the hounds? But all I see are the two extremes in the show world: quarter horses with their noses by their knees humping around on the forehand, and arch-necked Arabs that are behind the bit and jacked up on grain.



I'll shut up now. I hate the two extremes of the HUS world; Arabs, or QH's? Nose to the dirt, or behind the bit? GAAAAAH! *headdesk*

Jenn said...

I have always hated the AQHA style! I am glad I am not the only one!

cattypex said...

TX. It seems that consensus has been reached.


ponykins said...

How come the AQHA riders, for the most part, also ride, slouched over ahead of the motion of leaned back behind the motion, with puppy paws on the reins, and open fingers. Just drives me nuts to watch it, evem on a QH Congress Show level. Yikes! One look thru the trade magazines (QH or Paint Journals) shows photo after photo of horrid equitation and they all seem so proud of it.

CrashedIntoBlack said...

I've ridden a mare that's gone to the Morgan World show in HOF, and she's a wonder, but a tester. I've been riding for 4 years or so, and only english with the occasional trail ride, and a few years ago I rode a western horse after about 2 years of learning to ride english. I could NOT ride that horse, it was too different, good thing he was a babysitter kinda horse XD

I love riding a horse that has freedom of motion and forward gaits, anything different is no fun. And AQHA HUS has horses that are not fun. What is riding? It's FUN. That's not riding, that's dragging, in my opinion.

brat_and_a_half said...

Ponykins- YOu know how when your horse suddenly drops on the forehand, often you follow for a second before you correct yourself/your horse? Well, their horse is ALWAYS on the forehand!

Im a TB/TBxWB lover myself. The only QHs I like are the ones that make me think, ooo you could be an eventer!

lachellesays said...

I like the QH HUS look if you are going to be showing your horse in pleasure.

However, I think that a horse should be able to adjust his frame to account for what you are doing.

So which is the "right answer"?

About to approach a fence.

Training level dressage frame.

An Arab's best version of a relaxed, "hunter frame".

Any advice on the headset here? I have an extremely hard time figuring out how to ride an Arab in the local hunter circuit.

cattypex said...


"Frame" and "headset," to me, are now bankrupt terms that are at the root of everything wrong in HUS, H/J, WP, Saddleseat, Dressage, you name it.

In the first photo, the first horse appears to have hollowed his back. Does it look that way to anybody else? He's super excited about something - like, the next fence.

The "Dressage" shot also looks kind of behind/above the bit and not very engaged in the HQ.

In the 3rd photo, the horse appears to be leaning into the riders hands and travelling heavily on the forehand, but it could just be one of "those" photos, taken at the wrong split second.

That's very cute Arab - I like the 1st photo best, but this horse seems to have some issues with the rider's hands. This pair needs to work on light but consistent contact, elasticity and "Roundness" (which is much better than "Frame" if you want a take-home mantra).

cattypex said...

Actually another glance at the "Dressage" photo has some good things going for it - but the horse is looking more "scrunched" than truly corrected. Again, it could just be the split second this photo was taken. I'd like to see this cute horse in motion.

cattypex said...

Here is an excellent example of "engaged softness" that's not overdone:

And now I will quit gushing over that photo....

Abigail said...

the horse on the left looks like it's about to fall over from boredom.

lachellesays said...


Your wish granted.

Some of those clips are from a point when I stopped taking riding lessons for about 3 or 4 months. I have since started taking lessons again so some of those issues with being on the forehand are getting better. The dressage clips are from our first show of the year, and I was deathly nervous. So if it looks like I'm digging in his face, I am. He's a tolerant boy.

cattypex said...

I think he is a DOLLBABY!! He looks so much like a mare a friend of mine grew up riding - you could do ANYthing with her, and she was so pretty.

When you guys are having those "in synch" moments where you just Feel It, it's awesome to see.

I think if you concentrate more on achieving that overall softness and harmony, and don't worry about where his head "should go," I think he'll find that optimal point of flexion for HIM, and with patience and a lot of feeling it out, you'll get that elastic give more consistently.

He's built high-headed, so he looks wrong when he's got it down low, but of course you don't want a stargazer either.

At 1:30 he looks REALLY good, I think. He's tracking up and using himself a lot better than in the "hunter" scene right after the calm dismount demo. ; )

Dang. He is cute as a button! You guys look great when he gets that rear engine going!

cattypex said...

It's hard for me to see, but are you landing on his back a split second too soon after a jump?

He's not liking SOMEthing on landing....

lachellesays said...

Thank you!

Yeah, I am working on my jumping with a few other horses. I am scared to DEATH when I jump him. He's gotten into this thing where after each jump its almost like he's saying "Mom! Look how many times I can crow-hop to get my changes!" I had a bad fall at a show because he bucked too hard and dropped his shoulder. It was one of those STRAIGHT up and STRAIGHT down falls. And I cracked my helmet halfway across my head. A year and a half of Dressage work later... we're jumping! So I get defensive and snap back up in the saddle before he lands.

I also noticed he throws his tail in the air just like Trainer X's newest post : / But I'm most definitely sure it's because he's nervous and anticipating having to get flying changes (which I've almost completely eliminated from our jumping routine).

He is a LAZY beast until you put a fence in front of him, or take him to a show. Then he has TOO much go.

He has been a fantastic horse to learn on (when I got him he was a crazy OTT 4 year old). I'm almost sad that I'll be getting a new horse next year!

cattypex said...

OMG... I totally understand that kind of fear!!

After my first pony I was scared to just CANTER for a year.

Kudos to you for working through that!

Zips Miss Mitos said...

I love riding western. Take great pleasure in it actually!! I love to get a slow collected lope. But, I have to say I hate watching it in the show ring. There is a slow collected lope and then there is a crippling contourtion of a manuipulated gait that is very unpleasant to watch and looks very unpleasant to ride. High head, low head....what about a head set naturally on a throat latch that comes out of a neck that comes out of a shoulder etc etc....and the horse is allowed to carry a natural head set working up from behind....where it works best for him/her showing off his her best attributes.....Just a thought :)

MalteseLizzieMcGee said...

The one on the left, for sure. i would hate to ride a hrose with it's head that low: I would be afraid of nto keeping proper contact, plus it looks very odd