This page is meant for those new to this great sport, or perhaps just new to the GSDHJA, and want to know what we’re all about.

What is the GSDHJA?
The GSDHJA can be thought of as a Hunter/Jumper point keeping “league” for competitions held in the greater San Diego region. It tracks individual horse and rider points throughout a competition show season (roughly January through November). It also runs a year end Championship show in early November, and tallies points earned throughout the year for award and trophy presentations at the annual banquet held in January.

What are show competitions?
Show competitions are typically one to four day events (most are two days) where horse and rider compete against each other in a variety of classes. Classes start at walk-trot (and sometimes even leadline) all the way through 4′ jumpers. Ribbons (typically 1st through 8th) are awarded at the conclusion of each class, and if the rider is a GSDHJA member, points are accrued for year end awards. Some show organizers who run several shows throughout the year will also have year end prizes for most points earned at their shows.

Does the GSDHJA run shows?
Only the year end championship show. All other shows are run by individual show organizations who work with the GSDHJA to report points earned at their shows. All shows that earn points towards GSDHJA year end awards are listed on the GSDHJA Show Schedule page.

What is Hunter/Jumper?
There are many sports you can do with a horse. There are the various Western sports such as barrel racing, and cutting. There is Dressage and Polo. Hunter/Jumper is a particular sport that usually involves jumping your horse over fences. It uses an english saddle and bridle and emphasizes control over the horse to perform technically challenging tests. The hunter sub-discipline is a judged sport where horse and rider execute a course within a ring. Points are earned for how technically correct horse and rider perform the jumps, lines, or other tests such as lead changes, counter cantering, etc. The jumper sub-discipline is a timed class where horse and rider must jump a usually more challenging course where rail knock downs and time overages are counted against your score.

How athletic is the sport?
Very. When riding at anything faster than a walk, you are constantly engaging your core balance muscles, strengthening your abs and all other core muscles. Your adductors in your legs get a work out like they have never before as you use your legs, a lot, for guiding and directing your horse. Riding, especially as you progress to cantering and jumping, is both an aerobic and strength building sport.

Is this a sport for young people only?
No. You can start at any age. Young riders typically start at age 7 (you need a certain amount of strength and focus to progress), while adults can enjoy competing even if they don’t start riding until they are 50. You might not progress to jumping 5′ jumps if you start as an adult, but then, you aren’t about to turn into a tennis pro either.

Are competitions split into age groups/ability/gender?
In the lower ability classes, there are typically several age groups for a particular class.  So each age group competes within their age group for that class.  As you move up in difficulty level, age groups disappear, and talented teenagers compete with adults.  There are no gender groups as men and women compete against each other.  Horse riding may be a unique athletic sport in this regard, as gender neutral competitions hold to the very highest levels of the sport.

Is riding dangerous?
All sports have inherent risk of injury and sport riding is no different. However serious injuries are rare and are usually suffered by adults competing in the highest jumper divisions. But having said that, it is unusual for a dedicated rider to not have fallen off their horse a number of times. Horses can spook and do unpredictable things. But this usually just results in a bruise and riding continues.

Sounds fun, how do I start?
First, find a trainer. A trainer will teach you the basics of horse care and grooming while also teaching you riding. Typically people find trainers that train at a barn close to where they live – driving 40+ minutes to go to a lesson several times a week gets old really fast. Of course, we’d recommend finding a trainer that has riders competing on either the GSDHJA circuit or the A circuit to ensure a quality trainer.

Do I need to buy a horse?
While you need to ride a horse, you don’t necessarily need to buy one. Most trainers will have lesson horses which can be used by more than one rider for lessons. If you plan on competing, then you typically will need to either buy or lease a horse. When you lease a horse, you typically pay a fixed amount each month for the horse, and are also responsible for boarding fees. Horses are usually stabled at the trainer’s barn.

What is the A circuit?
There is a national equestrian organization called the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF). They are the United States’ internationally recognized organization that accredits the top professional riders and horses. Similar to the GSDHJA, they keep track of points earned in USEF shows throughout the year. So the ‘A’ circuit are shows that earn points towards national USEF points.

What is the difference between A Shows and GSDHJA shows?
“A” shows literally cost twice as much as GSDHJA shows (which, by the way, are often referred to as “county” shows). The horses people bring to the “A” show circuit are usually very expensive compared to what we have on the county circuit. If you compete on the “A” show circuit regularly, you will be traveling a lot more as their shows take place throughout the country, even though a lot of them take place in San Diego. Although “A” shows also start with walk trot classes, they will have classes all the way up to grand-prix level jumps, whereas our shows typically stop at 4′ (which is thrilling enough for most people!). The GSDHJA is also unique in that we have a very competitive year end championship show (with way cool prizes), and then a year end awards banquet, neither of which the “A” show circuit has. San Diego is a fairly unique region in that we have so much hunter/jumper activity that we can have our own circuit (the GSDHJA) which is as competitive as the “A” show circuit.

Prizes, Ribbons, and Trophies
When you compete at a GSDHJA show, typically the first eight placed riders (or horses) get a ribbon. A first place blue ribbon winner often will also receive a script or token which can be exchanged for a prize of the rider’s choice, like a drink mug, saddle pad, or trophy.

A very special prize is awarded to all 1st place winners in any class at the championship show – a jacket embroidered with GSDHJA Show Champion.

At the year end banquet, all riders in the achievement divisions who accumulated enough points get a trophy. The top eight point getters in all other divisions get special ribbons, as well as a choice of a special prize – for instance in past years, first place recipients received a new personalized tack trunk, other places got photo blankets, bridles, gift certificates, etc.  All Medal division qualifiers get a medal.  Finally, there are trophies available for special divisions and awards as well.

What are the classes and divisions?
While reading this answer, you might want to have the GSDHJA Rules and Specifications page handy as a reference.  Hopefully this answer will make that page appear less intimidating.

Starting from the bottom are the achievement divisions, walk-trot (as the name implies), cross rails (jumping over crossed rails), short and long stirrup. Short and long stirrup are identical, except they are split by age, the younger riders in the short stirrup, older in long stirrup. In both classes, riders must ride a typically eight jump course of 2′ verticals. Some shows will offer short/long stirrup 2x around, which is an intermediate step between cross rails and short stirrup – while 2x around is a good class for riders who are at that stage, they don’t count toward year end points.

The rest of the hunter divisions mostly just raise the jumping height, and in the lower heights are split into age groups. Oxers are added at green rider level (2’3″), which then goes to Low Childrens (or Low Adult) at 2’6″.

Pony Hunters is unique in the lower height categories in that there is no age grouping – all ages compete against each other. However, you must be on a pony (less than 14.2 hands), and the fence height depends on the pony size (2’3″, 2’6″, and 2’9″).

Starting at Pony Hunters (and Low Children’s/Low Adult), points are accrued by the horse, and not the rider. This takes away the ability for a rider to accumulate more points for themselves by riding more than one horse.

There is an Equitation division (separated into four age groups) where the rider is judged on form both on the flat and over fences. The larger shows will typically have many equitation classes with names like Maiden, Novice, Limit and Open. Only the Open classes count towards year end points, and your trainer will let you know when you are ready for them as anyone can enter into an open equitation division.

There are five Medal divisions where harder tests are incorporated into the classes. Here the point keeping is very different. During the show year, the objective is to qualify to be able to compete at the Championship show. There is then a single high stakes medal class at the Championship show and the top six placements in that class are the final year end results for that medal class. Thus the number of points accrued during the show year does not matter (as long as you get six or more points to qualify).

The jumper divisions are analogous to the hunter divisions except they start at Pony Jumpers and move up from there.

Finally, there are five “Professional” divisions that are typically used by trainers to show high quality horses that they are selling.

Other Questions
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