The modern show ring hunter’s roots were established in Europe when gentry rode across the countryside hunting for game, often aided by dogs used to track the prey. The horses were necessary to carry their riders many miles over the varied terrain of the countryside in pursuit of their game, often negotiating the creeks, ditches, walls, and fences they encountered along the way.[...]
Although somewhat recreational from its beginning, the task of the working hunter became less rugged and more refined and competitive, thus the show ring hunter was born. Subjectively judged, the modern show ring hunter must still exhibit the traits desired of a good field hunter— calm disposition, good manners, smooth gaits, steady way of going, and pleasant and efficient jumping ability— but must do so with style, presence and superior technique. Conformation, athleticism, disposition, and jumping form all combine to define a winning show ring hunter. A wide range of divisions and classes is offered for hunter riders in today’s show ring, both over fences and on the flat. Additionally, hunter classes exist for virtually every breed of horse or pony and for any level of rider. Recently, a new international-level class was created with the goal of bringing tradition and basic riding principles back to the sport of showing hunters. The International Hunter Derby tests a horse’s keenness, athleticism, and handiness as it negotiates obstacles typically encountered while galloping in the open field.