Part of a series of emails to our exhibitors in an effort to provide helpful information about their interaction with the show office and other staff at the show. If you have a particular question you would like addressed, please feel free to make a suggestion.
For over fifty years there has been a handy hunter class described in the rule book but sometime in the late 70s, the class fell out of favor, and it was dropped from most shows' schedules. When the Junior Hunter Finals were introduced in 2001, the Junior Hunter Committee decided that a Handy Hunter was an important facet for the division. The Handy phase represents 40% of the overall scoring at the Finals. In order to support this concept, in 2003 USEF adopted a requirement to have a Junior Hunter Handy class for all shows offering an "AA" Junior Hunter Division. HU117.2. Over time the class has again become popular, in part, because it allows a good horse that might not otherwise be the winner, have a chance to show its strengths. Furthermore, it can just be a lot of fun!
Beginning with the 2009 show year, every "A" division at an USEF show must offer a handy hunter class with the exception of the Green Pony Hunter division. HU118.5. Any hunter division may include a handy hunter course, and RMI is offering a handy hunter class in the Children's and Adult divisions as well as all the "A" divisions.
In Handy classes, obstacles must simulate those found in trappy hunting country. The course must have at least two changes of direction and at least one combination as well as three of the following: hand gallop a jump, bending line, rollback turn, fence at the end of the ring, open a gate while mounted, trot over one obstacle, or lead over one obstacle. Judge must place emphasis on promptness and tight turns with precedence being given in that order. HU 121.6.
Effective February 1, 2009, the USEF has passed an extraordinary rule change prohibiting an exhibitor from cantering or trotting through the gate to commence a class. Galloping to the first fence in a Handy class without a courtesy circle may be a good idea, but the canter must be picked-up after the horse is through the gate. Likewise, the horse must be under control and leave the ring at a walk when its round is complete.
So go have some fun and show the judge what you and your horse can do, and remember, "Whoa" is a useful command.