Hunter Under Saddle

In preparation for the addition of the hand gallop in hunter under saddle finals at all 2014 AQHA world shows, Lynn Palm offers some advice.

The American Quarter Horse Journal
August 5, 2013

Hand gallop illustration by Jean Abernathy for The American Quarter Horse Journal

In a correct hand gallop, the horse has an uphill frame, and the rider maintains a two-point position with light leg and hand contact with the horse. (Illustration by Jean Abernathy)

Judges have always had the option to ask for the hand gallop in hunter under saddle – it’s described under Rule SHW601 in the AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. But beginning in 2014, the hand gallop will be added to hunter under saddle finals at all AQHA world championship shows.

“It’s good to see it used more again, because it meets the purpose of the hunter under saddle class: to present a horse ‘whose gaits show potential of being a working hunter,’ ” AQHA Professional Horseman Lynn Salvatori Palm told the Journal. “The hand gallop is a three-beat gait, not the full-out four-beat gallop of the racehorse. It is the gait in which you maintain your speed to navigate a course of jumps.”

The Ocala, Florida, horsewoman shares insight to perfecting the hand gallop in the August edition of “Borrow a Trainer,” a continuing series featured in The American Quarter Horse Journal. Lynn has more than 30 AQHA world and reserve world championships and four AQHA Superhorse wins to her credit, including two-time winner Rugged Lark. And as an AQHA judge, she knows exactly what to look for in an ideal hand gallop.

“When the hand gallop is done correctly, the horse has to have an uphill balance and frame. His poll cannot be below the topline, in a downhill frame – he must have his poll level with or above the topline with his ears forward,” Lynn explains. “He must be up and looking through the bridle, just as he would need to do on course, to be ready for a coming fence.”

Before you can work on your horse’s hand gallop, a number of things need to be in place, Lynn says. Among those items needed for a “pre-flight check” include cadence and rhythm at all gaits, as well as balance. Lynn shares her tips for improving a horse’s gait, plus training styles and techniques riders need to avoid, in “Borrow a Trainer”  on Page 78 of the August Journal.

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