Saturday, May 11, 2013

Estimating the Wait Time Before You Will Compete

One of the most difficult parts of the show day to plan can be the timing of your classes. The phrase "hurry up and wait" is used often, especially in hunterland, to describe the rush to get to the ring on time followed by a long wait because the ring has run more slowly than expected! While it's very difficult to get the timing perfectly right for something with so many variables, it is possible to calculate an estimate of how many minutes you have before your round.


For a regular hunter or hunt seat equitation round, you're looking at about two minutes per round from the moment the horse steps through the in-gate through to it leaving the ring. Because horses can enter the ring one after another with no delay, the waits for these classes can simply be calculated by multiplying the number of rounds by two minutes.

You can ask the in-gate person how many horses or trips there will be before yours. It's very important to find out whether the in-gate is using horses or trips, because "horses" includes every round that a horse will be doing as a single set, while "trips" counts every round separately. If the in-gate person gives you the number in horses, you'll need to figure out how many trips each horse will be doing (an open-card schooling, if it is being offered, as well as two or three over fences courses for the division is quite standard).

If the number is in horses: # horses x # trips/horse x 2 minutes/trip = # minutes
If the number is in trips: # trips x 2 minutes/trip = # minutes

To calculate the estimated time if there are multiple divisions running prior to yours, you'll need to also factor in the time for any flat classes, jogs and course changes. Flat or under saddle classes usually take about ten to fifteen minutes each. Course changes can be done very quickly if they're completed while the under saddle class is waiting to be called to order or during the jog. Jogs can usually be done quickly, in the range of five to ten minutes.

For derbies or classics, each horse will probably take slightly longer to complete the course, so the time might increase to two and a half or three minutes per horse.


Jumpers are more complicated because each class can take more or less time depending on how it's being judged (Table A with jump-off vs. speed vs. power and speed) as well as the length of the course, size of the ring, etc.

I usually estimate a regular jumper class with immediate jump-off to take about three minutes per horse. That takes into account the initial 45 second tour of the ring, the 70 to 80 second initial round and then a partial jump-off (because not every horse will move on to the jump-off).

A regular speed class (either Table A or Table C) might take closer to two or two and a half minutes per horse because there is no jump-off and the rounds themselves take less time.

Derbies will take longer, say three or four minutes per horse depending on the length of the course. Classes in which the jump-off is delayed, such as a grand prix, will run around the two to two and a half minute mark for the initial rounds, with another couple of minutes per jump-off after that.

The easiest part of estimating jumper times is that the number of horses and number of trips is the same, so there can be no confusion there! It's simply a matter of multiplying the estimated time per horse by the number of horses.

When estimating a time over multiple jumper classes, you'll have to take into account any course changes and walks. You'll be able to tell based on the course diagrams whether any jumps need to be moved, which will take much longer than a simple change of height and/or numbers. A quick course change can take about five to ten minutes, while a long one can drag on for half an hour or more! Course walks are usually kept to no more than fifteen minutes after the course has been set and opened.

In both rings, you should get an idea of how the day will run as the show goes on. Some shows will take longer because they have bigger rings, have slow course changes or because they allow the ring to sit empty, while others will pre-load the ring (have the next horse enter while the current horse is just finishing its course) and not allow competitors to hold the ring up for ages. It's always better to err on the side of being early because you can be eliminated for being more than a few minutes late, so "hurry up and wait" will unfortunately still apply for those shows that tend to drag on.


  1. This is a really helpful post! I'd love to see you write about what men should wear in the show ring. What colors are appropriate for shirts and ties?

    1. Thanks, Jess! I hadn't thought about how biased the "what to wear" posts are towards the female riders, so I'll try to write an additional post in the future to help men out as much as I can.

    2. That would be great! :) I've tried googling around and it seems like everyone's "what to wear in the hunter ring" suggestions are geared towards women's attire. I appreciate it, and as a turnout fanatic, I really love your blog!