Perfecting Your Show Ring Gallop with Jayne Ross
Do you ride a Show Hunter, Show Cob, Working Hunter or Riding Horse? If so you will be required to gallop in the ring at a show.
You will be asked to gallop in the go-round after walk, trot and canter with other competitors so preparation is key.
The gallop pace forms an essential aspect of the marking criteria so it is very important that you get it right. I have judged and ridden several horses which have won a class with their gallop, so it could be the difference between a winning place or one half way down the line.
To achieve a correct gallop that will wow the judges, it is essential that you practice at home before expecting your horse to perform in the ring. When first teaching your horse to gallop, it is a good idea to ask him for a few strides in the school first, where it is a confined space, in case he gets excited. This also helps the horse to come back to you easily, which is a key element of the gallop and provides confidence in an environment they are used to.
The judge will be looking for a positive pace which moves forward easily into an extension with a lowered head and neck and then an obedient transition back to the canter.
It is crucial that your horse is off your leg and reacts to your aids for gallop. Practicing some ‘on and back’ will help to sharpen him up and also improve the downwards transition which should appear seamless and without any inconsistencies in the contact.
Once you have mastered the art of lengthening in the school, practice galloping in an open field where you will be able to open your horse out more. If he is a bit reluctant to go forwards, ride with another horse because this usually works a treat to help brighten them up. When practicing ask for a little more each time, rather than flat out to begin with, because this will teach the horse to lengthen gradually.
To ask for the gallop, adopt a slightly forward seat (like you would when cross country riding) loosen the reins by pushing your hands forward and ask him forward with a subtle leg aid. When making the downwards transition sit up into a conventional position and drop deeper into the saddle and gradually bring the hands back to their usual position.
Make sure you practice the gallop on both reins as although it is usually the left rein that you are asked to perform it on, you never know what the judge is going to ask you on the day!
It is also important to make sure your tack fits and allows freedom of movement for your horse.
Your show saddle must be comfortable for both horse and rider and fit well. The Black Country Classic Show Saddles I use were comfortable from the minute I sat in them and made me feel completely at home.
They also allow plenty of freedom of movement which is so important for the show horse in order that they can move well and have presence when in the ring.
Good luck with your gallop!