The Perfect Show

Recently taking the Intermediate Championship at Area 5 – Three Shires with her fantastic partner Archeval Boutique Amadeus, here Cassie Hartley of Black Country Saddles provides some top tips for ringcraft and the perfect individual show.

First things first, before you get into the ring make sure you are ready to impress. Take time on turnout and presentation making sure your plaits are neat and suit the characteristics of the horse.

Make sure your tack is pristine and also enhances all the good characteristics of your horse.  Your saddle must fit the horse well and also be comfortable for you and any judge who may ride in it.  I ride in a Black Country Saddles Classic Show Saddle which is straight-cut to show off the horse’s front and to help catch the judge’s eye.

Finishing touches such as a coat shine, hoof oil and a little make up can also go a long way to make you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Showing Off

Once you get in the ring it is time to shine and really show off your horse! Showing is about making an instant impact and creating the best picture possible for the judge. As well as emphasising all the horse’s finer points it is also important to try to improve on any weaker points the horse may have.

It is crucial that you present your horse at his best whenever the judge is looking at you. As you enter the ring, try and place yourself in a good position so that your horse looks even better.

Once you are in the ring make sure you concentrate on what you are doing but keep your eye on the judge so that you know when they are looking.

When the steward asks the class to move forward into trot, the trot needs to be well paced with an even flowing rhythm covering the ground well. It is important that as you move up a pace that you keep plenty of space around you so the judge can see you at all times.

When moving into canter you might find it easier to use a corner to help get on the correct lead. This should be smooth, flowing and balanced with the horse showing good self-carriage.

The steward will then ask the class to change the rein and perform the same on the other rein. You will usually be asked to change the rein at the next corner using the diagonal. Judges can often use this to look at how straight your horse moves along the line.

The gallop is used to show that your horse can extend and lower his strides without rushing. Ensure you prepare your horse for the gallop down a long side of the ring, accelerating smoothly out of a corner.

After the initial ‘go round’ the judge will be looking how to position everyone in the first line up, so don’t get boxed in make sure you are seen.

Show Time

Depending on the class after this preliminary line up you will be expected to perform an individual show or the judge will ride your horse.

If you are required to do an individual show it should be no more than two or three minutes and the aim is to really show your horse off – you have the sole attention of the judge so make the most of it!

Walk out of the line and halt in front of the judge who may ask a few questions. It is important to be polite and smiley!  When starting your individual show, walk away in a straight line for five strides and move into trot. 

Whilst maintaining a good forward rhythm do a figure of eight in trot and then in canter. Once you have done this show a lengthening of strides down one long side and end the show by trotting towards the judge before going forward into walk and finish with a square halt in front of the judge.  

If your horse or pony has an impressive trot, enhance your show by spending most of your time at this pace.  You can add more trot at the beginning and end of the show before you halt for the judge.

 If the canter is your horse’s strong point then start with the canter figure of eight as you head way from the judge. When changing legs across the diagonal try and perform only two strides of trot and then strike off onto the correct leg. This will demonstrate control, manners and submission.

Five top tips to remember:

  •  Find and create a space around you and try to avoid being in the crowd.
  •  If you get too close to the horse in front, circle into the centre of the ring and find a  better space so you can show your horse off in better  view.
  •  Make sure your halt is square in front of the judge.
  •  Make sure your transitions are smooth and balanced.
  •  Above all else remember showing and riding is meant to be fun, so don’t forget to  stay relaxed and smile!