With savvy turnout techniques, you can make the most of your horse's appearance and conformation — and boost your chances of success in the showring


1. Showing stalwart Robert Oliver says: “When it comes to plaiting the mane, it depends on how much neck the horse has got, or how much condition he is carrying. As a general rule, keep plaits tight and small for a horse who is thick in the neck or has too much crest. If he’s lacking some top line or needs a bit more neck put on, make the plaits looser and try to get them as high on the crest of the neck as you can.”

2. “You must sew your plaits unless you’re very good at banding them,” adds Robert. “Sewing generally gives a much better finish.”

3. Quarter marks can be used to improve the appearance of the horse’s hindquarters and make them look bigger. Robert says: “On a hunter, make the quarter marks using the big square on the top of the quarter and the shark’s teeth on the side. If done neatly, and not too fancy or too much on the quarter, it can give the horse a better appearance.”

4. The tail should be about 4in below the point of the hock and should be pulled about halfway down the dock. Trim the tail after you have seen the horse move so you can see how he carries it.

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5. If you trim the hair on the horse’s leg, do not run the clippers up the tendon — it makes them look like they have less bone and it’ll grow back spiky. Use scissors and a comb and just take the minimum out around the fetlock joint.

6. Trim the ears, take out the hair under the jaw — show horses usually have whiskers taken off too.

7. When it comes to oiling feet, stick to clear hoof gloss — judges hate the thick, black sticky paint.

8. Don’t overdo the make-up — horses should look natural.

9. Be careful not to take too much off the bridle path and, similarly, at the other end, by the withers.

Don’t miss the full report from Horse of the Year Show in 13 October issue of Horse & Hound magazine