How do you make sure your horse shapes up? Talking at the BSPA clinic at Barleylands EC, Essex (12 March), Allister Hood explains that it’s a mix of correct schooling and showmanship, reports Carolyn Henderson

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To make the most of your horse, says Allister, ensure that he works correctly rather than fixating on his head carriage. At the same time, you can make the most of his conformation.

This isn’t cheating – it’s about presenting the right picture.

Embrace a horse’s brightness

For instance, Allister notes that Rae Colosso’s 172cm Shear Impulse has obvious presence (charisma) and that Rae should make the most of this.

“Don’t worry if she looks a bit bright, it suits her,” he says.

As Shere Impulse adopts a natural, balanced carriage with her nose on the vertical, Allister asks Rae to relax her inside rein and allow the mare to take it forward.

“She looks a picture, but tiny adjustments can make a big difference,” he says. “Don’t worry about asking her to bring her head down. By relaxing your inside rein, you’ve allowed her to straighten.”

Help a short equine appear longer

Hanna Sillitoe’s compact 137cm traditional pony, Tommy Lee, is willing and obedient, but Allister shows how Hanna could improve the picture.

“He’s short all over, so it doesn’t matter if his nose comes slightly in front of the vertical,” he said. “It makes him look as if he has more in front of the saddle.”

Impress the judge from the start

You must impress a judge from the moment you enter the ring, so your horse needs to be balanced and active.

“You look as if you’re walking back from a nice hack,” Allister tells Jessica Norris, who is riding her 155cm Kellys Dream. “Remember that you’re presenting her to a judge, not just going through the motions.

“Work her in a more concertinaed frame, without forcing it. Half-halt in the corners and ask her to relax her jaw.”

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Use the space wisely

Don’t cut corners in a school or in the show ring, adds Allister.

“If you ride into each corner of the ring, you will give yourself a bit more space in the first go-round,” he advises. “It’s simple, but it nearly always works.”

Don’t miss H&H’s showing special (16 March 2017), jam-packed with more training, interviews and features, on sale now