How do you trot up a horse to impress the judge? In the first part of a new training series with Allister Hood (pictured), the leading producer explains that it isn’t just about showing your horse moves correctly

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According to Allister, impressing the judges is not just about showing your horse moves correctly. It requires the following three things as well:

1. Maintaining the horse’s rhythm
2. Maintaining the horse’s balance
3. Ensuring the horse stays straight

“If he isn’t straight, he may look as if he’s throwing out a leg to the side even when he isn’t,” explains Allister.

How to teach a correct trot-up

• At home, teach your horse to lead from both sides and change the rein on both reins, so he doesn’t become one-sided.
• Walk away in a straight line and move him slightly to the left before turning right and heading straight back to the judge. Ask the horse to trot when he is straight, not bending round the turn.
• Hold your line. It’s the judge’s job to get out of your way.
• Remember that rhythm. If your horse is a naturally extravagant mover, don’t let him get too long and free.
“You might not be able to keep up with him – and in any case, the judge will still see the quality of his movement,” says Allister.

Tip one: stay straight

Allister notices that Karen Lowe’s three-year-old filly, Kellythorpes Spot the Difference, behaves well but doesn’t stay straight through her head and neck when trotting up.

“Get her used to wearing a surcingle and side-reins at home and put these on when you practise,” he advises.

“The side-reins shouldn’t be tight. You don’t want to restrict her movement or force her into an outline, just prevent her from swinging her head to the side. This will encourage her to stay straight.”

Tip two: gain experience

Allister says that clinics provide great experience for inexperienced or nervous horses. An overhead gallery at Barleylands EC for example, with people coming and going, is distracting, but Allister instructs handlers not to force the issue.

“Don’t make them confront things that make them spook,” he says. “Keep a distance from the wall at first, then gradually get closer.”

Allister was speaking at a BSPA clinic at Barleylands EC, Essex, on 12 March. Words by Carolyn Henderson.

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s showing special, packed with more training advice and show-ring features, on sale this Thursday, 16 March