If you're looking to be in the ribbons this summer, it’s all about wowing the judges from the off. Here's how to create the best first impression

Some psychologists say it takes seven seconds to form an opinion on someone, others claim it’s just 
a tenth of a second. Either way, you don’t have long to make an impact.

1. Smile

“You need a horse that is a very good walker, who is alert but not jigging around, and who walks with great presence,” says showman and judge Robert Oliver. “Most importantly both horse and rider should seem happy; you need a smile on your face.”

2. A good walk

Paul Cook, chairman of the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) judges’ assessment committee, says he’s looking for a “free, swinging walk” and that ultimately the horse should “say what it is on the tin”.

3. Body language

Body language of the rider is also key, but there’s a balance to be struck. “Confidence can shine just as much as a lack of confidence can diminish, so it’s vital you enjoy yourself, but be wary of overplaying the part,” says Hickstead’s showing director David Ingle.

5. Common courtesy

Polly Eddis, mother of showing riders Lucy and Susie, says common courtesy is not to be overlooked. “Perhaps the main thing is not to irritate a judge who’s given up their whole day by faffing about endlessly,” she says. “It’s important to me that our ponies are polite and wait quietly while the girls say, 
’Good morning’ before the round and, ‘Thank you’ at the end. We really just try to be efficient without rushing. We’d like to convey to the judge that we are prepared and well set-up, 
not just there for a jolly.”

Continued below…

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6. Make sure you’re warmed up

Judge and producer Stuart Hollings says: “The process starts when the judge takes up their position in the middle of the ring, and from then they are often under time pressure constraint to obtain a result,” he says. “The clever show jockeys know this, and don’t take a couple of circuits to warm up — that should be done in the collecting ring. I cannot stress how crucial making an excellent first impression is to ensure a satisfactory initial pull-in. You rarely see an eventual winner coming from the bottom of the line. It is the show rider’s role to ‘sell’ the assets of the animal to the judge and at the same time mask the weaker points.”

The full feature about impressing the judges was published in the 20 April 2017 issue of Horse & Hound magazine