Expert advice on showing youngsters in hand from hunter breeder Ann Bassett

Before taking your youngster to a show, go along and observe some classes of the type you plan to enter so you can be sure you and your horse are properly turned out and prepared for what the judge asks you to do.

Correct turnout for the handler in showing classes is a hacking jacket, collar tie and corduroy trousers, with appropriate headgear – trilby, hard hat, bowler, headscarf or tweed hat, depending on the class.

Most judges will ask you and your horse to walk away from them and then turn and trot back past. They want to see if your horse moves straight, so make sure you walk in a straight line. Always turn right-handed.

Trot steadily back straight at the judge, who will step aside as you pass him. Trot round the outside of the ring and allow your horse to lengthen his stride.

This format is followed in ridden classes, when the horses are stripped, so these lessons will stand your horse in good stead.

Be aware where the judge and steward are looking. Learn to watch them out of the corner of your eye so if they signal to you, you are immediately aware of it and can act accordingly.

The judge will want to see all four of your horse’s legs, so teach him to stand so that, if the judge is at his nearside, the horse’s nearside hind is about 4-6cm behind the offside hind, and his nearside front is about 5cm in front of the offside fore.

If the judge moves to the other side, your horse should learn to step back when you put a hand on his neck so he reverses the position.

Do what you can to encourage your youngster to arch his neck a little. Picking a few blades of grass, or rattling something in your pocket can make him prick his ears and pay attention.

When stood in line, do not let him stand sloppily. He should keep standing on all four legs, not resting one.

For your part try to look confident, relaxed and in control, even if you don’t feel that way. You will hopefully transmit these vibes to your horse and present a thoroughly professional picture.

Finally, always be polite to the judge and steward and do not question their judgement. If you must ask, speak to the judge quietly outside the ring. And remember to smile, there’s always another day.

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