Expert advice on how the professionals help their ponies stand out from the crowd

When it comes to the show ring, professional finishing touches can make the difference between standing at the top or the bottom of the line. Attention to detail is vital and is one of the areas in which some amateur producers let themselves down.

Create a perfect pony

If a pony has three socks and light coloured legs, eg chestnut or palamino, use chalk to “create” the fourth sock. Do not “paint” in a sock on a dark leg as this will be obvious – you are only trying to create an optical illusion.

Enhance points of hocks, knees and eyes by using a sponge dampened with baby oil to darken these areas naturally.

Avoid use of make up or blacking on the body, especially with mountain and moorland ponies, as it’s frowned upon by judges and not permitted in breed rulebooks.

Blacking can be used on dark hooves to create shine and an even appearance.

If a pony is short in the neck, pull the mane shorter and thinner to create the illusion of length.

Choosing the right tack

If the pony is long in the back, use a larger saddle and place the saddle slightly farther back than normal to hide the length of back.

A short-backed pony’s appearance can be improved by using a smaller saddle with a child with long, slim legs.

A pony with an elegant head can wear a rolled bridle to enhance this. If the pony has a large or common head, then use a wide, stitched bridle.

Choose the mildest bit that your rider is safe in. Remember a strong bit can ultimately ruin a pony’s mouth. Strong bits can only get stronger,and hard mouths harder.

Reins should be shortened to within three inches of the ideal length as this prevents the untidiness of flapping reins.

Have stirrup leathers cut to allow only “growing room” left for children. Long leathers flapping down are unsightly and potentially dangerous.

Completing the picture

Sew elastic onto the bottom of well-fitting jodhpurs rather than use metal “joddy clips”.

Trim the corners of the rider’s number and tie with cotton or rolled elastic in the same colour as the rider’s jacket.

For in hand and lead rein classes, make sure you’re not going to lose your shoes when running in the mud!

Secure soft hats with Velcro or pins. Losing your hat in gust of wind isboth embarrassing but dangerous around ponies.

  • Click here for more expert advice on the correct turnout for pony and rider.
  • Click here to read expert advice on preparing your pony for early spring shows.