Showing should be fun, but long days, unpredictable British weather and naughty ponies can quickly turn it into a chore when you’re only five-years-old. Follow this advice from fellow parents and pony producers to boost your child’s chances in the show ring — and keep them interested
1. The right pony is essential — and it doesn’t have to be a world-beater
A safe pony that will set the child up to learn and have fun is the better option, says producer Julie Templeton.
“First, keep the child safe,” she says. “Then make it fun. I tell parents that they can buy another pony, but they can’t buy another child.”
2. Make it fun
“I don’t remember being in the school much — Allister [Hood] took us out on the stubble fields and everything was fun,” says Sofia Scott, who has gone on to win adult titles at Horse of the Year Show. “I learned to gallop riding alongside Allister, trying to keep up.”
3. Keep riding varied
Robert Walker encourages his 12-year-old son, Sam, to hunt, hack and jump.
“He’s learned to be soft in the way he rides and to think about the horse’s brain as well as its muscles,” Robert says.
4. Classes can be long, so think of ways to keep children entertained
“‘I-spy’ is a good tactic,” says Clare Bullman, whose daughter, Daisy, was placed on the lead-rein at the Royal International Horse Show.
5. Practise riding with others outside the ring
“Parents often ask for private lessons, but that doesn’t teach children how to manage around others,” adds Julie Templeton.
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6. Handlers must have confidence in the pony
“Know that it will behave, listen to you and absorb your commands, and will be respectful without being frightened of you. That comes from work at home,” explains Allister Hood.
7. Make sure the pony and rider have confidence in each other too
8. Celebrate every rosette, regardless of its colour
When things haven’t gone well, reflect on the experience in a positive way so that the child learns from it.
“You sometimes see parents going on at children from the side of the ring, which is sad,” says Sofia Scott. “There’s nothing nicer than seeing a child happy with the colour of their rosette, even if it’s pink, rather than red.”
Don’t miss the full feature about children in the show ring and much more in H&H’s showing special (16 March), on sale now