‘I want to see elegance’ — how to impress a hack judge

In the next part of our series on top tips in the show ring, Rebecca Haywood talks to the professionals about how to get the best out of a show hack

Success in the show ring doesn’t just depend on the rider’s ability to place their mount under judges who appreciate their qualities, but knowing how to present each individual correctly.

The 2016 show season is just around the corner, so how can you make an instant impact, play to your strengths and avoid costly mistakes?

“Manners are of upmost importance in a hack,” says hack judge and breeder Emma Edwards-Brady. “They should ooze elegance. I prefer them to be thoroughbred, or as near to this type as possible, in order to obtain the quality a true hack must have.”

Hack height divisions

Under British Show Horse Association (BSHA) rules, hacks are split into two categories – small and large.

  • Small hacks are horses four-years-old and over, exceeding 148cm but not exceeding 154cm
  • Large hacks are four-years-old and over, exceeding 154cm but not exceeding 160cm

The marking system

The BSHA recommends that judges use the following percentages when judging hacks:

  • Ride — 40%
  • Conformation – 40%
  • Individual show — 20%

Tack and turnout

Show hacks should be shown with manes plaited, and the tail should be pulled and cut to a few inches below the hocks. A hack should wear a straight-cut leather saddle with a brown bridle and a coloured browband. Unlike the chunky bridles in show hunter classes, the leather may be of a finer type than those used for hunters and riding horses.

“I really don’t like to see huge browbands with too much bling on them,” says Emma. “It’s also very off-putting for a judge when they are given an uncomfortable and badly fitted saddle to ride in.”

While in show hunter classes riders are dressed in tweed, competitors must wear navy blue jackets.

Way of going

“A hack should be supple and smooth to ride,” says Emma. “I like to see balanced transitions and changes of rein — everything about a hack’s way of going should be about elegance.”

“One of my pet hates is when pony riders come into horse classes and do very fast trots,” adds judge and producer Jo Bates. “It drives me nuts because I hate to see a horse being pushed out of its stride.”

Hacks should be well schooled and responsive to the aids.

“I like to be able to wrap my legs around a horse and feel them bend easily,” continues Jo, who also regularly competes in dressage. “It’s really important to be able to push them away from the leg and suck them up into the rein.”

Individual shows

Individual shows should not last longer than one-and-a-half minutes and must include walk, trot, canter, rein-back, and stand still, as well as obedience to the rider’s leg.

“Your individual show is the time to wow your judges, but make sure canter serpentine’s have smooth transitions,” says Emma.

The judge will not ask a hack class to gallop.

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Riders should

  • “Always be aware and courteous to all the other competitors in the go round,” says Emma.
  • Be able to stand and run their horse up for the conformation judge.

“Practice this at home by standing your horse up square and making it look interested in doing its job,” adds Emma. “Also make sure you can walk and trot in a straight line. It sounds simple but often not practiced and it needs to be.”

Riders shouldn’t

  • Present a hack in the ring that can’t do a proper rein back.

“These need to be practiced in training — nothing looks worse than a poorly executed rein back,” says Emma.

  • Trot too fast.

“Don’t push a hack out of its rhythm,” adds Jo.

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