#SundaySchool: How do I nail a supreme championship performance?

Leading show horse producer Danielle Heath provides her essential tips for shining bright in a supreme

Danielle has been a showing producer for 25 years, qualifying hunters, hacks, riding horses and cobs for the major championship shows from her Cheshire base.

She has won at both Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and the Royal International (RIHS) and recently took the riding horse championship at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on the novice Times Square.

Training the stars

At the RIHS in 2012, there was a ride-off for the Winston Churchill horse supreme. Even though Simon Charlesworth on Pearly King pipped me and Oathill Take The Biscuit for the title, it was such a buzz. I think it was the first time there were equal marks in the Winston Churchill and it was a special moment. If it ever happens again, perhaps I’ll get it next time.

The exercise…

If your horse gets through to the supreme, you have little time to impress the judges. You must show off his best pace and his best asset. It’s not the time to try something new.

Here are my tips for a winning supreme performance…

1. Keep your show short and punchy. Even the professionals can get a bit lost from time to time. Although you might have done something good at the beginning, if you then ride too many circles or ask for too many gallops, it will have lost impact. Make sure it doesn’t go on for too long.

2. Always include a good stretch of walk. The judges want to see walk at the beginning and end of your show.

3 Always show a gallop. Even if you’re on a hack, your horse should show a good extension, lowering and covering the ground. You don’t have to gallop the legs off him.

4. A walk to canter can look impressive, but all your transitions must be smooth and seamless, with your horse on the bridle and listening to you.

5. Avoid incorporating the judges into your show, such as handing them flowers — it’s too personal.

Continued below…

Consider this…

  • Done properly, a rein-back is impressive, as it shows your horse is still on the bridle and reacting to your leg. However, there is nothing worse than a messy rein-back.
  • A good rein-back is achieved with communication through your hand and leg. Gently encourage your horse, squeezing through your hands to ask him to move back, and gently encourage with your legs.
  • Practise reining back by riding back one stride at a time — make sure you give your horse lots of praise when he has done it.
  • Make sure your horse stands after he’s walked that stride back, so he doesn’t get into the habit of running backwards. As soon as he takes a stride back, loosen the rein, so he knows that’s enough.

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