How to catch the judge’s eye

  • Expert advice on how to make your horse or pony stand out in the show ring

    Gone are the days of the low-key local show. These days competition in showing at any level is usuallyquite stiff.

    While the winner of the red rosettes is down to the judges’ opinion on the day, there are ways to improve your standing in the ring, but you must maintain your performance from the first walk to the lap of honour.

    Riders should make sure they are:

    • Correctly dressed for the class, even down to the correct length of boots for your age. If in doubt, watch a few classes on foot before entering yourself.
    • Your horse is correctly turned out for theclass. Mountain and Moorland are unplaited, but show hunters and part-breds should be plaited. Your horse should be clean and well presented.
    • Check that your whip or cane is the correct length if class allows one to be carried.
    • Check your bit is correct for the class. Although your mount may be snaffle mouthed, it is technically correct in many classes to use a double bridle.
    • Try to wear something distinctive, but not garish. Always wearing a carnation for example may help a judge remember you more easily from show to show.
    • Try to enter the ring and place yourself between animals of different colours. If your pony is grey, then place yourself between a chestnut and bay.The judge may find it difficult to distinguish between a number of similar coloured horses.
    • Stay at least three horses’ lengths from the horse in front. If you need to overtake, do so on the outside and allow sufficient space to avoid an accident.
    • Use the whole of the ring and ride into the corners, so that the judge can have a good look at your horse. Children in particular often allow their ponies to cut in and use only half the space, ruining their chancesas they appear out of control.
    • Keep half an eye on the judge at all times so that you are prepared for each instruction given or for being pulled in. Learn to understand the “order” of different classes by watching a few before entering yourself.
    • Be prepared! Don’t keep the judge waiting when it’s your turn for the individual show
    • Be polite to the judge and the steward at all times. Never underestimate the influence of the steward, who are often judges themselves.
    • Wherever you stand in the line up remain attentive. Do not slouch in your saddle, drop your reins and slip your feet out of your stirrups even if you’ve got a long wait – this will be noticed and disapproved of.
    • Do not let your mount misbehave in the line-up. You should remain relaxed but ready.
    • Always make your mount move as well as possible, especially on the last walk round. Slapping, kicking and pulling at the horse’s mouth are always noticeable. A well-timed kick with the leg on the side away from the judge can be useful.
    • Whatever your position during the class, don’t give up, clever riding can move you up the line. But wherever you finally end up, accept it gracefully and don’t complain, there is always another day.
    • Finally, never leave the ring during a class unless your animal has gone lame. It is extremely discourteous to the judge and will be remembered. If your horse is unlevel speak to the steward and then wait to slip out.
  • Click here for more expert advice on making your pony stand out from the crowd.
  • Click here for expert advice on chosing the right bit for pony showing classes.
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