Perfecting the trot-up

Q. I competed in a few ridden hunter classes last year and would like some tips for this season. Can you tell me what the judge is looking for when he asks us to remove our horse’s saddle and run him up in-hand?

Liz Clemence BHSII answers: Tack can help to disguise a horse’s conformational weaknesses, so showing off a stripped horse in-hand allows the judge to look at his conformation, note any lumps, blemishes or wear and tear on the limbs and study the straightness of the horse’s movement.

When standing your horse up before the judge, stand him on a flat piece of ground and face the direction you will be walking away in. Avoid facing downhill, as this will make him appear more on the forehand.

Your horse should stand in a balanced manner with the hind leg nearest the judge positioned slightly further back. Stand in front of your horse, ensuring that the reins do not trail on the ground.

Encourage your horse to arch his neck, prick his ears and look more alert with a mint or handful of grass. As the judge walks around to the other side of your horse, push him back a pace so that it is always the hind leg nearest the judge that is further back.

When you are requested to do so, walk your horse in a straight line away from the judge. Stay closeto your horse’s shoulder and encourage him to walk along actively beside you.

Turn your horse round by pushing him away from you, then trot in a straight line back towards and then on past the judge, so that he or she is also able to see boththe front and hind action of your horse.

Return to your place in the line-up, re-saddle your horse, mount and then wait until the rest of the horses have been trotted up in the same way.

Being able to stand and trot your horse up correctly and efficiently is an art and should be practised and perfected at home — not in the ring.

Top tips

  • A neatly-dressed assistant should bring a damp sponge, a clean grooming brush and a cloth into the ring to help you remove your saddle and tidy up the horse’s appearance before the trot-up
  • Make sure your horse hasn’t fallen asleep in line and be ready to walk forward from the line-up when the horse immediately before you is being shown. Always re-enter the line-up from behind
  • You may find it useful for your helper to bring either a summer sheet or a light woollen rug into the ring, depending on the weather. A cold horse is likely to become fidgety while the warmth of the sun can cause the horse’s coat to look fluffy
  • Watch the professionals in action at county shows to help perfect your technique
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