Expert advice on how to improve a Shetland’s chances in a mixed M&M class

Q: My son rides Shetland ponies at local shows for a local breeder, but he always stands down the line in mixed open M&M classes. The bigger ponies always seem to stand above the Shetlands, which is very demoralising for him. Do you have any advice on how to make the judge notice him?

Patricia Hardcastle answers: It is always difficult to compete locally for a local breeder. Judges always have their preferences and favourites. By competing in your breeder’s local area your son may be affected by local judges’ prejudices.

You do not say how old your son is but I assume he is capable of performing walk, trot, canter, gallop and an individual show as per the class requirements.

If this is the case then look at the overall picture of your son and the pony before looking at other ways of improving the situation.

  • Is your son the right size for the pony?

  • Does he appear under-horsed?
  • Is he wearing the correct attire?
  • Is the pony suitably groomed and turned out?

A judge will always notice a well turned out pony that does a good show. Using a brightly coloured tie may enhance the appearance as long as you don’t go over the top.

Good ringcraft by your son will always enhance the pony’s performance. Overtaking correctly, good spacing, riding at the correct pace for the pony and manners will all improve your chances. Judges do notice these things.

The other main problem is that your son is riding a small breed in an open mixed class.

Unless the judge is a small breed specialist, they will find it difficult to compare the choppy, stocky movement of a Shetland to the extravagant high stepping action of a Welsh Cob, which is also likely to be in the class.

If the pony goes well, your son looks the part and isnot under-horsed then you should stand as good a chance as anyone else. But at the end of the day showing is all down to the judge’s decision.

It is always better to try to compete against your own type of native, so try taking the pony farther afield to compete in small breeds or Shetland classes and see how you get on.

The breeder may be prepared to help you as it will mean more publicity and coverage of their prefix and you are likely to leave behind any local prejudices.

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