If you plan to step into the horse show arena, expect the unexpected. Few sports have more variables than equestrian. This is the 1st of a 3 part article I wrote for Canadian Horse Journal. What might you expect to go wrong in the show ring? I’ll put on my horse show judge’s hat and share common equestrian mistakes. Additionally, I’ll wear my hat as a specialist in equine behaviour. Fixing WHAT happened depends on discovering WHY it happened.
Do judge’s care if…? Do judges prefer…? Horse show judging has taught me that the pressure to sort through a group of moving horses in a limited time doesn’t leave room for pet preferences. Without a good mover and correct leads, bling and brand names won’t land anyone in the ribbons for flat and rail classes.
As a horse show judge, I survey the group of horses moving around the show ring and visualize the ideal- the entry illustrating the original intent of the class. Could that hunter under saddle effortlessly jump a course? Would that road hack fit the hunt field? Is that horsemanship rider not only elegant, but effective? Is that pleasure hack truly a “pleasure” to ride?
When I began judging horse shows, I was struck by how little influence fashion trends had on my scorecard compared to performance and penalties.
After spending many years in the show ring, many hours attending to grooming details and many dollars on tack and turnout, I’m more inclined to ask “Is it a need or a want?” Will this influence the judges or impress only those outside the show ring?
Though it may make me wince to re-live it, every mistake is a learning opportunity! When things go wrong at a horse show, how do you manage in the moment, minimizing the incident’s impact to your score, to your fellow horse show competitors and to your confidence? A snag in the show ring need not unravel your horse training progress. In fact, a snag reveals a weak area – an opportunity to “build back better”.
If you plan to step into the competition arena, expect the unexpected. Few sports have more variables than riding. What might you expect to go wrong in the horse show ring? In this issue, I’ll put on my judge’s hat and share common mistakes. So common, in fact, that every horse show score sheet has a menu of mishaps and a box to record their numerical deductions.