Riding the rail: winning tips for horse show flat classes. Part 3

Play by the rules.

Judges scan each competitor for permitted equipment as they enter the gate.  What’s allowed and what’s not depends on the class and governing association. In general, no martingales are permitted on the flat. No boots for classes in which your horse’s movement is assessed.  No crops in the hack division.

Judging smaller shows, I often alert western competitors to mis-placed curb chains. Occasionally, english riders forget to remove their protective boots or martingales before the flat phase.

Be prepared for the gait requirements in your particular class. Western pleasure horses may be asked for a moderate extension of the jog.  Road hacks gaits include “strong trot” and hand gallop. Show hacks, be ready extend and collect all gaits.

Every discipline has its unwritten rules. For example, in AQHA hunter under saddle, riders canter in full seat and will always be asked to rein-back. In hunter/jumper shows, exhibitors canter their hunters under saddle in two-point or light seat and are never asked to rein back.

Use those teachable moments.

You’re always training (or un-training) your horse, setting patterns (intentionally or not)  that your horse begins to predict . So, mix up the routine. Avoid stopping at the gate.  Ensure your horse takes his cues from you, not the announcer, the environment or the flow of his ring mates. Because you share the judge’s attention with other competitors in the ring, you can sneak in some show ring training “snacks” when  the judge’s eyes aren’t glued to you. Use your corners or change of directions to connect to your horse.

First impressions, lasting impressions. Enter the ring with confidence – in show mode, not training mode. Though judges aren’t yet officially scoring, they’re forming opinions as they organize bookwork and check tack. Get in there promptly. Don’t dilly-dally and contribute to a delay. That’s irritating to a judge – the judge you’re hoping to impress. As a bonus, making an early entrance carves out extra warm up time while the judge is recording numbers…and waiting for the tardy entries.

Read the final part of this article in the next post
To help you prepare for your next horse show, I offer freelance coaching at barns in southern and central Ontario. English and western riders. Competitive and novice. I’d love to meet you and your horse!