Sharon Kilminster, qualified instructor and owner of Kilminster Equestrian Ltd, gives some tips on showing.
Sharon has had a colourful and varied lifetime working with horses, part of which involved showing horses at County level, as well as working and riding for HOYS winner Charles Le Moignan. From an outsider’s perspective, getting into the world of showing can be daunting – even just down to what you and your horse should be wearing! Sharon gives some tips on showing as she sees it.
“Read the showing rules carefully for each class, especially when it comes to dress code as different classes require different turnout, for example, a cob class requires plain ‘workman like’ clothing, hacking jacket, shirt and tie, etc, the horse should be wearing a plain flat double bridle or pelham (provision for 2 reins), no coloured browbands, a plain straight cut saddle to show off the horses shoulder (also required for most flat showing classes) and the width of the bridle leather should suit the boldness of the horses face, i.e. a broader 3/4" leather looks better than a very fine leather, but on an Arab you would require a very fine leather.
“Pull tails correctly, and avoid plaiting them. Cobs should be hogged unless your showing natives, cut the tails level with the hock, not traditional and half way down the cannon to show off the horses hock movement.
“If your horse has a fairly slim long neck, make your plaits bigger and fewer to ‘shorten’ it, while a bigger shorter neck benefits from smaller plaits and more of them, giving the illusion of a longer neck. Don’t overdo it though!
“Ringcraft is important. For ridden, use the whole arena and don't cut across in front of the judge to get the ‘it’s me here’ feel; judges want to see all the riders. Have a good show, demonstrating walk, trot and canter on each rein with an extension/gallop at the end. A figure of 8 is adequate, with the extension on the long side to finish. Prepare at home like a dressage test. Always halt and salute the judge when you finish.
“In a large class, when there’s one to go before you, wake your horse with a pick-up of the reins. Without annoying your neighbours, maybe a short rein back and a couple of steps forward to be in line again. It also looks bad to allow your horse to be naughty in the line up, remember all the time you are in the arena, you are being judged.
“When the judge rides, make sure your stirrup leathers have provisions for going much shorter and longer as necessary; there’s nothing worse than having to twist your leathers for a short-legged judge!
"Make sure your horse is used to being ridden by others, and used to his showing tack. Especially important for the double bridle, if your horse is sensitive to the contact, watch other horses being ridden by the judge and if he is inclined to take quite a strong hold, loosen off the curb prior to the judge riding, so your horse is less likely to go over bent and resist. Likewise if the judge rides very soft, you may need to tighten the curb for the best feel.
“The same principles apply in hand, but it’s on foot! Make sure your horse trots out next to you, no one wants to see the horse being dragged. Take long even steps and match your horses as much as possible. Keep your head and eyes up; look down and your horse will too.
“If your horse has been munching grass, keep an ample supply of mints on hand. He will love you and the green slobber will disperse to white in no time!
“Finally, keep smiling! We don't want to see miserable riders as it creates a miserable horse which won't give his best. Enjoy and learn from watching the pros!”