Just as I did yesterday, I'm going to re-post a blog entry from back in 2009 regarding show ring tips because they're just such good articles and so valuable for so many. The same will go for tomorrow night. On Monday we'll be back to current topics, along with a full report of the ACTHA ride tomorrow!
Today we are going back to the show ring tips topic. As the title
suggests ~ I am resurrecting it. Why? Because it's one of my favorite
topics, very important to your show ring career and I truly enjoy
helping folks excel. :)
One of the most important things you can
do after arriving at the showgrounds, getting signed up or checked in
and readying both yourself and your horse for the ring is to make sure
you have a set of eyes on the ground. There will almost always be
things a rider or handler will miss, in the excitement of the moment.
Just before stepping into the ring, make sure you've got someone to
wipe your horse (quick soft brush then a rag over the body, a rag to
wipe the mouth and a rag to wipe the hooves), to run a brush through
your horse's tail (and mane in some cases) making certain the tail knot
is pulled out, to wipe your boots ~ I have a hilariously funny story
about this ~ and to make sure your girth or cinch is tightened. Few
things are worse than going in the ring with a tied up tail, dusty
boots, a loose girth…or without your number.
dusting-off-boots story: A couple of years back we were at a large all
Arabian show in Las Vegas when I was getting ready to head to the ring
for a Western Pleasure class. My daughter was assisting in making sure
we were prepared to show, so I asked her to give me the final touch up,
by "busting my doots". Yes, you read that right. For some reason I was
struck with an episode of severe dyslexia, and could not for the life
of me ask her to "dust my boots". After about the third time, she
figured out what I meant, so off we were headed for the in gate with
clean boots. However, my husband on an errand made a detour by Wal-Mart
for a burgundy hand towel and a gold paint pen to write "Doot Buster"
on said towel. Thus, an official SFTS tradition was born. We attend no
shows without the Doot Buster.
Another of the most important
pieces of advice you can possibly be given is to SMILE! No matter if
you are competing in hand or under saddle, Western or English, in
Equitation or Pleasure ~ if you do so, your judge will notice. Don't
overschool your horse, especially in the lead-up to the big dance. As
riders and trainers, we tend to forget this and many experience
frustration when something isn't perfect in a work session or lesson.
That effect is multiplied several times over when we're concentrating
on a show the next weekend.
Know your patterns, your courses
and/or your tests. Study them!! You are supposed to be exhibiting what
you know, how well you can follow directions and how well you can
execute each of the above. Judges are impressed with confidence,
nothing says you are confident like knowing what you're doing. In
Showmanship, quarters are pretty much mandatory. Gone are the days when
judges only expected the half system ~ so know your quarters!! I drill
my kids in Showmanship every bit as hard as Eq patterns.
your trainer if you have one. That's what you pay the trainer for!
Personally I prefer to warm up my students' and clients' horses for
them, before having them climb on board for a quick lesson (and a run
through of the pattern right before an Equitation or Horsemanship
class). I also do coach from the rail, but my style is more moral
support and giving kudos for a great ride than actual coaching. I
cannot stand trainers who scream at their students across the arena,
it's unprofessional and many judges frown on it.
Make sure you
give your horse a break between classes (which also goes to the
overschooling issue) to allow them to relax, have a drink, take a
'potty break' and just plain enjoy him or herself. This sort of policy
makes for a much happier, more sound horse and that translates to
better rides. Never forget, it's about your partnership with your
mount, doing your best and camaraderie with your friends, NOT about
If your horse does not have flying lead changes
nailed, don't ask for them! Better to execute a good, smooth simple
change and make it look effortless than have a disastrous moment in an
otherwise nearly flawless ride. Never, ever lose your temper with your
horse…especially in front of your judge. In most circuits doing so will
get you ejected from the ring if not from the showgrounds. Keep good
sportsmanship in mind, ALWAYS. It doesn't matter if you got a green
ribbon instead of a blue one thanks to a careless spectator, it doesn't
matter if your horse picked up the wrong lead because another exhibitor
ran their horse into yours, none of that matters in the big picture.
Hold your temper.
One lesson I learned many years ago was not to
argue with your judge, nor to correct him or her. As an exhibitor who
competes primarily on Arabian horses, I frequently encounter judges who
have zero experience with my breed. Comments I have heard range from
"Make sure your horse's hind legs are SQUARE in Halter and Showmanship
classes" to "Your horse carries himself with too much of an arch to his
neck" to a myriad of other comments. My response is to politely smile,
nod and carry on about showing my horses. ;)