As we soak in the last few moments of warm weather and travel to the last of the shows for the season, here are some tips to catch the judges’ attention and outclass the competition:
Acknowledge and correct your mistakes. “In the week leading up to your show, practice pieces of the test, put things together,” says Amelia Newcomb, a YouTuber who creates content about horse showing and dressage. “But when you run into a problem, don’t just keep going; address that issue.”
Create a detailed training plan. According to Dressage Today, riders should recognize and praise performances that go above and beyond what the rider asked for. They should also use “blending” exercises to strengthen the horse’s weaknesses, as finding a balance between fun and challenging is crucial for horses.
Execute fluid transitions. Transitions are important to master, and they are something judges look for in every test. How to Dressage says, “All transitions must be obedient, fluent, and smooth with no signs of resistance or tension on the part of the horse.” The two types (downward and upward) have different requirements, so finding a balance between them gives competing riders an advantage.
Practice the position. Equestroom emphasizes practicing the jumping position so riders can conquer more challenging fences later on. Since the jump is short, it can be difficult to adjust one’s position. Loosening the reins, strengthening the rider’s leg muscles, and allowing the horse to take charge are all necessary for a strong jumping position.
Maintain your rhythm. The Gaitpost.com lists rhythm and balance as two of the most important skills for showjumping, as having a balanced canter helps riders quickly and smoothly adapt to various distances and jumps on the course.
Focus on flatwork. Horse and Pony Magazine (based in New Zealand) stresses practicing flatwork as often as possible, stating it “‘will help a horse to learn to carry himself in balance,’” according to showjumper John Cottle.
Start strong, finish strong. According to Horse and Hound, “British Eventing trainer Sally Billing...likes to jump off strongly, so that if complications ensue towards the end of the course, she has seconds in hand.” Maintaining a strong pace throughout the course helps riders transition from one jump to the next rather than ponder how they are currently performing.
Practice multiple jumps. Equisearch recommends practicing on a course of many jumps, rather than one, “to develop a galloping rhythm and to teach your horse to look for the next fence.” A strong galloping rhythm helps both rider and horse learn the ins and outs of the course and how to complete it in a quick and smooth manner.
Use the turns. Horse and Hound adds that according to Lauren Shannon, a four-star rider, the turns in a course should “set you up, rather than wasting time fighting on a straight stretch.” She often sees riders lose time due to “setting up too early, killing the canter before you get to the fence and then not moving off afterwards.”
For barrel racing: Take it easy at first. According to Helpful Horse Hints, one cannot go from zero to 100 in a day. Starting at a walk or trot will help both rider and horse get a feel for the course and how to best approach it. Balance and diligence will also get riders far in this discipline.
For roping: Frontier Trailers and Roping Supply advises working on the ground before moving on to working from atop the horse. Using various types of rope, building strength in one’s arms, and learning from other experienced ropers are among the best ways to build confidence and skill in the sport.
Learn, work hard, and have fun. In Hunter Pleasure, according to Horse Illustrated, what judges notice most during shows are diagonals and leads, skill level, and frisky horses. So, remember to stay focused, compete against those with similar experience, and let the horse run off some steam if necessary so he does not act out during a class.
Practice correctness and presentation. Horse and Rider composed an article written by a director of judges laying out the do’s and don’ts in Western Pleasure. More specifically, how to present a horse with the correct gaits and movements so riders are not penalized. Correctness, quality, and degree of difficulty are, consecutively, considered by judges when watching Western Pleasure horses.
Both are vastly different but equally rewarding. Although the basics are similar, Western and Hunter Pleasure are disparate disciplines in regards to judging. While Western Pleasure is about showing off the horse, Hunter Pleasure is divided into two groups: the horse’s performance and the rider’s skill. However, both are fun and challenging for rider and horse, and the Pleasure disciplines can teach people a lot about themselves and develop deeper relationships with their horses.