If you're looking to get in the showing ring this season, don't miss these top tips from our brand ambassador Claire Taylor.
As showing is my thing it is important that both my horses and myself are immaculate and well prepared for the job. For me, keeping clean proves difficult! However, there are a few little tips that I have picked up along the way. They are mainly intended for showing, but many can be applied across the disciplines:
Keep manes the right length for plaiting. For horses with weaker toplines or longer necks, I like to do bigger plaits, which means a longer mane! If you keep the mane the right length throughout the season your plaits will be perfect all of the time. I would like to add at this point, I have a wonderful plaiting sister, who is a big help!
If you have a ‘best’ bridle, clean it after every show, then it will only need a wipe before the next one.
A stocking on the tail, tucked under the tail bandage is helpful for keeping the tail clean and is much cheaper than a tail bag.
Don’t plait the length of the tail. It doesn’t look professional and is inappropriate for most types of show horses.
A pulled tail looks much more professional than a plaited one, and you can cheat using a tail rake.
Don’t have the tail too long (unless you have a native or traditional cob). A short tail will improve a horse no end, a long tail can drag it down.
A squirt of baby oil in the bathing water is useful for a bit of extra shine.
Find products that work for you and stick to them. You don’t need hundreds of different sprays; the best tool is elbow grease.
Varnish the hooves instead of oiling them – it stays on better. Unless you have a saint of a horse it’s best to do this at home. Trying to paint dancing hooves in long grass at a show will do nothing for your nerves!
Watch the producers. You will often hear in showing people complaining that it’s always the ‘faces’ that win. It often is, but it’s not because they are well known, it’s because most of the time they are the best prepared and turned out. Showing isn’t just about trotting round, it’s a bit of an art, and it takes practice.
Depending on the level of showing you do the judge may ride your horse. It’s an absolute must that you get other people to ride your horse before expecting a judge to. The judge is there to enjoy your horse, not school it. Do your homework.
If you intend on showing your horse in a double bridle, make sure he’s well accustomed to it and goes well in it. Don’t just stick it in for to practice the day before. He should be looking through the bridle, taking you forward and going off the leg. If he isn’t doing this, he isn’t ready to show in it.
Learn what type your horse is for showing and make sure you are turned out correctly. If you aren’t sure, you could go to a clinic and ask for help. There are lots of types of show horses including Riding Horses, Cobs, Hunters and Hacks, and each one should be turned out differently, so again do your homework. Of course if you are showing locally type isn’t so important, but you should still be turned out correctly.
In winter when it’s too cold to bath, a bucket of hot water and a rag will remove muck and grease. You could add a little vinegar to this to add shine to the coat too.
Getting the correct kit need not be expensive. Nearly all of my showing kit is second hand and has been collected over many years. You don’t need a specially designed showing shirt… I bought two blue school shirts from the local supermarket for a fiver!
Teach yourself to smile… even if you are terrified. Eventually it won’t be false and you will actually enjoy yourself more. I was always getting told I looked frightened, even though I was simply concentrating. I practiced this a lot at home and I had to keep reminding myself at shows, but now it comes naturally.
Teach your horse to really gallop. Unless he’s a hack, every type needs to show a good gallop. Do this in a large field and let him travel without interfering. He should get lower to the ground and open up his stride, not just get faster. A good gallop can win or lose a class.
If you’re feeling inspired to get back in the ring, then don’t forget to search Equo’s upcoming events.