Ringcraft is the art of presenting and showing off your horse in the ring to ensure the best possible chance of impressing the judge.
Ringcraft can help and enhance a performance, but it is no substitute for correct riding and schooling.
Always be aware of where the judge is standing and looking. Then quietly find a position where you can be seen on your own, without appearing too pushy or getting too close to the judge. As you enter the ring, try and place yourself between horses that look different and less good than your own (but with plenty of space between you) so that your horse looks better.
Make full use of the ring, keeping as close as possible to the outside rails and, where feasible, ride right into the corners. Think for yourself and don’t fall into the trap of following the competitor in front of you. Equally be aware of other competitors and keep an eye on the judge so that you are presenting your horse to the best of your abilities whenever he is looking at you. Don’t ever get boxed in by other competitors.
Remember that the walk is the first and last thing the judge sees. Keep your wits about you and pay attention to the steward so that you correctly follow their instructions throughout the class.
When you move into trot it needs to be forward and ground-covering without being rushed, with an even flowing rhythm. Make sure you keep plenty of space around you so the judge can see you at all times.
When moving into canter, try to use a corner to help you strike off on the correct canter lead. The canter needs to be smooth and in self-carriage.
The steward will then ask the class to change the rein, usually across the diagonal. Judges often use this to see how straight your horse moves on the line.
Finally the gallop should show smooth acceleration, with your horse extending and lowering his stride, rather than rushing — practice makes perfect!
When you are in the ring, look as though you are enjoying it (even if you’re not!). Also remember that politeness goes along way so do not be over familiar, instead be gracious and respectful.
Finally don’t forget to give your horse a pat and remember to smile!
The individual show
- Make sure the judge is watching before you start.
- Unless it is a set show – which some judges demand – all you are required to do is walk, trot and canter on both reins, with a simple progressive change of leg in canter and a controlled “gallop on”.
- Make sure you have rehearsed and both you and your horse are confident with the task in hand.
- Don’t go behind the line-up during your show as the judge will lose sight of you.
- Keep things simple and short but perfect, rather then long, fiddly and messy.
- Salute and smile to the judge at the end of your show before re-joining the line-up in your original position.
- Your class may require the judge to ride your horse so make sure you have sufficient holes in your leathers to alter accordingly and that your stirrup irons are a reasonable width.
Practise for the conformation judging at home. The judge must be able to see all four legs at a glance from either side when you stand the pony up; also, make sure the pony walks up actively and trots back freely in a straight line towards the judge – without knocking him down!
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