How to get started in showing

By Nicola Jane Swinney on |



Olympia inspired you to take up showing? It is said that if you are into sailing, you might just as well stand under a cold shower and tear up £20 notes. I’m not sure what the equivalent is for horse showing, but it certainly involves a lot of £20 notes.

Not so much, though, on the cost of the horse or pony. There are so many showing shows now, from unaffiliated upwards, that you don’t necessarily need to buy an expensive “made” animal. Ask around — at your local riding school, tack shops and equestrian stores — and keep your eyes open; that shaggy pony could be a top-class coloured with a bit of trimming and elbow grease!

Showing basics

Go to as many shows as you possibly can, even if you don’t yet have something to show; if someone on your yard is into showing, why not ask them if you can groom for them some time? Starting off at an unaffiliated show is a good idea, but once you and your horse are ready to step up to affiliated, you will have to register with the appropriate society.

There are five main showing societies; three pony ones — the National Pony Society, Ponies UK and the British Show Pony Society — and two horse ones, the British Show Horse Association and Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain. There are also breed societies, so you may have to join more than one, and two coloured societies, the British Skewbald and Piebald Association and the Coloured Horse and Pony Society.

Do your prep

You may not have the best pony in the ring, but you can have the best turned-out, the best schooled and the best mannered! Several professional producers run showing clinics that, if your budget will allow, are well worth attending. Katie Jerram, Lynn Russell, Robert Walker, Penny Hollings and Jo Bates are just a few of the top pros who run such clinics and those who have attended them say they are enormously beneficial.

Get good advice

Don’t be afraid to ask the professionals for advice at shows. They’re professionals for a reason and it’s their job, and most are more than willing to pass on invaluable advice and tips — so long as they’re not rushing madly from ring to ring. Ask questions whenever you can — most showing folk will be happy to help a “newbie”.

Don’t think you have to have the best or most expensive kit — look at second-hand or “pre-loved” bits and pieces and try to make most of your purchases at the end of the season. At the beginning, sellers will put their prices up.

Keep your spirits up

The one thing to remember about showing is that you are asking for someone’s opinion — it is entirely subjective. So don’t be downhearted if you and your pony don’t get in the placings; in time you will learn which judges like your animal’s type, and which don’t. At the end of the day, if you have done your best, it’s only a piece of ribbon. In the meantime, you’ll learn a lot, you’ll make some wonderful new friends, you’ll spend more time with your pony and you’ll have fun. You may not win, but your horse is still the same animal he was before the class and still the one you want to take home.

And as someone pointed out, you can make a small fortune in showing — but only if you start off with a big one…

Image: Grey hunter (cropped), by Jean via Flickr, CC BY 2.0


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