It’s high summer and the race is on to bag that golden ticket to HOYS. You might think you have no chance against the professional producers, who will be chasing qualifiers to make sure they get all their charges through. It is their job, after all, and they are good at it. But you can steal some of their tips to make sure you and your horse are presented as well as possible.
Jo Bates (pictured) on plaiting: “Plaiting is an important part of the turnout of your horse for the show ring and can enhance the overall look. A short neck can be made to look longer by making more plaits, and a weak neck can be enhanced by standing the plaits higher to give the impression of more crest.
Similarly, the mane can be thinned and plaits can be made smaller on a cresty type of horse to make the crest less obvious.”
Grooming products are essential. Bates likes to use Absorbine grooming products to make her horses show-ring perfect.
Jayne Ross on quarter marks: “You can use quarter marks to make the most of your horse’s conformation, but remember that, whether they are flashes, shark’s teeth or squares, they are meant to be an enhancement, rather than a distraction! If your horse is a little immature, or not well-furnished in its hindquarters, less is more. Don’t overdo the quarter marks. Space out your shark’s teeth and use two instead of three. You’re trying to make the judge think they’re looking at a bigger area.
“A hunter is a forward-going horse with scope and fluidity, so the quarter marks need to be big and bold. Rounded strokes will suggest a rounded topline, rather than a flat one.
“With a riding horse, your strokes should not be quite as broad as for a hunter but should be a little bit more precise. With a hack, you can be more artistic. You can use stencils, if you like, although we still use a cut-up comb to make the squares. You can make lots of squares, but the horse’s rear end mustn’t look too busy.”
Robert Walker on tack: “No matter what class you enter, all tack must be fitted correctly and be comfortable for the horse. Turnout is also extremely important, therefore special attention should be paid to how your horse looks in the ring. The size of the noseband used depends on your horse’s head. You can make a lot of difference, whether the head is large or small, by making sure the noseband enhances the horse’s appearance.
I like show hunters to wear a straight-cut saddle with a plain brown or black numnah. A low cantle helps provide a flatter seat for a neater appearance, and the close profile of the saddle shows off and enhances the overall picture.”
Simon Charlesworth on ring craft: “You want the judge to notice you — but for the right reasons. My advice is to make your own space in the ring: if the class is busy, go deep into your corners to create a space for yourself. Make sure you’re not rushing and that your transitions are smooth.”
Image: Jo Bates aboard Thriller at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2012, ES Photography