Preparing youngsters for the show ring

April 12, 2021 9:40 am by
Posted in General, Jayne Ross, News, Sponsored riders

We are full steam ahead at Team Ross, with fingers crossed, to go to our first competition in just 3 weeks’ time.  To say we are excited is an understatement, but we are checking and double checking that we have everything ready to go.

Last year we took the opportunity during the down time to tidy up, clear out and reorganise.  Like many people we wound down a little, as did the horses to some extent.  This year we have been busy preparing the horses and ourselves for competitions and life on the road again.  This means making sure all the paraphernalia that goes with showing is ready to go.

The beginning of this season is a very different scenario from usual because the horses missed out a year’s showing. Even the most experienced horses may need reminding of their jobs and last year’s novices are still novices as they only went to a few shows – as ever preparation is key.

One of the ways we prepare our youngsters for a show ring environment is by getting them used to groups of other horses. Sometimes that means hacking out in groups, but we are also lucky that we have enough horses that we can create a bit of a buzz in our arena by taking a few horses in at a time and getting them used to horses going around.

If allowed, we will be hiring an arena soon so they can experience a trip out. Even if a youngster has been shown in hand in the past it is very different when it is being ridden for its first outing – sometimes novice horses can lack concentration.

Before you go to your first show there are lots of little things you can do to help prepare a young horse and make your life a lot easier. For example, if you are going to use a different numnah at a show try it at home first. If you ride at home in a cotton covered square pad but show in a wool or rubber backed one, or you use a soft web girth at home but a leather one at a show, these are all things that can unsettle a horse.  The last thing you want is to do is find that out at a show!

It is wise to think about which bridle you are going to ride in and practice before hand.  We spend time looking at each horse and assessing what looks best, whilst considering their best attributes. When choosing a bridle, find one that suits your horse’s type and will enhance their head. For a riding horse class, opt for a well fitted, leather bridle without too many brass buckles, a plain cavesson noseband and a coloured browband. A well fitted, not floppy nor too tight, coloured browband is correct but choose a good colour that does not clash with your horse.  Hunters and cobs should wear a plain leather browband, and bigger horses look better with a slightly wider noseband and straps that look more workmanlike.  Hacks, however, should look elegant and a narrower quality leather is appropriate, with a slightly raised nose band and coloured browband like the riding horses.

Our novice horses do not always go straight into a double bridle because sometimes this can be too much for them. We start with a jointed pelham as this still has two reins but is very similar to a snaffle and I think this is a kind introduction.  You also need to figure out if you will use an ordinary metal curb chain, a soft leather curb chain or an elastic curb chain if they are very light in the mouth. In some novice classes for four-year-olds you can show your horse in a snaffle bridle but overall, it is preferred if you have two reins. Apart from in working hunter classes you cannot use a gag or bit with an over check of any sort, so if you are used to riding your horse at home in a three-ring gag or bubble bit it is wise to allow plenty of time to practice in your show bridle so the horse can get used to the change.

I also make sure our youngsters are used to being ridden in a show jacket because these can be longer than anything you have ridden in before.  If the tails of your jacket flap, or the ride judge wears a long jacket this can sometimes surprise them.

Basically, we prepare our youngsters at home for anything the show ring might throw at them and we do this by hacking them out and in the school with exercise sheets on, riding them with long coats on and riding in the school and hacking out with show numnahs and show bridles on.  Another reason for this is to so everything becomes “the norm” and they don’t associate these changes to “show time”.

The more relaxed and ready you are the more relaxed your horse will be, but it goes without saying that sometimes things go awry. All you can do is prepare as much as possible and hopefully everything will fall into place on the day.