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Archive for the ‘Horse Show’ Category

While horse show safety is important in the ring and venue, safety really begins at home (as the cliche says). There are a number of steps you can take to make sure you and your horse stay safe at the show.

First, before you leave home, inspect your tack. It’s best to use the highest-quality tack you can, especially lead ropes and halters. Low-quality, cheap halters and lead ropes may not be strong enough to hold a horse if it bolts or jerks on its lead. The halter and lead rope should also be the appropriate size and strength for your horse. Inspect all of the snaps and buckles for any signs of stress, weakness, or breaks. You may even want to put a heavy-weight snap on the end of your lead rope – it can sometimes prevent a horse from getting away from its handler.

You should also inspect your bridle. Check for any abnormal tears or weakness. The head piece of the bridle should be properly attached to the bit. This will prevent an accident while you are mounted on your horse. The reins should be well attached to the bit by screws or rivets, or secured by leather ties.

Cleaning your leather tack after riding will extend the life of the leather. You can clean simply by wiping the leather with a damp cloth. Also, properly condition the leather to prevent any breakage from drying and cracking. Inspect the leather for any frayed or worn places. If you find any, the leather needs to replaced immediately. Any metal parts on the bridle and bit should also be rust-free and working well.

When you are inspecting your saddle, the main thing to check is the girth. The girth should be strong and long enough so that any unnecessary pressure is not placed on it. The cinch should also be strong and not have any excessive wear on it as well. The stirrups and stirrup leathers should also be routinely checked and replaced at the first sign of weakness or wear. Your saddle should be kept clean and well-conditioned, and stored in a clean and dry area when not in use.

Make sure your towing vehicle and horse trailer have had the proper safety inspections. This is critical for a safe journey.

Also, ensure you have the proper health documentation needed for hauling horses as well as any others that may be required at your destination.

Taking these steps before you leave for a horse show can ensure your journey and show are safe. That way you can enjoy the show and not have to worry about anything going wrong.

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While the most important thing you will be judged on at a show is how well you handle your horse, the proper appearance will also help you win points with the judges. Not having a sloppy appearance shows respect for the class you are participating in. Here are some tips to make sure you look your best:

  • Dress for your body type. While the clothes you wear need to be well-fitted, you can modify them a bit to suit your body type. For example, if you have shorter legs you can have your chaps altered to fit higher. This gives the appearance of longer legs. If you have a heavier body type, typically stick to one color throughout your entire outfit to give a slimmer appearance.
  • Stick with earth tones in your clothing. Do not get carried away with sparkles, braiding, jewels, etc. It can appear too flashy and distracting during your ride, so it is best to stay conservative. The only exception is youngsters who can experiment a bit more with color.
  • General rules of thumb: Your clothes should fit properly, your hat needs to be clean and shaped correctly, and you should wear nice chaps which fit correctly. Keeping your clothes starched gives a clean-lined, tight look, especially with blouses which should be form-fitting and allow your body position to be accentuated while in the saddle.
  • The saddle should fit the rider and the mount. If the seat of your saddle is too small or too big, it will affect how you sit in it, which can have a major impact in your judging. While you don’t need a fancy saddle, showing up with a work saddle or an ill-fitting saddle will not work well for you in competition.

While the temptation is there to stand out and be flashy during a horse show, it is best to keep to a conservative attire. Doing so helps the judges and spectators focus on your riding ability rather than your clothing, and can help you have a more favorable appearance.

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When competing, it’s so easy to look at a judge and think they are against you. It’s difficult not to imagine them squinting to try to find the tiniest mistake they can, all so they can dock you points. But the exact opposite is actually true. In fact, most of the time your judges are your biggest supporters.

People who become judges at horse shows have been where you are. They’ve felt the nerves before a competition. They’ve felt their heart plummet when a rail drops. They’ve felt the humiliation when a horse does not follow commands. They’ve felt the disappointment when a ride does not go as planned. They’ve competed for years before becoming judges and have definitely “been there, done that.”

When you step out into the ring with your horse, your judges are not looking for ways to scrutinize you. Instead, they’re pulling for you. They want you to have a perfect ride. They feel pangs of empathy when that rail falls or a mistake is made. And nobody probably feels worse than them when a mistake is made – after all, they’re the ones that have to dock the points.

Many judges want competitors to know that a lack of ribbons after a competition does not mean the judges “had it out for them.” Oftentimes, judges really enjoyed a competitor’s performance. What held them back from awarding ribbons is potentially one area they need to improve upon. What is unfortunate is that there is not enough time at an event for a judge to really provide feedback to each rider. This is why attending clinics, taking lessons from a professional trainer, and observing judging seminars can help in understanding why you may not have earned a ribbon.

When entering the ring, play to your strengths. This will help judges see where you are strong. And most importantly, remember that they are cheering you on, even when it does not feel like it. No matter what, they want to see you succeed just as much as you do.

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While each competitor wants to do their best when they compete in a horse show, there are still some missteps that can be made which may irritate judges. In an article we found on horsechannel.com from Cindy Hale, she asked two judges, Nancy Frost and Jolene King, what irritates them most while judging a show:

1. Schlocky attire. The rules for attire at schooling shows are rather slack when compared to the traditional clothing expected at rated or circuit shows. No one expects competitors to rush out and purchase $1,000 worth of designer clothing to compete at a schooling show. But tank tops, t-shirts with logos, jingly-jangly jewelry, dirty boots and mud-encrusted half chaps have no place in the show ring, even at schooling shows. Surely, riders can do better. “Show some respect for your sport,” states Nancy Frost.

2. Obscured number cards. After all the time and expense of preparing for a class, why do so many competitors neglect to properly secure their number? Attention to such a minor detail is important, whether the number is displayed on the rider’s back or on the saddle blanket. “Please, no slapping, flapping, crooked numbers. If I’m straining to see your number, I’m not watching your performance,” explains Jolene King.

3. Fashion trends run amok. “Low rise breeches are all the rage right now, especially with junior riders,” says Frost. “But they can create a sloppy appearance if the tail of the rider’s show shirt creeps up and outside the waistband. I’ll be judging an equitation or medal class, where presentation and polish is so important, and here will be this rider with her shirt tails hanging out under her huntcoat.”

4. Circling and circling and circling. In a large or hectic class, sometimes it’s necessary to cut across the arena or make a circle to avoid disaster. But if overdone, the rider begins to look out of control. Frost calls it, “Circling the wagons or playing cowboys and Indians.” Instead, she suggests avoiding collisions by coming in off the rail and maintaining a straight path that parallels the track of your competitors. “That’s called using the quarter lines of the arena,” she explains. “Once you’re past the traffic jam, you can then rejoin the rail.”

5. Poor sportsmanship. Emotions can get tense at a horse show, but there’s never a reason to take your frustration out on your horse. “While judges are trained to stay ‘in the moment’, nonetheless displays of poor sportsmanship are hard to forget or ignore,” offers King. “Besides being abusive toward the horse, it projects a poor image of our sport to spectators.”

6. Lack of preparation. Every class has criteria that a judge uses to evaluate the performances. Competitors should know the specs before entering. Though trying new things is admirable, entering a class that requires some expertise on a whim (or a dare) is frustrating for the judge and tedious for the other competitors who are waiting their turn. “I’ll be judging a trail class and I’ll have riders who really have no clue about how to approach a bridge or open and close a gate,” says King. “It makes me wonder: ‘Did they even practice this at home’?”

Take care to avoid these as you compete in your horse show. It will make your judge much happier, and not unnecessarily cost you points.

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Competing in the A-Circuit is competing in the cream of the crop, and it requires some huge commitments for riders. Knowing what you’re getting into is essential before commiting to competing in the A-Circuit.

First and foremost, the cost to compete in the A-Circuit can be staggering. Not only does the cost of an A-Circuit-ready horse skyrocket (it can approach or even exceed $100,000), but there are also the costs of the shows as well as travel expenses. Transportation costs, loding and food can add up quickly, especially since it is typically considered appropriate for competitors to pay at least partially for their trainer’s expenses, as well as any other entourage they may have along (groomers, etc). Obviously, with all of these expenses, the financial commitment is huge when competing in the A-Circuit.

The competition in the A-Circuit is also unbelievably fierce. There is absolutely no room for error. This means that taking a lesson one day a week will not cut it. Riders will need to practice practically every day to avoid buckling under pressure and committing any error during the multi-day event.

Yet even with all of this, the A-Circuit is a goal for many riders. There is something that draws them to competing in these shows, not just for the ribbons, but many times for the lucrative prizes. A competitor who wins consistently can win enough earnings to offset the costs of competing.

There is also an air of pageantry in the A-Circuit. From the beautiful bays and chestnuts, to the crisp riding attire, to the striped awnings, to the ring steward who presents the ribbons with an air of importance, the shows are beautiful to watch and participate in. For many, it is this pageantry and elegance that draws them to compete as well.

When competing in any of the circuits, the most important thing to remember is not to neglect your horse. After each competition, whether you’ve just had a perfect show in the A-Circuit or completed your first schooling show, remember to give your horse some love and attention. No matter what, the relationship between you and your horse will always be most important.

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After participating for a while in schooling shows with success, a move to the B-circuit may be in order. The B-circuit is another name for rated shows held localy, most often sponsored by county riding associations.

The B-circuit has been gaining popularity because it is more inexpensive than the A-circuit and does not require as much time commitment since shows typically last only a day or a weekend long. With divisions for both novices and experienced riders, a wide range of talent and experience can be seen in this circuit.

Riding in the B-circuit takes more consistent practice as judges do not let a mistake go unnoticed. They are looking for the right “look” in a rider as well as more consistent riding skills. Many competitors find themselves not only working to improve their skills, but also their look as the judging in this circuit is tougher, with many judges looking for that “perfect riding look.”

With the wide skill levels of riders, especially those who are greener, a sense of community is actually fostered in the B-circuit. Many times during shows, competitors can be heard cheering each other on and encouraging each other at the back gate. This is different from the national A-circuit, where the competition is much more intense and fierce rivalries can sometimes develop between some competitors.

Not only are riders able to improve their skills in B-circuit shows, but they also develop a knack for how to read and study a course for the class they are competing in. The judges are looking for flawless competitors – many of the errors that may not have been penalized in the schooling shows are not tolerated here. Judges are also looking for competitors who have improved their look, with a much more professional appearance for both rider and horse gaining the judges’ favor.

The B-circuit is a great place for competitors to gain competition experience and practice for the A-circuit, but it is also a place that many competitors stay in for the length of their competition career. It is a less expensive option for many and, for those competitors who are adults and work during the week, it is a much less time-intensive option. Because of this, the B-circuit is quickly gaining in popularity and seeing more and more competitors.

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After participating in a 4-H project and seeing a budding interest in horse shows, a good place to head next is a schooling show. There are both rated and non-rated shows, with non-rated shows being more likely to be the ones to begin in as they are less intimidating for new participants.

Schooling shows are a less expensive route to take for those who want to get a feel for and get used to a show environment, and can allow them to participate in classes they excel in or those they feel they need some work in. Schooling shows are less intimidating for participants than B or A level shows because everyone is at the same level – still learning.

Participating in a series of schooling shows builds confidence as riders progess through the circuit, earning points for the ribbons they win. At the end of the season, prizes are then awarded based on the number of points acquired. Progressing in this way can be a real confidence booster for anyone looking to continue on in horse shows.

Schooling shows also offer riders a chance to really learn about horsemanship. They learn first-hand how to interact with other riders in the warm-up ring, as well as how to handle praise and criticism in judging. Riders can take away the feedback they receive from judges and improve in the areas they need to, and continue to participate in seasons and classes until their winning goals have been met. Because the classes are inexpensive, riders can participate in as many classes as they need to practice and improve their skills, even participating in the same class multiple times to improve in an area that is giving them troubles.

Once a rider has won all of the classes, it’s a good sign they are ready to move up to the B-circuit. After all, nobody enjoys an expert who has already won all of the classes swooping in just to snatch up all of the first-place trophies.

Schooling shows offer a great place for riders to really get a feel for horse shows as well as improve upon their skills and give them a lesson in horsemanship. It’s a great way to lay a foundation for successful participation and winning in later circuits.

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