30 Blue Ribbon Tips
What rider wouldn't like to add a blue ribbon to their collection? Use these tips to help snag the blue at your next show.
- If you haven’t already, attend a show and watch the classes you plan on entering so that you know exactly what to expect.
- If your horse is a greenie, take him to a show and don’t enter any classes; just evaluate how he handles the new surroundings.
- Make a list of everything you need to take to the show; then pack the day beforehand, checking each item off your list.
- Have a friend or family member on hand at the show to help with last minute grooming, giving your boots a wipe before you enter the ring or just providing moral support.
- Before each class, visualize how you want your ride to be—professionals find this technique helpful.
- If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on show clothes, stick to classic colors and avoid flamboyant trends.
- Dress up your everyday tack by using a special pad or blanket reserved only for show.
- Teach your horse to trailer load confidently, well before an event. Show morning is no time to discover that your horse hates straight loads or won’t travel alone.
- If your discipline calls for show-day braiding or banding, start practicing well ahead of time, or hire an expert to do the job for you.
- Bathe your horse for the show, and then cover him up for the night with a sheet/blanket; add a stretchy hood if you’ve braided or banded. If he has white stockings, protect his legs in standing wraps, too.
- School one level higher than you show. That way you can compete with confidence, even when nerves and distractions might get in the way.
- Give yourself—and your horse—plenty of time before your classes start to get accustomed to the showgrounds.
- Know how your horse behaves in the company of others. If he is unruly, it’s probably not time to show yet.
- Warm your horse up, but don’t burn him out. Save his best energy for the actual class.
- Don’t school your horse in gadgets and then expect him to perform in the show-ring without them.
- Clean your tack the day before the show: Make sure it’s in tip-top shape, and polish any silver.
- Know what the show-ring turnout requirements are, and make sure you comply. Poor turnout shows lack of respect to the judge.
- If your horse is having a meltdown in a rail class, head to the center of the ring and just stand quietly. Better to chalk it up to experience than create a dangerous situation.
- Some disciplines have strict rules and regulations about equipment. Study your rulebook closely to be sure that your tack is “legal.”
- Warm-up ring etiquette: Pass left shoulder to left shoulder; if you’re working at a faster pace, stay well to the inside. Keep your eyes on horses that are circling or changing direction.
- Hunters and jumpers: In the warm-up ring, call “heads up” on the fence you’re jumping.
- Hunt-seat riders: Attach your entry number on your back by threading a black shoelace through the number, then through your coat’s last buttonhole; tie off and hide the bow under your coat.
- Western riders: Affix your number to your blanket with safety pins, decorative blanket conchos or a number holder.
- At home, practice any special tests that you think might be added to your classes, such as riding without stirrups, sitting the extended trot or executing a figure-eight.
- Never hold a class up; you could be disqualified. If you are making a quick tack change, or have classes running simultaneously, have someone inform the show steward immediately.
- If you’re new to showing, pay your trainer a rail fee to coach you for the day.
- Dressage riders: Memorize your tests even if you have a caller. Practice the tests in your arena on foot during the weeks leading up to the show.
- Your day isn’t done just because your classes are over. Attend to your horse’s needs before relaxing with friends.
- Ask a show steward if you can see the judge’s scorecard or sheet to gain a greater understanding on how he or she pins a class.
- Don’t forget to close out your check before leaving the showgrounds!
This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.
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30 Blue Ribbon Tips