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A horse show can be a hectic day, and as well as being attentive to your horse’s needs by providing shade, water, hay and a kind word and pat once in a while, there are also things such as your own dress and behaviour that must be appropriate.
- “Neatness and cleanliness are all part of etiquette,” says Kitty. “Keep your hair tidy, clothes tucked in, and in general present a pleasing picture that doesn’t distract from your performance. This includes your tack’s keepers, runners, and girth straps tucked in. A horse show is a formal occasion and riders should be dressed appropriately for the class they’re entered in.” For example, hunter competitors should be neatly attired in a riding jacket, approved helmet, riding shirt and tie, choker or stock, breeches or jodhpurs, and boots. Whatever your discipline, check with your association as to exactly what you should be wearing.
- Your horse should be turned out as immaculately as you are: coat gleaming, mane tidy or braided, no sweat marks, hooves polished, and mouth wiped. This applies whether you’re in a class or entering the ring for a ribbon presentation.
- Be courteous to other riders during warm-ups, especially schooling sessions over jumps. Make sure you jump practice fences only in the correct direction (usually red flag on the right). Don’t get in the way of other riders, always pass riders travelling in the opposite direction left-to-left, and if it’s a timed warm-up, leave when your time is up.
- Be prompt. “Entering the ring as soon as your number is called is greatly appreciated by the judge,” says Kitty, adding that, “a smile on your face is also appreciated!”
- Enter and leave the ring without crowding others or standing in front of the gate, blocking those who are trying to leave or enter.
- Never talk back to an official, although you shouldn’t be afraid to ask to speak through the ring steward in charge of your class if you have a question or concern. The judge may be willing to answer your questions at the end of the show.
- In an under-saddle class, keep yourself separated from the others and avoid any potential crowding. Don’t make small circles, and never circle too close to the judge or steward. Use the whole ring. When it’s time to line up, leave enough space between yourself and the other horses and riders.
- If your horse becomes disruptive, excuse yourself from the ring with the permission of the ring steward or judge and try again later. If your horse is misbehaving and you’re asked to leave the ring, do so immediately so no one gets hurt.
- When it comes to showing, be prepared for occasional disappointments or frustration. When dealing with animals, nothing is ever 100% certain. Whatever happens, never take your frustration out on your horse, your parents, or those around you.
- Show respect for every judge, show secretary, and volunteer; they are all working hard to give you a chance to compete with your horse. Do not speak unkindly about other competitors; instead, practice the “Thumper principle.” Thumper was the rabbit in Walt Disney’s Bambi, and his father gave him this wise piece of advice: “If you can’t say something “nice, don’t say nothing” at all.”