By: Jessica Lefroy

Learn how to put that extra ‘polish’ on your round with Bobbie Reber.

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Greg Gibson/Ben Radvanyi Photography

Bobbie Reber is a familiar face at horse shows throughout Canada and the US, having coached students for over 30 years. She operates Reber Ridge Stables at Milner Downs in Langley, BC, is a Level III coach and an international hunter and equitation judge.

Turnout of horse and rider is of utmost importance in any show ring, but especially so in the equitation classes, where trends and fads are pushed aside in favour of conservative, traditional attire. Riders should wear black gloves, polish their boots to a dazzling shine, and avoid the “bling” that has crept its way onto helmets and spurs. Saddle pads should be contoured to show off the leg, and a white shirt is a must.

Reber recognizes the influence of the European style in North American rings, and although she has come to accept some trends, she insists that hair must be kept neatly up in a hairnet. “I’ve just started to accept piping on the collars of show jackets,” she laughs, “but that’s about all I can handle. I prefer a plain silver stirrup, but I’m understanding the trend towards some of the more “jumper” tack, especially in the jumper medals. At the end of the day, a beautiful position that can ride the jumps is going to win.”

In a high-pressure situation such as a big equitation final, it is easy to let the course (and your competitors) rattle you by watching too many rounds before you ride. According to Reber, riders should trust their course walk and instincts, make a plan, and stick to it. “Watch enough rounds that you’re comfortable and you have a solid plan in your head,” she advises. “Don’t overdo the amount of rounds that you watch, because then you start to second-guess and overanalyze. You might discuss slight modifications to your track with your trainer, but stick to your plan.”

In the equitation ring, the judge’s focus is placed solely on the rider, so it helps to project an air of confidence. “When you walk in the ring, you have to have the confidence that you are the best turnedout, the best trained, the best mounted, and the best prepared,” says Reber. “As a judge, when the rider walks in and attacks – tells me that it’s their course – I love that.”

A big part of being confident is being prepared, so Bobbie advises bringing the horse show home. Study past equitation finals courses on YouTube, break them down, and set them up at home. This will help to develop not only confidence in your ability to navigate the course, but also eye control. “I want the rider to show me where they’re going with their eye,” explains Reber. “You need to become adjustable with your eye. Work on looking out of a corner and coming ahead, and looking out of a corner and adding.”

In the age-old debate of whether or not to sit the trot when entering the ring for an equitation class, Reber believes that unless it is specifically asked for, it is not necessary. “Unless you can sit the trot like Hilda Gurney, don’t. I believe riders should execute a nice posting trot, which is a good working trot and lets me know they’re ready to get to business on course.”

Equitation riders need to be able to answer the questions asked by the course designer and adjust their seat accordingly, not be frozen in one position. “I like an educated seat. Yes, there are moments on course when you need to be up galloping in a two-point, but you’re not going to be doing that on the way to a skinny or bounce when you need to have a closer seat and a deeper position. I want to see a variety of positions, because that’s what the course designer is asking for.”