Written by: Jessica Lefroy

How to show like a professional.

Thumbnail for Erynn Ballard on How To Show Like a Pro

Ben Radvanyi Photo

Consummate professional Erynn Ballard offers advice on how to show like a pro while looking and feeling like a champion in the ring.

1. Presentation

“That includes presentation of yourself as a rider, presentation of your horse and presentation of your barn. Clean your boots, wear clean clothes, clean your horse and your tack and keep your barn aisle neat and tidy. When you walk into the ring, the first thing people notice is how you look. I like to watch what the people I admire look like. Everything is clean and polished and fits. If you want to be like McLain or Beezie, why wouldn’t you start by at least looking like them and paying the same attention to detail in your own turnout and presentation? I like black polos, black boots, brown reins. Nothing white except for a classic white saddle pad that has to be clean!”

2. Tack

“Tack needs to fit properly. Bridles need to fit the horse, and saddles need to fit the rider and the horse. I like a bit of sparkle; a little pink or a little bling never killed anyone, but it has to look good. In my barn, every horse come to the ring looking the same: Dyon bridles and Voltaire saddles, girths, and breastplates. My turnout is a part of my brand as a professional: when my horses walk into the ring, everyone should know they are mine.”

3. Keep your Cool

“A temper has no place around horses – in the barn, the schooling ring, or at the horse show. I have zero patience for watching someone jerk and kick a horse; it is always unacceptable. Horses give us so much and in return ask for patience and kindness. If someone is showing attitude in the ring, imagine what is happening behind the scenes. Fix your problems at home with patience and good training, not in public with temper and attitude. No matter what your result, pet your horse and walk out of the ring. The same goes for riders who yell at their staff. If you have a problem, do not deal with it at the ring. I see professionals taking their temper out on staff all the time and that does nothing to contribute to the environment that is necessary in a winning program. We need teamwork between rider, horse, and the behind-the-scenes team.”

4. Perfect Position

“In all aspects of riding, a correct position is your base. Classic and effective position is important at any stage of the game. You should never get to a point where you can take anything for granted – not your position, your horse, or the level you jump at. You have to manage yourself, your fitness, your horse’s fitness, and never get complacent.”

5. Die Trying

“Give it 100 per cent every time you walk in the ring. To always have a time fault or always skip the inside turn in the jump-off is always giving someone a chance to beat you. At some point you have to give it all you’ve got to be a competitor. It’s a skill that’s nearly impossible to teach; in fact, it might be the toughest thing to manage as a trainer. Sometimes it has to do with fear of going too fast, fear of making a mistake, etc. If you pay your entries, you should feel like you have a chance to win, so don’t over-face yourself or your horse. Show where you are the most brave and confident and give yourself the best chance of success.”