Three Tips to Improve Your Show Season

Three tips to improving your show season

Over the last number of years that I have been judging a number of local shows. Local shows, in my opinion are the base of any rider’s competition experience, and thus a very important learning opportunity for those new to showing and hoping to continue from there. It’s a place where riders can learn the rules, the unwritten rules and some of the expectations that riders will experience in the larger shows. Below I’ve written three tips to improve your experience at the local shows and help your placings.

Know your class descriptions & the rules – Each club has its own set of rules of what is allowed and not allowed. A majority of the local shows follow Horse Council rules. Most rules can be found online and you can read them before each show.

Each class in a horse show has different things they are looking for. The difference between Show Hack and English Pleasure for example.  In English Pleasure a judge in its simplest form is looking for the horse they would most enjoy riding. A pleasure horse is a horse that responses to aids, is not too fast as well as not slow, has smooth gaits. What you probably didn’t know is that your pleasure horse is also judged on manners and confirmation. Show Hack is looking for a horse with good gait transitions including both extended and collected gaits and dressage or upright movement. Knowing your horse’s strengths and the class descriptions should allow you to selectively choose which classes to enter so you can prepare for those classes.

Show pride in your turnout – When I was a child showing at Quarter Horse and Arab shows. We used to spend almost as long getting our horse ready for the show then we did actually showing. One thing that is missing from the local show arena is the pride in the turnout of the riders as well as the horses. If you are showing on the flat, paint your horse’s feet, pull that mane, trim those whiskers and tail, and most importantly come in clean. Just last weekend I was at a show judging Showmanship, a class where turnout is very much key and at least 50% of horses had dirt under their belly, between their back legs or between there front legs.

As an exhibitor, tuck that shirt in, hairnet in your hair, clean that helmet and polish those boots. Pack a bucket around the show with you with rags, cleaner, something for green slobber and dirt off those boots. And most importantly have attire that fits. A show shirt can easily be purchased second hand and then tailored to fit.  Attire does not need to be new its has to be tidy and workmanlike. Gloves are essential in your classes; it completes the entire picture. A well put together exhibitor, shows confidence and professionalism and also shows that you take showing seriously and respect the sport.

Respect the judge and the show volunteers

Local shows are run mostly on volunteers and sometimes the judge isn’t even paid. Respect them by being organized, at the ring gate on time and with your number showing and a smile on your face. Judges should not be approached outside the ring for results clarification, finding out what class is in the ring or what is allowed. If you have a question for the judge it is best to approach the show office.

A mentor of mine once told me showing is a privilege not a right. I try to keep that in mind each time I enter the ring. Enjoy the local shows, appreciate the volunteers, respect the judges and do your homework – and lastly enjoy showing.


Alicia Harper is a coach and trainer specializing in Hunters and Fox Hunters. She is now accepting clients into her training program. Visit to get in touch with her.


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