There are loads of in hand classes. Some riding clubs just have basic sections such as horse or pony, others have everything from young stock, to veteran, to mountain and moorland classes. Obviously unless you have a specific breed you can’t enter it for certain classes but usually there’s a least one at every decent show you can compete in.
Why Do It?
It’s really nice to show your horse off, it’s a different skill to riding and good show experience for you and your horse. Before I started riding my horse in competitions I took him in hand – it was all very exciting for him and to start with he was very naughty but it gave him a great chance to go to different places and get used to the ring and I didn’t have to worry that he would get so excited he would chuck me off.
What To Wear
In my experience it’s pretty flexible. I tend to wear a pair of smart beige trousers, my brown jodhpur boots, white shirt, blue tie, blue silk waistcoat, riding gloves and my riding helmet. At many places, such as showing at county level you aren’t require to wear a helmet but I tend to anyway, it’s safer than an ordinary hat and also makes my head/hair look tidy. At local riding club level between classes I’ve also been known to do the class wearing by riding coat and jodphurs etc – there’s never been a problem with this at this level.
The horse just needs a decent bridle. Some people get show bridles and strictly it is the etiquette, but I’ve always shown mine in their cleaned everyday bridle. I do tend though to take the reins off and use a leather show lead with a chain at the top to lead the horse.
What You Need To Do
You need to get your horse looking as clean as humanly possible before and on show day. I also tend to warm my horse up a bit my practising my show before I go in the ring – this basically means having a run round a bit and getting him listening to me!
The ring steward will let you in the ring. Some show people will tell you to really choose your place – again I don’t believe this makes much difference. The only thing I would say is if like I’ve done at times you’re in pony class with a 14.2 forward going horse and a tiny little Shetland is also taking part get in front of them, it saves having to overtake when I the ring.
The horse will be on the right rein for most of the time – you leading him on the outside of the ring, this allows the judge the best view of your animal.
The judge will ask you to walk round the ring – some judges will make you do this for ages. The steward will then stop you, usually in a queue up to the corner of the ring. One by one you will be required to run with your horse in trot around half if not all of the arena. When that’s done all of you will walk round again. At this point you will be pulled into a line up – sometimes this is any old how, sometimes you will be pulled in in an initial order going from left to right.
One by one the judge will ask you to bring you horse forward. He or she may ask you some questions such as how old the horse is, breed and what you do with him. My advice would be to try and be as friendly as possible. Say good morning or hello when first pulled out and try and smile! Whilst the judge is asking these questions you really need to get your horse to be standing square – this is where the judge will have a good look at it’s conformation so if you have a fidget bum of an animal you will need to practice. When they’ve seen enough they will ask you to walk away from them turning to the right at a set point (usually the end of the ring) and then trot back. Don’t be put off if the judge is stood in front of you – just keep going, they will move and you need to trust that they’re stood exactly where they want to be to judge the animal.
When everyone’s been judged individually you will then be asked to walk around the ring again while the judge makes his mind up. Then the judge will pull you in in the order of placing, ie the first competitor gets pulled in first. When all the rosettes have been handed out you’re then encouraged to run round the ring again to do a lap of honour.
I believe in hand judges like to see flashy horses. They like to see it moving forward, much more so than if you were riding it, they don’t want to see it canter though so you will need to judge it. You will also need a lot of puff for these classes – I only have little legs and have to run like mad to keep up!
Don’t get too upset if the judge doesn’t like you horse. Show judging is very subjective and beauty always in the eye of the beholder.