The Three Rookie Mistakes You Have to Avoid When Entering the Show Ring June 15 2015 1 Comment

Let’s face it, if you have a show horse, the moment you step through the in-gate your horse is going to be P-U-M-P-E-D pumped!  The roar of the crowd, the sweet, sweet organ music, the smell of fresh shavings - the things all of us equestrians live for (organ music being an accidental addiction fueled only by the fact that it is inexplicably played at EVERY horse show and therefore gives us that horse show feeling). The thing is, our horses live for it too, that’s why they are called “Show Horses!”

The problem that is, the adrenaline that hits you when you’re heading into your class hits your horse too. As a result, far foo many riders end up entering the ring at the canter, or basically any gait that is NOT a trot! While the judges aren't able to base their scores on events seen before the gate is closed, it is undeniable that they will be looking for mistakes when the class is called to order. SO here are the three common mistakes made while entering the ring, and how to avoid them.

Steering to the right

While this sounds simple, I guarantee you’ve heard your trainer screaming behind you “STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE!!!!” as they run along side you into the ring. The reason they're screaming at you is that if you head into the ring and immediately take a sharp turn to the right to suck yourself up onto the rail (which will likely just cause you to get covered up by all the other horses already in the ring or entering the ring) you’re going to unbalance your horse and fundamentally throw them into a canter.

Horses are not small animals, and a lot of riding a horse well is helping them find balance and squareness in all of their gaits. Asking them to take a sharp turn to the right when they are full steam ahead going into the ring, adrenaline pumping and ready to show off is a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider doing what your trainer says and go straight down the middle! If you are early in the ring, tunnel your horse right between your legs and march with a deep angle down into the far turn. Not only will your horse freaking love the feeling of it, but it will position you to be FAR away from the other competitors and more able to see who is coming in where so you can plan your next pass.

Posting through a break

If your horse is notorious for breaking coming into the ring, don’t continue to post as you come in (unless this is an equitation class - in which case, consider entering at a slower pace just to get IN the ring at the right gait. Those intermittent moments during your posting trot where your butt is out of the saddle are moments that make it very easy for your horse to wiggle and wobble underneath you. There’s a reason a lot of trainers just sit the trot through a turn with a horse that’s got a serious motor. That contact and the feel of your butt bouncing on their back actually assures the horse that trotting is what they are supposed to be doing!

Keeping with the pack

Sometimes when you enter the ring late in a big class, you can’t help but be dragged into the gravitational pull of the wolf pack cutting the corner in front of the pleasant looking ring master in a funny hat, waving his arms and pointing a finger directing them to “beware of oncoming traffic.” There is little to nothing you can do about getting covered up on your entrance, but what you can do is get OUT of there once you have entered!  More often than not, if you are stuck in a wolf pack, your best bet is to head deep into the far turn and downshift a gear till they pass by and, depending on whether or not there are people coming up fast behind you, either cut the turn to get out there before you get covered up again or take the straight away solo in your brand new, lone-wolf spot!

Have any tips for how to make a clean entrance in the show ring?  Let us know in the comments down below and happy riding!