Tips for Summer Horse Show Ring Success from Samantha Osborne 

As the summer season is just around the corner, as horse owners our attention starts to turn towards probably as horse lovers our favourite activity; horse shows. If you are planning on competing at horse shows this summer, you might feel nervous or under prepared. It might be your first show or your one hundredth, but these handy tips, will make sure that everything runs smoothly and you and your horse bring that rosette or cup home!

2-minute read

Aspiring Amateurs: Sponsorship Vs Home-produced status

Amateur horse riders often feel the financial pinch as the season begins. After completing height certificates, renewing memberships and submitting entries, we soon see a dent in our bank balances. With limited opportunities if you have just one horse to compete, every class becomes important and we desire to have fun and be successful to justify the costs, time and sacrifices made.

Unlike professionals who can produce horses as amateurs attend a full time job, producers also have staff, multiple rides and competitive sponsorship packages. Some feel like it is an unlevel playing field but sometimes amateurs can achieve their dreams and give the professionals a run for their money - proving that hard work can lead to top results.

Recognising the passion and determination of home-produced competitors, organisations have developed opportunities, for example, SEIB’s Search 4 a Star HOYS leagues are exclusive to amateur riders. However, working a full time non-equestrian job to self fund your hobby and stabling in DIY livery doesn’t always entitle you to be eligible for amateur classes. Recent rules restrict amateur status from being granted if an individual is a brand ambassador or a judge. It is therefore important to weigh up the value of a BA partnership or contributing to judging versus amateur eligibility as this can limit your class options.



Papaver Dior owned by Jodie Hooks - Photo by Equinational - photo displaying red browband and tie, clean horse for ring and corr.

Top Turnout Tips

Essentially this discipline is about achieving perfection in turnout, conformation, performance and breeding but ultimately the discipline is subjective.

Be aware that this year many shows have banned the trimming of whiskers.

All judges appreciate the hours of effort put into bathing and plaiting. It is always a delight to see an immaculate set of white feathers on a traditional or identically rolled plaits on a show pony.

Less is more when it comes to bling and many judges appreciate good fitting tack and traditional rider attire. Too much diamante and makeup can be distracting but attention to detail is key to stand out in a crowd.

1. Brown tack is correct. Make sure your saddle and stirrup leathers are a suitable size for a ride judge. Ensure your bridle is complete with a curb chain and lip strap if necessary.
2. Red is a popular and attractive colour when selecting browbands and ties. It looks classic and professional. Complete the look with a tie and collar pin.
3. Secure your hair with a bun net and don’t forget to remove piercings before entering the ring. It is also correct to: wear gloves, carry a suitable length cane and have straight topped boots with garter straps in adult/ horse classes.
4. Practise creating quarters markers appropriate for the class. Sloping markers make quarters look weak so keep them level.
5. If possible, plait with waxed thread on the morning of the show. Not only will your horse remain comfortable wearing plaits for a reduced time but plaits will not have a fluffy appearance from being in for too long. A well pulled mane and tail is superior to a shaved look.

First Impressions Count

Many of us have had an extended break from the ring following Covid. It is expected to feel a little rusty and anxious about returning to the show ring.

Remember to enter the ring on your right rein in a space away from others to allow the judge to have time to observe you as you pass their viewing range. Remind yourself to smile and breathe! When asked to trot, be careful not to rush the horse when trying to showcase its best movement and when cantering, allow the horse to cover the ground and not appear stilted when attempting to achieve collection.

When presenting for an individual display, stand 2-3m away from the judge so that the full picture can be assessed. Always be formal when addressing a judge and do your homework on your horse’s history (especially in retrained racehorse classes) in case you’re questioned. It is more impressive to execute a simple show accurately than to produce wonky reinbacks in an attempt to perform uniquely. Always end the show with a square halt and salute with the hand nearest to your judge.  


Stevey's Lad at HOYS - amateurs showing at top level - home produced to be 7th and 9th in the R2R final - Photo by E S Photography

Practise makes Perfect

Accept invitations to steward to gain insight of what a judge experiences in comparison to a spectator. It is educational to spectate at shows to learn from experienced showing stars.

Invest in tuition, clinics and demonstrations to enhance your knowledge.

Prioritise your mindset and fitness alongside your horse’s fitness and education. You are a partnership!

Keep your horse’s regime varied so that they sparkle in the ring. Allowing them to become accustomed to galloping in an open field will build confidence on different grounds and lower the risk of them getting over excited when galloping in an electric atmosphere on show day.

Make time to look at your horse’s physique and make adjustments to your regime to gain maximum results. We have access to top quality nutrition, supplements and healthcare so that our competition horses can bloom and dazzle all year round. Your horse needs to look impressive when presented without tack for conformation as well as when ridden. Videoing your schooling at home can be an effective method of evaluating how your horse looks as well as how it feels.


Stilo Blue Native - example of inhand showing attire plus showing brown tack on grey horse. Photo by Chameleon Photography

There is always another day…

We all take the best horse home at the end of the day. Reflect on positive aspects of your journey and set SMART targets to encourage further progression. Everyone has to start somewhere and we must run our own race.

Good luck!

Samantha Osborne

Instagram handle - @samanthaosbornequestrian
Website - samanthaosborneequestrian.weebly.com