What the Judge Is Looking For – Turnout Matters

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Turn Out Does Matter

As the old saying goes ‘you have one chance to make a first impression’. When you enter the arena at a hunter show, you are being judged the moment you set foot into the ring. When you present yourself as a show ring hunter the judge will judge you as a show ring hunter. If you present yourself as someone who is there to train and get mileage, then the judge will assess you accordingly.

To understand what is required for showing attend a few of the local, regional or national level shows. Here you will see all levels of turnout. Notice how the seasoned competitors, no matter the weather and the class, will show respect to the judge, the organizers and the sponsor by having their horse turned out properly.

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A well braided mane can turn an 'ugly duckling' into a show ring competitor

A proper turnout means being, clean, neat and tidy. Equipment, clothing and turn out need not be brand new. And in the case of tack, should not be brand new. But it should be clean and in good repair. Dirty breeches, boots and equipment with missing bits or in poor repair have no place in the show ring.

Why is TurnOut Important

The quality of turnout is a reflection of the care you put in to how you perceive the show. At any level of show you can see both extremes of scale. Some riders over dressed for a schooling round or worse some riders being underdressed for an important class.

Other reasons for good turn out, is a well turned out horse can turn an ‘ugly duckling’ into an elegant ‘swan’. An otherwise ordinary competitor can gain valuable appeal with a properly braided mane and a tail that shows off the horse’s performance. Likewise, if you are not turned out properly, bad points of the round become glaring errors that are hard to recover from.

Turn out does matter from a well groomed coat to a quick oiling of the hooves before going into the ring. It sets the tone for the whole ride and leaves a ‘good taste’ in the judge’s mouth.

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Show Preparation – Bathe That Horse

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Give your horse a bath

It is spring and with it comes horses that are shedding. The show season is ramping up and getting your horse clean and clipped is a priority for the competiton ring. If your horse is like mine they seem to get covered in manure stains over night. Those of you with grey horses, pintos or horses with white markings no amount of brushing will remove the dirt and you may be left with no other alternative to bathing the morning of the show. Nothing turns off a judge more than a dirty horse in the show ring. So, before you braid that mane give your horse a much needed bath.

Get your horse clean – What you need

There are many products available to shampoo and clean your horse but getting a show ring shine isn’t as hard as people may think. With a little elbow grease a run of the mill bay can turn into an A circuit coat.

What you need

  • Buckets 1 for soapy water and 1 for clean water. Some people like to use a hose to spray off a horse but it isn’t necessary.
  • Sponges – 1 for soap and 1 for clean water
  • Hoof oil

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    Rinse your horse well

  • Shampoo
  • Scraper
  • Towels

Getting Started

Before beginning paint the horse’s feet with oil or your favourite hoof treatment to prevent them from drying out from the soap. Bathing can dry the hooves leaving them dry and brittle.

Starting at the left side near the neck. Soak down the neck and shoulder with warm, clear water. Alternatively, spray the horse with appropriate temperature, warm, water from a hose with a ‘shower’ nozzle attachment. Continue along the shoulder and back.

While wet apply a small amount of shampoo to a dampened sponge. Apply the sudsy sponge in circular motions to the wet areas of the horse. If there are stained areas use a gentle scrubbing action with a rubber or plastic curry comb or rubber scrubbing mitt. Creative Commons License photo credit: bcgrote

While washing pay particular attention to the elbows and stomach area. Continue down the legs and use a rubber mitt to remove dirt. Make sure to check areas for any lumps bumps or cuts.

Before the soap is dry, rinse the suds off with clean sponge , warm water either from a bucket or spray shower nozzle and hose. Repeat over the horse’s loins and quarters then repeat on the right hand side of the horse.

To add a bloom to the coat add a 1/4 cup of cider vinegar to the rinse water. This will cut any grease and help remove any soap from the coat. As an added bonus it will help keep flies away.

There are many products to choose from for bathing, but the process is the same you:

  • Wet down the horse
    Using a hose with a shower nozzle on the ‘sprinkle’ setting wet the horse all over with appropriately warm water. Alternatively, and in the name of water conservation, use a bucket and sponge to soak the horse.
  • Apply Shampoo
  • Rinse

If your horse has white areas sprinkle corn starch or baby talcum powder on the area. This will brighten and lighten the areas making them look whiter and brighter. Once the areas are dry take a soft bristled, clean, dry brush and brush the dried corn starch/talcum powder away. The white areas will be noticeably cleaner and whiter.

There are also shampooing products that can be purchased from tack shops and drug stores to help maintain the colour of the hair. Bleaches should be avoided as over use will deteriorate the quality of the hair and often turns hairs a dull yellow colour.

For emmergency clean ups try baby wipes that can be used for quick fixes of grass stains in between classes.

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Hunter Under Saddle – The Walk

A well established walk that is free and reaching will win you points in the dressage ring as well as in the hunter and hack divisions.
To tell that a horse is walking properly it’s hind hooves should step infront of the hoof prints that the front feet have made.

To help show you this, take a look at this quick video I made:

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Equitation Tips – What the Judge is Looking For

Get some tips and improve your position with these insights from a Senior Judge.

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Amusing Hunter Short Hand Notes

This was sent to me by a friend. Some Hunter Judge’s Shorthand.Hunter Judge short Hand
Creative Commons License photo credit: queered

IHOP(International House Of Pancakes)
A horse that jumps as flat as a pancake

CIA(Chair in the air)
Rider is Left behind over a jump

TYT(take your time)
A rider who takes a leisurely tour of the ring before first jump

VGR(very good rider)
A mediocre horse piloted by excellent rider

SM(stairmaster)
Poor mover with lots of knee movement

HP(Hunt Print)
A rider badly left behind over a jump(as often seen in old- fashioned hunt prints)

N/S N/S(no stride, no scope)

911(emergency)
A frightening jump that had both the judge and rider gaspingHunter judge short hand, hunter judge notes,
Creative Commons License photo credit: gafiretrucks

GGH(gave me a grey hair)
A scary round that made judge worried for horse and/or rider

VP(valet parking)
too deep to the jump

DOA(dead on arrival)
Chipped the first jump

PS(power steering)
rider not steering properly, does not jump middle of jump

WR(wrong ring)
horse better suited for jumper ring

HA(hideous attire)hunter judge notes, hunter judge canada, hunter judge USA,
Creative Commons License photo credit: 416style

NNR(needs new rider)

NNT(needs new trainer)
a rider whose trainer is yelling from gate

R@G(run and gun)
A rider who sees a distance to late and then makes the big move

NAPP(not a pretty picture)
horse/rider don’t look good together

OOC(out of control)

Cargometro & 6004 Takargo Castellbisbal
Creative Commons License photo credit: eldelinuxLFT(late for train)
horse is running or is too strong

MAP(roadmap)rider took creative path to jump

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Just checking to see where this goes!

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Equitation – What the Judge is Looking For

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Do 5 minutes of exercises every ride

When riding in the show ring your equitation will count. Even in classes that equitation is not being judged, how you ride and show a horse will help identify your horse as a show ring winner. Take for example a novice rider that noticably pulls on the reins to slow the horse down. What the judge may see is a horse that is opening its mouth and a rider that cannot slow the horse down. Contrast this to a skilled equitation rider that can use their body and well executed half halts to seamlessy slow the horse’s gait. Having the equitation skills will help show a horse.

A correctly ridden horse will be shown to its maximum potential. A good horse that is well ridden can often win over a superior horse that is poorly ridden. This is because a well rounded and experienced rider can develop and show the horse to its best advantage. A rider with less experience may not be able to apply the necessary aids to show the horse correctly.

To become a better rider you have to have a good base. Most of us have all the tools to become a good rider in our first year of riding. Sit with your seat in the deepest part of the saddle, legs are hanging down and relaxed at the horses sides. The joints of the hip knee and ankle are supple with the stirrup resting comfortably on the balls of the feet.

The upper body is straight with the arms hanging relaxed at your sides. Elbows are relaxed and bent at approximately 90degree angle. Important that the elbows are relaxed to absorb the movement of the horse and thereby keeping your hands still.

Independent seat

To improve your position your separate body parts have to move independently from each other. Your left arm has to be independent from your right arm and your left leg. When you have tension in part of your body it will influence your horse. You must be able to use one part of your body without causing tension in the rest of your position.

Some Exercises to Improve

hunter judge usa, hunter judge canada, what the judge is looking forEach time you ride dedicate a portion of your ride to improving your position. Take 5 minutes at the beginning of your ride to develop your seat and legs. As you ride incorporate position corrections into your ride. It may be as simple as doing a few toe touches or more challenging work like riding without stirrups.

Heels down

To help deepen your heels try these exercises.

  • Balance in your two-point or jumping position at the halt, walk, trot and canter. Be sure that you are not leaning on the horse’s neck or worse, using the reins and the horse’s mouth or reins for balance.If you need to develop your deep heel try this exercise. Place the ball of your foot onto the bottom step of a set of stairs or edge of the mounting block. While balancing on the ball of your feet stretch down your heels towards the ground and pull your toes up. you should feel a stretch through your achillies tendon and calf muscles.

Toe Touches

  • While sitting on your horse, gently slide your hand down your thigh to reach down to touch your toe. As you do this concentrate on keeping your heels in the correct position. Most people, when they do this exercise, allow their legs to slip back. Keep your heels down and press them forward. As you reach down and forward with your right hand to touch your right toe, pay close attention that your left leg remains still. As you lean forward to touch your toe, stretch your heels down and forward to keep your legs still.
  • Another good exercise to develop a secure independant leg is reaching forward to touch your horses ears. While sitting on your horse, gently slide your hand up the horses neck toward the horses ears. As you do this concentrate on keeping your heels in the correct position. Most people when they do this exercise allow their legs to slip back. Keep your heels down and press them forward. As you reach forward stretch your heels down and forward to keep your legs still.

Broken wrists

  • We’ve all seen riders with broken wrists. Whether you cock them in or bulge them out this shows stiffness in your hands that should be addressed. Here is a simple solution, ride with a riding crop under your thumbs. Hold your reins properly and how a riding crop with your thumbs so it is parallel with the ground. This will stop broken and stiff wrists.

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Do 5 minutes of exercises every ride

Equitation is important. If you dedicate some time to just your position your horse will thank you for it.

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Welcome to the Hunter Judge Website

Here we will discuss all things showing and help you get into the show ring and learn what the judge is looking for!

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