Judge’s First Impressions In The Show Ring

The performance starts when you enter the ring! First impressions are extremely important. We have about two and a half minutes to decide where you fit in our “forced rankings” compared to your competitors .  When you come into the ring show us the best  of you and your horse.

If you’re using an opening circle make it big enough to help you establish the pace  you want to carry for your whole trip. Pace is a huge factor in judging both the hunters and Equitation. A large part of your score is based on how smooth and even your pace is  and what track you take.

There is a difference in what we expect to see from a hunter versus an equitation round. In the hunters if your horse or pony is a good mover at the trot then, by all means, trot a bit to show it off. If you have an average trot  or a not so good trot then walk a few steps and step into the canter. For equitation classes over fences or medal rounds it’s not necessary to start with sitting the trot. If you happen to sit the trot WELL and can get your jumping pace before the first jump then, okay, show it off. It won’t add to your score but we use it as a separator.  If it is not a stellar sitting trot then it will detract from your overall score.

Your pace in the Hunters should be consistent and your track should use the whole arena. Use the corners and don’t shave your turns. In your Eq. rounds and medals your pace also wants to be consistent but with more impulsion and connection than a hunter round. Plan out an efficient track that shows off your riding skills. There are risks involved in riding directly to your first fence. A bad first fence will spoil your entire trip. Should you opt to ride directly to the first fence make sure you have enough “horse” (read that as impulsion) to have a good first fence. Sometimes there are better places on course to impress us with your riding skills.

Part of Horse Showing is “turn out”. If, when you walk into the ring, we think to ourselves “This one looks like it might be a winner”  you are already influencing your score. If your horse has shavings in its tail , the keepers on your bridle are loose or your boots are unpolished then we wonder how serious you are about showing. Proper turnout is something everyone can control. It is  such a simple way to influence our first impression!

Remember when you enter the ring we are looking for our winner. Come in looking the part, start with a good plan for your track and your pace, and you will wow us.

Cathy Robinson, R Judge
Treasurer of GSDHJA
Rider, trainer, judge

James Waldmen, r judge
Owner of Quail Haven Farms, Bonsall
Vice President of GSDHJA
Rider, trainer, judge

What questions do you have for our judges? Comment below for our next feature on hunter/jumper judging and be ready to rock the show ring.

  1. Thank you for sharing… good advice. I guess I should start focusing on my 8 year olds appearance in the ring as opposed to her riding ability?

    1. Hi Suzanne! While turnout is an important part of first impressions (but it’s more about care and attention to detail than it is ‘looks’), most of the tips on first impressions in the hunter and eq rings from these two awesome judges are about proper pacing, the best way to enter the ring, ideal track, etc. While riding ability and horsemanship is #1 in any ring, we just want to give our ammys a little extra edge by getting into the minds of judges. Our site is dedicated to amateur riders (non-pro adults over the age of 17) who we think will benefit from this info. For an 8 year old, just having fun, practicing good sportsmanship, building confidence, and creating a relationship with the horse or pony are absolutely the most important things! We’re sure your little rider is on the right track and is focusing on the right elements for this time in her riding.

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