Feeling the pressure of the spotlight when you enter the ring? Suffering sleepless nights worrying about the beady eye of that critical show judge? We all know that good looks alone won't win you the coveted prize you have been practising for every night for the past three months. The difference between winning and losing rests on your animal...and it's mood!
From the second an animal enters the ring, its performance is under close scrutiny. Sometimes, it is the only way to make a brown hunter, chestnut show pony or black native stand out from the crowd.
“Too often, the way of going is manufactured, resulting in ponies that are uncomfortable in the position they are expected to work,” warns leading pony judge Robert Parker-Jones.
“If they have good conformation, they need very little artificial production and, if left alone, they will perform well.
“Those with less-than-perfect conformation can be improved if ridden in a sympathetic and correct way.”
When it comes to way of going, each judge knows exactly what he or she wants to see, and what they don’t.
Here, 5 judges share their pet hates:
1. “An animal ambling into the arena looking disinterested, ears back, swishing its tail and giving the impression that it does not want to be there.” Tim Wiggett
2. “Welsh ponies — particularly cobs — being forced into unnaturally fast trots. They are invariably being put out of their natural rhythm, over bent, on their forehand and making a noise due to their windpipe being so constricted.” Rachel Bown
3. “Ponies rushing round the ring; overbent animals struggling for their heads; hurried transitions; overcollection in the walk, a running trot with no engagement of the hindlegs; canter overcollected and too slow, and ponies not lowering and lengthening the stride in gallop.” Robert Parker-Jones
4. “Connemaras — or any M&M — being asked to do a hack show.” Joanna MacInnes
5. “Overbent horses that are behind the bridle and behind the leg.” Richard Ramsay