Following on from our ‘A beginner’s guide to eventing’ blog we thought we’d find out a little more about the world of showing. We caught up with showing expert Sofie Carter to find out what it takes to become a champion…
Sofie is an amateur and home-produced show rider based in Hertfordshire. Sofie began her showing career competing ponies at local shows and has worked her way up to competing several horses at Royal International and Horse of The Year Show. Sofie balances competing her horses with a full-time job in London and in addition to competing, enjoys judging and organising shows.
Sometimes showing can be seen to be the more daunting equestrian discipline but I think that is often because people are not always sure how or where to start on their showing journey or how to then move up through the levels.
Showing is not as scary as people like to make out. Judges want you to enjoy your day out and advice is only to help you improve not to criticise and make you feel like you never want to show again. The best advice is to listen to each judge, go home and practice then each time you enter the ring your confidence will build, and you will see the returns in your results.
The first hurdle is knowing what class to enter and at local shows it can be difficult. A lot of the time there are lots of people in the same boat which can mean you get a mix of types in the class.
There are the classes that are what they say on the tin – coloured, veteran, retrained racehorses etc but then there is also the ridden horse, ridden hunter and working hunter classes which are often the ones that you will continue to see as you work up through the levels. You may hunt your cob but this doesn’t mean in correct showing terms that it is a hunter or you may have a foreign breed which at local level is fine to show as a riding horse but at affiliated level you will most likely be the only one in the class. Understanding the category your horse or pony should compete is crucial if you want to step up the levels as each class also has different turnout expectations – it isn’t quite as simple as being the right height for the class as it is in show jumping your horse must also be of a certain confirmation and type.
In showing there is not a rule of what moves you up to the next level. It is all to do with your own confidence and ambition. Whilst competing at county shows I often come across those who have made the step up from local showing straight into Royal International or Horse of the Year Show qualifying classes and are now feeling disheartened as they are not getting the results they had hoped for. There are many levels in between local and affiliated showing which are great to get yourself and your horse familiar with the new discipline. For example, in ridden classes at the affiliated level your horse will be ridden by a judge, and this is something you must train for.
A good way to gain this experience is to look for local shows that have classes which qualify you for championship classes at Equifest, Sunshine Tour and Trailblazers etc. These classes usually draw in a better quality of horse which will allow you to see how your horse compares. The judges will also be more experienced which will help you decide which class is most suitable for your horse and finally, you’ll also have an exciting championship to aim for.
Once you have established yourself and feel confident at these shows you could try a few affiliated society classes such a British Show Horse Association – Hacks, Cobs. Riding Horses, SHGB – Hunter, British Show Pony Society – Ponies and Mountain and Moorland, NPS – Ponies and Mountain and Moorland. There are many more, but these are the most popular. These societies run Royal International and Horse of the Year qualifiers, but they also have some great novice, amateur, home produced and open classes which are not. The quality of animal in these classes often steps up again and you will find a mixture of people who have been showing for years and those who are still new to it all.
It is at this stage that you may again some across another learning hurdle as you compete against people who are more familiar with the types and confirmation suited for each class. If you ask the judge if they think you are in the right class they will be able to advise you. It could be something as easy as changing your turnout or you would be better suited to being in a different class.
And from here you reach the top of the showing game Royal International and Horse of the Year qualifiers ran by the societies mentioned above. In these classes you will find the crème de la crème! Top horses, riders and professionals who have been targeting these qualifier classes throughout the season. Although this may seem a long way off or maybe a level you have no desire to reach after a bit of practise and confidence building at the lower level there is no reason why anyone who competes for fun, has a full-time job and is juggling family commitments cannot compete at the higher levels.
Thank you to Sofie for giving us a whistle stop tour of showing and the different levels of competition to target. If you would like to find out more about the discipline including a calendar of events and qualifiers, we recommend you visit The British Showing Association website.