Show Tips from Blue-Ribbon Riders

Three veteran exhibitors share the strategies that help them excel in the show ring.
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Sharnai Thompson: Establish rapport | Photo courtesy of the American Quarter Horse Journal

Sharnai Thompson: Establish rapport | Photo courtesy of the American Quarter Horse Journal

Rider: Sharnai Thompson of Myrtle Beach, S.C., who competes on the Quarter Horse circuit and in reining and Western pleasure events. She trains with Charlie Cole, Jason Martin, and Beth Case in Pilot Point, Texas, and Todd Crawford in Blanchard, Okla.

Tip: "Work to develop a genuine rapport with your horse. If you believe in him, that will give you confidence in your ride, which will be apparent to the judges. This is especially important when you're showing a young horse, because it will develop the youngster's confidence, as well.

"To encourage rapport, take the time and have the patience to teach your horse exactly what you want of him, and don't expect perfection every time. If you do, you'll be more likely to get a pleasant, correct response again and again."

Rider: Carol Dotta of Grand Junction, Colo., (no photo available) who competes in reining and reined cow horse events on her Quarter Horse mare, Sail On Sweet Josie. Carol rides with Aaron Ralston of Silt, Colo.

Tip: "In your practice at home, simulate being at the show by having someone sit in a 'judge's chair' and watch you closely as you ride your pattern.

"At the show, if possible, linger in the main arena as much as you can before classes begin to give your horse a chance to relax and feel more at home there. If there's no access to the main arena, enter a schooling class before your 'main event' to get your horse as acclimated as possible."

Tiina Volmer: Always

Tiina Volmer: Always

Rider: Tiina Volmer, who competes on the Quarter Horse circuit in a variety of classes with her gelding, Ima Moxie Man. Tiina trains with Robin and Jenny Frid of Denton, Texas.

Tip: "To perfect your showmanship skills, set your horse up every time you take him out of his stall or pen. Whether I'm going to saddle up and ride, or take my horse to the wash rack for a bath--or whatever-I take a few moments to square him up and make him stand.

"That way, setting up becomes second nature to both of us, making it easier on both of us, plus more effortlessly polished when we do it in the show pen."

Tip: "In your practice at home, simulate being at the show by having someone sit in a 'judge's chair' and watch you closely as you ride your pattern.

For more great blue-ribbon tips, see "Secrets of Blue-Ribbon Riders" in the April 2010 issue of Horse & Rider. To order a copy of this issue or other back issues, call 877-717-8928.

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