by Kate Scorey
There is no denying that turnout for the show ring is a hot topic; what to wear or what not to wear and as the times change so do showing fashions. Showing an Exmoor pony is fairly simple and basic and we hope that the article below will help everyone from a showing first timer to a seasoned professional. With showing, we are all constantly learning and striving to improve.
As with everything, make sure you test any products on a small patch on your pony at least 48hrs before the show to make sure he/she doesn’t experience a reaction.
Preparation is key to getting the correct look in the show ring. There are very few ponies who can be dragged into a field and go on to be a supreme champion; it does happen, but this is few and far between.
A nice shiny coat will always get you noticed and this shine should come from within. A ‘bottled’ shine is very obvious to the trained eye and feeding correctly will get you a much deeper, natural shine which will highlight the variation of colours in the Exmoor’s coat. High fibre diets are vital to all native ponies and roughage should make up the majority of any diet, however my top feeding tip is to add a drop of oil or micronised linseed to a small, fibre based feed to produce a fantastic gleam to a coat. Remember to slowly introduce any new feeds and you will start to notice a different feel and look to the coat from as early as week, depending on when in the year you start feeding. On the lead up to the event, daily grooming will help bring the natural oils to the surface creating an outstanding shine.
Make sure you have your farrier out to trim and shape the feet accordingly, After the farrier has been we apply foot balm to help keep hooves healthy, but this is a personal preference.
Ridden or In hand?
Ridden showing and in hand showing are very different disciplines and as such will require different turnout, but one thing you must be sure of is clean, well fitting tack. Nothing looks worse than a lovely pony with a noseband that doesn’t fit or a saddle that bounces along – a pony will never perform to the best of it’s ability if it is uncomfortable. Havana coloured tack is traditional, but black is completely acceptable providing it fits.
If you are showing a pony under saddle., a standard hunter style bridle is most flattering to the traditional Exmoor head. If using a double bridle, or a Rugby pelham then a slip head will be required. A double bridle or a pelham will require a well fitting curb chain (leather & elastic covers are acceptable) and lip strap MUST be worn, The saddle should be matched with a brown or black girth (leather, synthetic or fabric) and. a small discreet numnah can be worn under the saddle; the colour of which should either match your pony or your tack.
In hand is different as the pony will be led from the ground. If your pony is ridden then it is acceptable to show in your ridden bridle; this makes things easier if there is little time to change tack over in between classes.
In hand bridles are built differently to their ridden counterparts; they have brass buckles and the noseband fits neatly into the cheek pieces. The bridle can be accompanied by a brass ringed in hand snaffle which are small, neat and flattering to the head. A brass chain (Single or Newmarket style) and leather leading rein are my personal recommendation as I find the leading rein, longer, stronger and gives a better look. If you wish to add to the style of the bridle, you can add brass rosettes onto either side of the browband.
If you horse is too young to be bitted or you choose not to use a bit, a simple leather filly slip will flatter the head with lovely brass buckles.. Traditionally, barren/brood mares and foals were shown in standard white halters and although not currently on trend,, it is still acceptable and something that I personally like to see.. Safety is key, so if you are unsure about how your pony may behave, always use a bridle with a bit.
Please remember a colt aged two years and older will need to be bitted in accordance with the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) rules. Although not currently part of the EPS rules, several other Societies, such as National Pony Society, also require colts & stallions to display a stallion badge on their bridles. Be sure to check the rules of any events you plan to attend.
Rider and Handler Turn Out
If the judge has made the effort to judge your class, you need to show that you have made just as much effort; it’s mutual respect. Although, the pony is what is being judged, it is very disappointing for a judge to see a stunning animal walking in the ring and the handler/rider looks like they have fallen out of bed,
The basics for showing in hand and ridden begin with a shirt and tie, the colours of which need to compliment each other. Don’t have the shirt too tight; you do not need to restrict your movement, showing is hard work and a shirt sticking to you isn’t a nice feeling. Gloves are also required to give the finishing touch, I recommend a brown or tan well fitting pair.
For ridden showing, you will require beige or cream jodhpurs and a good fitting tweed jacket, again this needs to compliment the rest of your attire as well as the pony, Velvet riding hats are traditional and can be a variety of colours and can be flattering to the overall picture, A professionally fitted hat that complies with current safety standards is vital; it doesn’t have to be expensive, but the one item i wouldn’t compromise on is the hat. You only have one head – protect it!
If you are a junior rider, jodphur boots are correct, complete with jodphur clips, Oxblood or brown coloured boots always look smart although black is also acceptable. If you are a senior you have the choice of long or short boots. I recommend that you see which looks best with your pony; there is no wrong or right boot to wear.
For in hand, you can either wear a tweed jacket or a waistcoat, (again it needs to compliment the rest of the attire), a light coloured pair of trousers and smart boots that are suitable for running in. The light coloured trousers help show your ponies legs when it is moving, dark coloured trousers tend to blend in and blur the movement. Juniors must wear a hard hat to show in-hand (14 years and under per Exmoor Pony Society rules) and seniors can decide between a hard hat, a flat cap or a stockman’s hat,
To finish the look for both disciplines, an outfit can be teamed up with a short cane, a tie pin and number elastic, everything needs to be neat and tidy and discreet. Exmoors are a very traditional breed so do not require several clashing colours to stand out. Let the ponies stand out for themselves.
In all cases make sure hair is tidy and tucked away. For those with long hair, a simple bun wrapped in a hair net, or plait will give a better impression than having it loose. Its all about complimenting you and the pony, your aim is to make the pony look the best it can.
You have the outfit, you have the pony. You have practiced what you are going to do in the ring. Now is time to add the final touches and this is where your hard work really pays off.
The day before the show is traditionally bathing day, I do know of some people that bath two days before the show because the coat looks better for that particular pony. Others, that don’t have water supply or if the weather is too cold to bath, spend the day before grooming. Either is acceptable providing the pony enters the ring CLEAN.
I use a range of shampoos, from Tesco Raspberry to Supreme Products High Shine, but the bathing method is always the same, it is long winded but I’ve found it gives the best results and the more you do it the quicker you get.
You will need shampoo and I recommend a ‘Magic brush’ – a plastic brush with stiff bristles that really goes deep into the coat. First wet the coat. use the tips of your fingers to massage the coat as you go, this will release any loose dirt, there is no point shampooing dirt you can easily remove first, it won’t clean the coat. Do this all over the pony before applying neat shampoo using the same method. I use approximately 3/4 a bottle of shampoo per Exmoor, this is why I tend to use the cheaper shampoo as I find it does the same job.
Once the shampoo has been applied, take the hose and wet the coat again, use your ‘Magic brush’ in circular motions to rub the soap in and create a lather, mane and tails will need to be done by hand to make sure you get in the roots.
Make sure all legs are washed, scrub the feet and make sure they are picked out and the soles are also scrubbed.
When rinsing make sure you remove ALL the soap. Start with the face and mane, work your way down the off side. using the circular hand motion as you go to release the soap. Move over to the near side after, Always do the tail last. If your methodical with the bathing you won’t miss any parts. If your pony won’t allow you to wash its face, a damp sponge does the same job,
Once rinsed, remove excess water with either your hand or the back of the brush and spin the tail. Then take the ‘Magic brush’ and brush the wet coat in the right direction. This really does seem to give the coat an edge. Spray the mane and tail with a leave-in conditioner, my preference is Carr, Day and Martin. Rug the pony overnight with a rug that is suitable for the time of year and the pony’s coat.. Don’t brush the mane and tail when wet as this can pull out hairs.
I like to pop the pony in a nice clean stable ready for show day!
It’s Show Time!
Before going in the ring, make sure pony is free from debris and dirt, any spot cleans can be done with baby wipes (to me, they are magical). Give the mane and tail a good brush. Make sure eyes and nostrils are clean and that the forelock is free from hay highlights!
Make sure boots and hooves are clean and give the hooves a lick of hoof oil. DO NOT USE BLACKENING HOOF OIL/GLOSS. This is against all Society rules for native ponies. Use plain hoof oil. I use the Nettex Hoof Oil spray as I find it seems to stay on the hooves a lot longer. I also have what I call a ‘squiggle’ which is essentially a polishing to
ol, It is a bit like a car wash mitten but in a sponge. A quick wipe before you go in the ring lays the coat and collects any dust. It does give a lovely finish.
Make sure all tack straps are tucked in the keepers and that the pony is not sporting the latest shade of grass lipstick! Tuck in shirts, tighten ties and poke in any loose ends. You are good to go!
And if the judge still doesn’t like your pony… at least you can be assured that it wasn’t because of something you could of prevented due to lack of preparation and turn out.
Good luck and most importantly, enjoy!