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The Perfect Workout

 This article first appeared in Equestrian Life magazine, for more pick up your latest copy today.

Final Day of Barastoc Horse Of The Year

All smiles on the final day of Barastoc Horse Of The Year, 2013.

© Equine Image Photography

If you asked most riders and ringside observers what is the most important element of a successful show horse and rider team, or the secret to a winning result, most would say having a beautiful horse. Some of the more cynical among us may suggest politics, luck or more money than those in the line-up.


WHILE HAVING A beautiful horse is certainly the primary aim in the show ring, and no one can deny luck has been known to play a role, a winning result almost always comes down to the rider’s ability to execute a beautiful, flowing, technically correct and exciting workout.

Show horses are required to demonstrate a fairly basic level of education compared to their high-level dressage counterparts, however, it pays to remember that one small mistake in the show ring can be, and often is, the difference between taking home the broad sash and ending up at the bottom of the line. We often envy our dressage counterparts who can attempt to make up a mark or two following a slight mistake, where one wrong canter lead in a workout can be the difference between winning and losing (as the author knows all to well!).

Generally at local and Royal Show level, the workouts are at the judges’ discretion, and only given to the riders once they have been called into the line-up, after which they are expected to perform the workout immediately. At Horse of the Year and National level, workouts are usually printed in the catalogue so riders are able to learn them the morning of competition. Some shows allow “free workouts” where the rider is able to design their own workout, usually with the stipulation that certain movements are shown. For a show horse class the expectation is that some walk, working trot and canter on both reins, at least one change of lead, and lengthened trot will be shown. This is the same for a show hunter, with the addition of a “hand gallop”. Rider classes will include sitting trot in the workout in addition to the movements seen in the show horse workout.

Although the movements required in a workout are fairly straightforward they are often performed in highly electric environments, and on a horse that has been prepared to walk the fine line between displaying optimal presence while being rideable. In addition, riders are usually unaware of the workout they will be required to learn until the time they are required to ride it, in an unfamiliar arena with unknown distractions. Many a time riders have ventured onto a quiet Royal Show arena to be confronted with showjumping or harness classes that are designed to terrify even the most placid show horse.


Final Day of Barastoc Horse Of The Year

The line up.

© Equine Image Photography


The most consistently successful show riders have mastered the ability to show off the horse to its absolute best, highlighting the horse’s strengths while hiding its weaknesses. The best workouts are those which flow along, the horse in a consistent rhythm and steady frame, all the movements performed with a good use of the space allowed and smooth transitions.

We asked some of Australia's best riders and judges what they thought were the standout qualities of a winning workout.

EMMA ADAMS, owner and rider of National Champion Show Hunter EBL Juliette

While judging, I'm looking for a well-presented beautiful horse that works correctly and softly with the rider, whether it is a young horse at its first show or a seasoned mount.

These are my top tips:

    •    Know your horse and its strengths and weaknesses so you can ride the workout confidently showing off your horse’s best qualities.
    •    Use your arena -- if you've got a good space use it, don't do your workout in 10 metre circles!
    •    Show off! There is nothing I like more than seeing a rider put on a good show, for example, if your horse is a big mover, show it! Don't hold back as you've only got 1-2 minutes to impress your judge, so make the most of it.
    •    Have a horse that is suited to your ability, the overall picture of a well suited horse and rider combination in a workout is something that I look for. Most importantly enjoy it and have fun!

LILLI MCEVOY, Multiple Royal and National Champion rider

The best advice I have received is from my Aunty Kerran. She always told me to prepare every transition and make sure I ride into the corners. If the workout says to ride straight lines, for example, in a simple change, then do it, don't go across the diagonal. And to ride with the 3Cs -- confidence, courage and conviction.

JESS MARNIE, rider of Royal Show and National Champion, Argyl Royal Flush

When riding a workout, whether it be at a local show or a Royal, there are always a few things that go through my mind before and during the workout.

Firstly, make sure you completely understand the workout and never be afraid to ask the judge or steward if you are unsure. Have it clear in your mind where your transitions are going to be and prepare your horse four to five strides before asking for the transition.
Accuracy, this is simply a matter of making sure your aids --  and where in the workout you will apply them -- are correct and clear to the horse.

Space, this is extremely important; you want to show off your horse as much as you can, so use big circles and straight lines!
My tips:

    •    When doing a figure of eight style workout, pretend the circles are two back-to-back Ds. The judge wants to see your horse straight, this gives you enough room to do your change as well.
    •    When doing a trot or walk-through change, give yourself plenty of trot or walk strides to show your horse is educated and listening to your aids.
    •    Give yourself plenty of time to pull up at the end, nothing looks worse than a rider slamming on the breaks!

BRIDGET SELL,  Royal Show judge and National Champion rider

As a competitor, the first thing I look at is the area I have to work with. I then work out the middle, as this will assist me in making sure I have even-sized circles.  I make sure I ride straight lines, especially in the changes, as this shows the judge my change of bend, control of tempo and that the horse is on my aids. It also contributes to the look and shape of the workout. You do not have long to show your horse, so I definitely take the opportunity to show clear definition in change of pace, ie, if asked for a lengthen canter, the judge, the people on sideline, should be able to easily see this. This gives the opportunity to do clear transitions. A good, clear transition just adds to the finesse of your workout. When I am judging, these are also key elements of what I look for.

JO UPPINGTON, National and Royal Show judge

As a judge, I think the first thing to remember is to set a workout that is not a dressage test. I like to judge the workout on the horse's paces mainly, and manners. Make sure you use your area and your ring-craft, and if there is jumping on one side, stay off that side off the fence!

JACQUI LIBRIO,  Royal Show judge, National Champion rider

When judging both a Rider or Open horse class, I look for the same attributes to a well executed workout:

    •    Straightness: when using the entire arena and also through changes of lead, especially towards the judge.
    •    Forwardness: within the pace required and also showing purpose through transitions/changes of lead.
    •    Harmonious: strong, supple connection between horse and rider showing clear fluent aids and prompt accurate responses.



Issue 43

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