Native ponies, also known as Mountain and Moorland, are a great breed to start showing. As they are native to the British Isles, many people own them as first ponies as they can do anything. Unlike most showing classes, these ponies shouldn’t be plaited or clipped – the aim is to show off their natural beauty.
Make sure you always check the exact rules for your breed before you trim or tidy your pony. Native ponies must be shown as naturally as possible, which makes them a perfect place to start showing if you cannot plait without stabbing yourself with a needle. Thinning a thick mane is acceptable, but tails must not be banged. Most breeds do not allow any trimming of whiskers, ears, jawlines or bellies. Your pony should be able to live out even when showing.
Wash your pony well before the show so they can dry out naturally. Judges will look at the coat for healthy hair and skin, and check for any scurf in the mane or top of the tail. Use a horse shampoo to clean the entire body, massaging the shampoo in with your hands on delicate areas, and a rubber curry comb on the top line. There are specialist shampoos for manes and tails to help them shine. Be careful not to wash too much of the natural oils out, especially if your pony lives outdoors. Many native breed show rules do not want crimped manes or tails so don’t plait them. To keep their tail clean put it inside the leg of an old pair of tights. Bandage at the top to keep it in place.
Ponies can be unshod or shod. Hoof oil is allowed to make them shine, and always make sure the hoof is clean. Some showers also use chalk to whiten socks. This comes in a white block that you rub on – always check this is allowed in the rules.
No make-up should be used to highlight any features on the ponies face. Baby oil is sometimes used around the eyes or nose to make them prominent. Show sheen can be used on the coat, but it is not advisable in ridden classes as it can make your saddle slip.
There are two types of classes – inhand or ridden. There are a range of Novice and Open classes you can enter, so you can learn how to bring out the best in your pony. What your pony wears is however important so you don’t lose points with the judges.
Inhand - If a youngster or a mare with foal at foot, your pony can be shown in a white webbing halter. Those over 4 years of age should be in a leather bridle with a snaffle bit. Leather lead reins with chains attached to the bit help give you control, while looking smarter than a normal lead rope. Do not add a coloured browband, as this will detract from the natural beauty of your pony. A plain Cavesson noseband should also be used. Make sure the bridle is fitted properly, and is in a style that accentuates your pony’s features. Never wear any boots or bandages.
Ridden – Although the bridle must be the same as inhand, in Open ridden classes you can ride in a Pelham or Double Bridle. Saddles should match the same colour leather as the bridle. In novice classes, people do use General Purpose saddles, but eventually you will need to move to a showing saddle. These have straight panels to show off the pony’s shoulder. Numnahs can be used, as long as they are discrete and don’t hide any of the pony’s features. Girths should be a plain colour, in either leather or webbing.
A class breaks into five distinct parts.
Open order – all riders will enter the ring and be directed to walk or trot around the arena in order. This is the first chance you get to show off your pony so always be aware that the judge could be watching at any moment. Keep the pony active and engaged. Sometimes you may be over taken – this is natural although it can involve some showmanship. Concentrate on your own pony and keep them calm – temperament is a key part of a good pony.
Line up – once the judge has reviewed all ponies moving, you will be pulled into the centre of the ring to line up. This will be in any order. The judge will then work their way down the line to view each pony.
Individual show – when the judge comes to you, you will be asked to do a show. This is to show off your pony’s movement. With an inhand show, you will be asked to walk away and trot back. Always run at the speed that shows off your pony’s gait. Give them a long rein if possible so they can stretch to show off their top line. If you are in a ridden class, you must show off the pony’s walk, trot and canter. With the larger ponies you may also be asked to gallop. Work out a show that shows all of the paces, and involves a change of direction – a figure of eight is usually the best way to do this. Shows must be short. At the end, halt and salute the judge before returning to the line.
Pony inspection - After your show, the judge will want to look at your pony close up. In ridden classes this will mean removing the saddle. Stand your horse squarely, standing at their head. The judge will look at their eyes and nose, inspect the coat, and look closely at the legs. They will be touching your pony so make sure they are used to it. Once finished, the judge will move on. Tack your ridden mount back up.
Final show – all ponies will be sent out to walk or trot around the arena. This is the nail biting bit, and your last chance to make an impact. The judge will then point at those they want pulled in, in the order prizes will be awarded. Once lined up, you may fuss and spoil your pony as much as you want.
Always wear a tweed jacket with a shirt and tie. Adults should wear long boots, unless they are showing smaller breeds where they can wear jodhpur boots. Jodhpurs should be light, such as cream or beige. A showing cane or pain whip can be carried, but no spurs.