My job description As a volunteer ring steward I get to follow the judge around the ring, notify the judge when all riders for a class are present, keep the classes moving and on schedule, make sure all riders stay safe, communicate to the riders when to halt, walk, trot or canter according to the judges requests, and to deliver the class results to the announcer.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of working with Joe Lombard again. Joe is a licensed horse show judge, instructor, clinician and equine appraiser. I appreciate the fact that he explains things to the riders and he’ll answer questions.

Equitation The judge focuses on the rider’s position and ability to ride correctly with effective aids. The performance of the horse is not judged but a poorly performing horse is considered a reflection on the rider’s ability. A good rider will always be in balance and maintain a correct position in every gait. This is a more difficult class to judge.

Calf wrapped around barrel of horse.

Calf wrapped around barrel of horse.

Rider position When sitting correctly in the saddle, an invisible line should exist from the ear to shoulder to elbow and the heel. Your heels should be down with a little weight in them. The calves should maintain contact with the horse’s barrel and the heels should stay off the horse’s side unless being cued.

Reins Make sure that the reins aren’t twisted. Hold the reins properly with your thumbs on top. Maintain light but steady contact without a sloppy loop in the rein.

Heels There should be some weight in your heels and they should be down. (I sit at a desk all day with my feet on a cardboard box so I can practice heels down.) A lot of riders have their heels up with their toes down. Make sure that you adjust your stirrup length if needed.

Stirrups The stirrup should rest on the ball of your foot. Your foot should not be three quarters of the way through.

Diagonals Know your diagonals in both directions.

Gaits You’ll be asked to ride in different gaits. A good rider is an effective rider and capable of communicating and listening to the horse. Do not break gait unless the judge/ring steward asks you to. A walk should be a good forward walk, same with the trot and canter.

Transitions Practice making good, smooth transitions from one gait to another. The judge doesn’t expect you to immediately change gaits but definitely within a few strides. If everyone’s walking and you’re still trotting you’ll lose points.

Canter leads Make sure that you get the correct lead each time. If you don’t get the correct lead fix it immediately. You’ll still lose points but the judge would rather see that you noticed it and fixed it.

Poop breaks The horse should not stop to poop. EVER. If you allow the horse to stop you’ll lose points.

With a little practice you’ll be bringing home the ribbons!