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Show Ring Placement

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In Equitation classes one will often see riders who are stuck to the rail. They are going at a blah pace afraid to go at a more favorable speed since it might ruin their form. This site has many articles to help with strength, form and riding your horse but this article will help with learning how to show your horse. With this knowledge you can watch classes and understand good and not so good showmanship. Try to treat equitation classes like performance classes with ideal form where diagonals count.

The below will explain the what, when, where and why of cutting, riding off the rail, staying on the rail, and going deep.

Cutting and Riding off the Rail

       You only should cut the end of the ring when there are horses close behind you and lots of space in front. Cutting the end puts more space between you and the people behind you.

       Cutting across the ring by turning out of the corner a little early to form a straight line down the ring to get to a large open spot. Make sure your horse is under control and balanced. It is a good way to get attention.

       Changing direction can be a good time to cut across the ring. If you have gone most of the way into a turn, turn to the middle and make a pass as you reverse. When doing this make sure you make a large turn and to balance you horse so not to break from a trot.

       You want to ride off the rail when there are lots of horses on the rail, or when you are going faster than the others and don't want to continuously be coming off and on the rail, If your horse does not want to stay right on the rail do not fight them. I watch inexperienced riders at shows. Their horse's head is turned toward the rail and the body does not follow. Sometimes horses are scared of people, programs, etc if they are near the rail. Let them be 2-3 feet away if they want, if this is the case play with your inside hand and push them straight with seat and legs into the turns. 

       I advise to come off the rail about 8 to 12 feet, so your horse does not become dependent on the rail or lean a hip into it. You can still steer the horse left or right from there without "running out of room" because you are unable to bend the horse to the rail if you need to.

Going Deep

       Go deep into the corners when there are horses close in front of you and space behind. Going deep takes longer, and will allow the horses ahead of you to gain more ground, and get farther ahead of you; allowing you to be by yourself when you make your pass down the rail. Send your horse as far into the corner as you can and follow the rail at the end closely. You can go deep in either one or both corners on an end depending on how much space you want to create.

       Go deep into the turns by riding to a point on the far end of the rail and staying deep in the turn. In large classes, so many riders cut around the ends or try to cut to do a "diamond" that you will just end up in a bunch of traffic.

       Going deep into the corners at the end of the ring, you can rate your horse, look around to see what traffic is behind you and "hold up" just a little and let it clear out. Then "cut" so you go down the rail again at 8 to 12 feet off the rail. Usually, you have the rail to yourself. Don't worry if someone cuts and is on the inside of you, the judges will find you because you are where they can see you.

       The other huge advantage to going deep is that if you "steer" your horse up into the turns, he will become easier to guide throughout the class and will not start anticipating the turns and start to cut early on his own. Your transitions also will be smoother, because the horse will be in a comfort zone and you will not end up out in "no man's land" drifting sideways when they call for the canter or walk or halt or whatever.

Staying on the Rail

     Stay on the rail as much as possible, especially when you are alone on the rail, have a very large horse, and none of the above mentioned circumstances apply.

       Stay on the rail when there is an open space for just you.  Even if the rail is open it is best to come a few feet off the rail.  The rail is a horse’s safety zone.  If you come off the rail just a few feet your horse will wake up a bit and start to show off.