Team Ramsey Website and Blog- one of my favourite show riders, trainers and judges, Richard Ramsey, is now online. As well as maintaining a pretty professional looking website for their show horse production/sales business, he and wife Majorie, who is also a highly respected judge, are keeping a blog. Always interesting to read what the pros are up to and how they're doing it!

Nala Stud has launched a website. Apparently, there are some ponies for sale so drop them a line if you're in the market for a new showing star. Welcome to the world wide web, Alan ;)

The Show Ring forum is an amaaazing place to go if you want to chat with showing people from across the world. It's UK based but I would recommend it to anybody. The top producers in the UK frequent the forum which can be pretty handy when you have questions about turnout of horse and rider, schooling, ringcraft etc! It's a private, subscription based forum but well worth it.

Burleighvilla Stud- Ryan actually updates his site fairly regularly unlike some NZ studs (content that hasn't been updated since 1993 is not a good look- it means visitors think you have either shut down or have absolutely no news. You know who you are!) Ryan currently has some lovely youngsters for sale and I know there he has made some sensational matches for the next foaling season so keep an eye on his website...

Supreme Products Blog- I had to drop this one in because I do some work for them. However, we have a huge library of rider interviews, photos, articles on everything from plaiting to tail pulling to hood fitting, and news about showing from across the world which will gradually be uploaded to the blog. Definitely drop by from time to time to see what's been added.

Show Circuit- The Show Circuit website is well worth a visit. You can read PDFs of past articles online, subscribe, view the equestrian business directory, find out about competitions and see what's in the current issue.

If you know of an outstanding showing websites, whether in NZ or overseas, let me know and I'll add it to the list of links displayed at the side of this blog.


Here's a question. How many people can hold up their hand and say they have given stewarding a go? We all traipse off to shows quite happily to compete but I wonder how many realise what a valuable insight into showing stewarding can give you. Think about it. You are given the opportunity to stand in the middle of the ring and see classes from a judge's viewpoint. Depending on who you end up with, the judge will often share his/her thoughts on the animals being presented and why they placed the way they did. It's a fantastic learning opportunity.

I used to do a lot of stewarding for British Show Pony Society and Ponies UK classes and I loved it to bits. In fact, I was one of the only people who would agree to steward at the dreaded winter shows as I enjoyed doing it so much. Yes, my fingers would be chilled to the bone and I would look like a drowned rat from all the rain by the end of it (the person who decided a British winter and outdoor showing go hand in hand is clearly some sort of sadist!) but I learned the ins and outs of show pony conformation, I knew how a novice mountain and moorland pony was expected to behave, I learned all about the perfect show hunter pony type and I discovered that watching a freshly clipped show pony at it's first outing of the season in January can be quite amusing (I joke.....)

I went on to represent my county at the BSPS Summer Championships as a teenager where every year teams from across the country congregate to take part in a Young Judge's Competition. We were all expected to judge a class (go round, individual show, conformation section), take notes and then explain our placings to a panel of senior judges. I used to love competing as a young judge- I wonder if it is something that would encourage more young people to take their judge's exams in NZ?

I was put off by one of my more recent stewarding appointments in New Zealand (some shows need to remember that stewards, while doing it for the love of it, are unpaid and should be treated with a degree of politeness and respect....) but have decided not to let it bother me and will soldier on!

I have actually written a piece about stewarding for the latest issue of Show Circuit so grab a copy if you can. Admittedly, the article was intended to be slightly tongue in cheek but all of the points are relevant and should be adhered to if you're considering becoming one of our 'unsung heroes of the show ring.'

If you are interested in stewarding and even progressing on to becoming a fully fledged judge, contact the RAS as I'm sure they would love to hear from you!


I was lucky enough to watch a lesson taken by Grand Prix rider and trainer, Jody Hartstone, on Sunday. I was there on behalf of online equestrian resource, Equine Trader. A lucky member of the website had won a Power Hour Lesson with Jody and I was taking notes and photos so I could write up a report later (not an easy task, I can tell you- it requires more hands than I have!)

I was intrigued as to how many similarities there were between what Jody was teaching and how the classical dressage masters of old used to train their students and horses.

Jody adheres to the McLean system, where the emphasis is on breaking lessons down into simple, logical steps, making it easy for the horse to succeed and be rewarded. The reins are used to bend and steer the horse- never the legs. The reins control deceleration of the horse’s front legs, whereas the rider’s legs control the acceleration of the horse’s back legs. There's a bit more to it than that but I think it would take more space than I have here to explain every inch of it! Andrew McLean is coming over to New Zealand in May so if you want to learn more, you can pop over to one of their clinics, either as a rider or to observe. Find out more here.

I think Jody is a bit too far away from me to contemplate training with her but it has cemented my belief that I only want to get instruction from a person with her kind of ideals. Yes- I want to have my horse going beautifully for the show ring and whatever other disciplines I might want to try my hand at but never, ever at the expense of the horse. Truly understanding how the horse is thinking, placing their welfare and happiness first and keeping the human ego out of the process is something I have always put above everything else. It might sound a bit tree-huggy but I think it's the right way to approach the training of any animal and it always amazes me to see people going so entirely in the other direction.

To finish, here is one of my favourite segments out of my much thumbed book 'Dressage for the 21st Century' by the awesome Paul Belasik:

'Today, humans design experiments to teach animals to talk like humans. In equitation, the best riders have put down their own native language to try to learn the horse's- and they have. Once you have made friends with horses, and have lived with them in this world without words, you begin to see words as less important than actions. Horses don't care about your words, they care about and respond to actions. Riding will bring you into a world of action, of real living. It will show you how life is interconnected.

'You might have already decided to take up the practice of dressage. You might think that I have implied you will have to choose- picking sport or picking art. But that is not our real choice at all; a bad artist is as bankrupt as a bad athlete. Your decision has to be whether to do it right; without a desire for gain, for profit, for the reason of ego. Do it for the purity of the experience, wherever it takes you- for the love and excitement of the trip.'

And isn't that what it should be all about...? :)


On the horses that is! Make-up on riders is an entirely different story....

When is enough enough when it comes to the products we use on our show horses and ponies? We have so many choices now: black and clear make-up for the eyes, muzzle and ears, sparkle spray for the body, black hoof cream and varnish, dye for the body and tail. If you wanted to, you could transform your show animal into something barely resembling the equine that emerged from his stable earlier that morning.

My own personal opinion is that 'enhancement' should be the key word here. Use a tiny bit of product around the eyes and nose to enhance a pretty head and to bring attention to quality features. If it is blindingly obvious that your horse is wearing make-up, you've gone too far. Also bear in mind that the judge will occasionally want to give your horse a pat when handing out ribbons etc. No judge will thank you if she walks out of the ring with a nose shaped black mark on her sleeve or the back of her jacket!

One final point. I do not like make-up on hunters. Simply because I have never seen anyone following hounds plastering their mount with product before heading off to a hunt meet. What would it be for? Mesmerising the hare with your horse's beautifully made up face, thus giving the hounds a chance to catch up with it? We have established in a previous post that many show/saddle hunter riders are wary of hunting, for various reasons, but come on people- at least pretend that you're sticking with traditional turnout!

Comments welcome. What do you think about make-up in the show ring? Are people getting too carried away with it or do most of us strike a good balance?

If you want to learn more about turnout, there are some great articles on the Supreme Products website. A quick Google search will also throw up some decent guides.


This year, I managed to dive back into showing after a six year break and survived my first, albeit short, season back in the ring. From competing and observing, I have realised that showing in the UK and NZ is not all that different. Here are a few valuable tips I have picked up both here and back in Blighty!

1) Horses will always surprise you. If you think they're going to be chilled and lovely at their first show, they will turn into a fire-breathing dragon the moment they step off the trailer. If they are normally a bit full of it at home, they will probably be a lamb out showing. That's horses. They like to keep us on our toes.

2) Never trust alarm clocks. They will inevitably fail you at a crucial moment. Always set two the night before a show!

3) If a well known combination shows up, you will have to work even harder to stand out. The judge will be expecting the former horse and rider to do well and will automatically give them a second glance. It's naive to think otherwise! However, do not give up as soon as a successful combo enters the ring. Use the competition to push you to perform as well as you possibly can.

4) Too much make-up is just as bad for horses as it is for people. Subtle is the way- don't turn your pony into a drag queen lookalike.

5) Judges are everywhere- it's not just the one in the ring you should be thinking of.

6) If your horse doesn't perform well, do not take it out of the ring and work it until it is a sweating, wobbly mess. This will achieve nothing. Take it home, consider what you did wrong (and yes, issues out competing are usually rider error) and get back to the schooling drawing board.

7) On some occasions, despite the fact that you have shelled out an unthinkable amount of money to produce your show horse or pony, dragged yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn and have performed to the best of your ability, you will still be placed last, behind a half-lame moose.

Don't stress and do not go on a mad rant, stamping your feet and shouting at the judge and anybody else who will listen. Sometimes, the judging just does not go your way. Grit your teeth, smile sweetly and put the judge's name in your little black book of 'judges to avoid.' Your next time out will be better.

8) Don't use spurs, draw reins or a double bridle if you haven't been taught how to use them properly

9) A smile costs nothing.

10) There are some people in the showing world, as in every sport, who have acute tall poppy syndrome. If you succeed, they will try to cut you down. They despise other individuals doing well (unless it is them of course...) Ignore them at all costs- do not let them spoil your fun!

Anyone have any words of wisdow to add?


Well, I went to my last show of the season on Friday, The Royal Easter Show in Auckland, and had a fabulous time. I was very impressed with the grounds at the ASB Showgrounds. They were probably the most professionally maintained that I have seen in my first short show season in New Zealand. It's always nice to not have to battle knee high grass when you're applying your black hoof gloss!

My yearling filly, 'Graemar Replique', was impeccably well behaved, as she has been at every one of her three outings this year. She trotted up faultlessly, stood like a statue in the line up and loaded/unloaded well. We ended up placing second in the Yearling Sporthorse class behind a very upstanding and charismatic young colt. So, not as great a result as we achieved at Kumeu A&P but still something to be proud of. Despite being heart-breakingly pretty, she still looks quite immature compared to some of the others that are out at the moment so I'm looking forward to seeing how she looks with another winter/spring behind her.

Despite fairly low entries, the standards were very high at this year's Royal Easter. A number of well known showies did very well, including Anne Hjorth who scooped Champion Saddle Hunter on the stunning 'Savile Row' and Champion Hack/Supreme Horse on 'Acquisition.' What an amazing result!

The only teeny tiny downside of the day was still seeing a couple of riders, both children and adults, abusing draw reins, double bridles and side reins (and sometimes a combo of these!) when working in their horses. I especially dislike seeing horses being yanked down in front while being booted in the ribs, leaving it with absolutely nowhere to go. Also, if you need to turn your black horse white in order for it to be rideable in a show class, you really need to reevaluate your training techniques and/or whether said horse is suitable for the show ring, and whether a different discipline would be better...

Thankfully, I also saw a large number of beautiful riders who were actually having a conversation with their mounts rather than screaming at it with a megaphone. Always a pleasure to see :)

I hope everyone had a great show season. Roll on the next one.