Tip #5 - First Impressions

Unleash your inner RuPaul and make an entrance! First impressions count and we want it to be show-stopping!

Although the centre line is your first marked movement, it's probably not where you made your first impression. The judge may be judging what they see in the ring, but its human nature to remember a first impression that may carry over to your score card. Your ride around the ring before the judge rings the bell, the warm up ring, the cafeteria and stable area, it's all on show and making an impression.  Putting your best foot forward no matter how big or small, can go a long way towards the impression you've made long before you head down centre line.

A huge influence on your ability to put your best foot forward is stress management.  If you are stressed or feeling harried, your ability to think clearly and objectively is going to be compromised. So something as simple as being well prepared, arriving early, knowing your test, feeling confident and in control, can all have a huge impact on your ability to put on a show stopping competition day!  It's why I place a huge emphasis on controlling and manipulating as many variables as possible when it comes to show day.

So let's think about how we can make an entrance our judge is never going to forget - in a good way!  We have nailed our warm up (stay tuned for more on that), and we begin riding towards our arena thinking positive thoughts and
remembering to breathe.  Diaphragm breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system and allows our brain to function so this is an important step

We have 45 seconds after the judge rings the bell to enter. So that gives us time to show our horse his new environment, riding around the arena from both directions, check all the flower boxes for monsters and and get him listening to our seat and legs!  Ride transitions within the pace and make sure you have his attention, ready for that upcoming halt. If your horse goes better on one rein, try to enter from that direction. If he's pretty even on both reins, enter from the direction your first turn is on, for example if you turn left, enter on the left
rein.

Riding the centre line takes lots of practice and also confidence from your horse. Lots of training at home riding on the 2nd track and 3/4 line, practicing the centre line with added changes within the pace and generally getting
comfortable without the security of the fence.  Keeping your horse straight is a skill and needs lots of practice. The secret ingredient to a straight centre line is not to over correct if it starts to deviate. Just keep riding your horse straight.

The other important piece is of course the halt. The halt is a good indication of how even the horse is in his training and development. A trailing leg means hes not taking the weight evenly behind. Hence the importance of a square
halt. The secret sauce to a square halt is good training. So when you present a beautiful square halt to the judges you're demonstrating that your training is on point.

The final icing on your show stopper entrance is your depart from halt.  When the halt is correct your horse should be like a sprinter in the blocks. Completely immobile but poised and ready to move forward. Its not a mini nap!  If you can transition from halt straight and with purpose your judge will be crying happy tears of joy!  Congratulations you just made the entrance to end all entrances!

Next tip: Know Your Test!  Coming next week.

Erin Funk Equestrian Black Horse