Boost Flat-Class Performance
At-home practice i• key to a winning performance in the under-•addle cla••.
Top hunter trainer and rider Amanda Steege shares at-home exercises to refine flatting skills, as well as advice on how to make the most of your flat class at the competition by helping your horse stand out from the pack.
If you hang around horse shows long enough, you’ll hear this comment ringside: “You can’t beat that daisy-cutter. He’s going to win this flat class.” But the truth is you don’t always have to have the best mover to be competitive in the under-saddle class. Most judges are looking for the whole package: a horse who has good movement but is also obedient, alert, sound and has good manners. Does your horse look like he is a pleasure to ride? Are his ears up? Are his gaits balanced and his transitions smooth? How well you present your horse to demonstrate these details can have a tremendous impact on the judge’s ultimate decision.
Even if you’re not aiming for a blue ribbon, doing your best in the undersaddle class is growing more important. Some of our top horse shows have transitioned from four to three jumping classes in a division. This makes the flat class all the more influential. Sometimes just being able to get a fifth- or sixth-place ribbon on the flat can give you the points needed to bring home the tricolor. So even if you don’t ride the absolute best mover, learning to show off your horse on the flat is a valuable competition skill.
In this article I’ll share some exercises to practice refining your flatting skills at home. Then I’ll offer a few tips for making the most of your ride at the actual competition. Together, these critical tools can help you optimize your chances in a flat class, regardless of whether or not your horse is the best mover on the planet. They’ll help you and your horse stand out from the pack—and maybe even beat that daisy-cutter!