Boost Flat-Class Per­for­mance

At-home prac­tice i• key to a win­ning per­for­mance in the un­der-•ad­dle cla••.

Practical Horseman - - Contents - By Amanda Steege with Tri­cia Con­a­han Photos by Amy K. Dra­goo

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!

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