Top tips on showing your horse by Lizzie Briant

Jockey Headshot with Riding HatDo you need help with show riding and in-hand techniques? We spoke to Olympia champion Lizzie Briant to discover her top showing tips that can be applied to anyone looking forward to trying some showing this season, whether it’s ridden or in-hand.

Top Tip 1. Separate your grooming kits

Lizzie has two identical grooming kits – one for grey horses and one for black. “Doesn’t it drive you mad when someone comes along and uses your horse’s brush on another coloured horse?” says Lizzie. “I have a grey grooming kit and a black grooming kit, because I can’t stand one colour of hairs getting in the brushes of the other.”

After grooming with a body brush, Lizzie wipe’s her horses down with a mixture of hot water, a splash of Dettol and a splash of oil, “it’s great for taking dust out!” To finish, Lizzie rubs her ponies over with a velvet cloth. “I always rub them over with velvet because it takes the dust off the coats surface.”

“Another tip is with black coloured ponies I always wash them off after work with a weak Dettol solution, as I find that sweat bleaches the coat” says Lizzie. “I also always cover them with a sheet in the sun, to stop them from getting bleached by the sun.”

Top Tip 2. Keep your pony’s mane ‘Au Natural’

“Between shows I don’t brush my ponies’ mane’s; I just tease it through with my fingers with a little bit of baby oil every two or three days to keep it untangled” says Lizzie. “I try not to wash my ponies’ manes too often because I don’t want to strip out the natural oils. When I do wash it before a show, I put a lot of human conditioner through it.” With natives having so much hair, there is the potential that it won’t all stay in place in the ring. “I have a small tub of hair gel in my show ring grooming kit,” says Lizzie. “Then if there is a bit of hair that has decided to stick up, I can easily deal with it.”

Top Tip 3. Vary your pony’s schooling sessions

Although obedience rates high on the necessary skills list for showing classes, Lizzie doesn’t drill her horses too much in the ménage. “During the show season, I school only once or twice a week, then hack out three times a week. I also have regular lessons with Matthew Lawrence.”

“I like to try to include variety in my ponies’ routines to keep them interested. I don’t take them in the school a lot because it can make them stale. I keep schooling sessions short – only about 20 minutes of walk, trot and canter on both reins. I think you can tell which ponies are over-schooled in the show ring.”

Top Tip 4. Don’t try and teach your own child!

“Freddie goes to Team Holder for all his lessons. Find a suitable, safe pony and keep it fun with lots of small jumps and obstacles” says Lizzie. “This will help small children gain a natural seat. Don’t make them have endless hours in the school, keep them riding with friends so they enjoy it. To keep their ponies calm and looking great feed a high-fibre feed, such as Dengie Healthy Hooves.”

Top Tip 5. Schedule some R&R for your pony

To be successful at showing, you don’t have to be in every class at every qualifier. In fact, Lizzie likes to keep the number of shows attended low. She says: “In an ideal world, I would do about eight sessions a season with each pony. I think the more you do, the more likely they are to get bored. However, if you are chasing the qualifiers you have to do more.”

And sometimes the time off is as important as the training itself. “After a show, my ponies have at least a day off. Or if the show was miles and miles away they have at least two days off, because I think travelling is quite tiring for them.”

“I also think that ponies should be turned out every day, even when they are in work, when I‘m not competing them, I like them to have a holiday of a couple of months.”

Top Tip 6. Fit not fat

As a rider, producer and judge, Lizzie likes natives to look ‘fit not fat’ in the show ring. Just as with people, a key part of equine fitness is a well-balanced diet. “I feed my ponies all year round mainly because of the level of work they are in,” says Lizzie, “I feed them Dengie Alfa-A Oil to ensure they have enough energy and stamina for their workload. The rapeseed oil coating also gives them a fabulous ‘showring’ shine to their coats”.
“For my ponies who are not in work, they will still get fed a ration of Hi-Fi Molasses Free.

A great way to assess whether your pony is at the correct bodyweight is by condition scoring. To learn how to condition score your horse, the Dengie nutrition team have produced the video below to explain the steps.

Top Showing Tips

  • In the summer have a water spray bottle and a sponge to sponge off the saddle patch
  • Wear gloves and a hat. Lizzie says: “You should always wear a hat because even the safest horse can trip over. One of my friends had a bad accident on a schoolmaster.”
  • Choose an appropriate diet for your pony to make sure he has enough energy for the show ring without carrying excess weight.
  • I have loud music playing daily on the yard – for example, the jubilee pageant music – so they get used to it before the show.

For more information about managing your horse’s weight

Our team of highly experienced nutritionists are on hand to advise and put together a personalised feeding plan for your horse or pony to help you help them manage their weight. To contact the Dengie nutrition team call the Feedline on 01621 841188 or submit a feed advice form. Alternatively, take a look at our Condition for Showing case study