In Hand Showing

There are loads of in hand classes. Some riding clubs just have basic sections such as horse or pony, others have everything from young stock, to veteran, to mountain and moorland classes. Obviously unless you have a specific breed you can’t enter it for certain classes but usually there’s a least one at every decent show you can compete in.

Why Do It?

It’s really nice to show your horse off, it’s a different skill to riding and good show experience for you and your horse. Before I started riding my horse in competitions I took him in hand – it was all very exciting for him and to start with he was very naughty but it gave him a great chance to go to different places and get used to the ring and I didn’t have to worry that he would get so excited he would chuck me off.

What To Wear

In my experience it’s pretty flexible. I tend to wear a pair of smart beige trousers, my brown jodhpur boots, white shirt, blue tie, blue silk waistcoat, riding gloves and my riding helmet. At many places, such as showing at county level you aren’t require to wear a helmet but I tend to anyway, it’s safer than an ordinary hat and also makes my head/hair look tidy. At local riding club level between classes I’ve also been known to do the class wearing by riding coat and jodphurs etc – there’s never been a problem with this at this level.

In Hand County Show (
Traditional clothing for an In-Hand Show

The horse just needs a decent bridle. Some people get show bridles and strictly it is the etiquette, but I’ve always shown mine in their cleaned everyday bridle. I do tend though to take the reins off and use a leather show lead with a chain at the top to lead the horse.

What You Need To Do

You need to get your horse looking as clean as humanly possible before and on show day. I also tend to warm my horse up a bit my practising my show before I go in the ring – this basically means having a run round a bit and getting him listening to me!

The ring steward will let you in the ring. Some show people will tell you to really choose your place – again I don’t believe this makes much difference. The only thing I would say is if like I’ve done at times you’re in pony class with a 14.2 forward going horse and a tiny little Shetland is also taking part get in front of them, it saves having to overtake when I the ring.

The horse will be on the right rein for most of the time – you leading him on the outside of the ring, this allows the judge the best view of your animal.

The judge will ask you to walk round the ring – some judges will make you do this for ages. The steward will then stop you, usually in a queue up to the corner of the ring. One by one you will be required to run with your horse in trot around half if not all of the arena. When that’s done all of you will walk round again. At this point you will be pulled into a line up – sometimes this is any old how, sometimes you will be pulled in in an initial order going from left to right.

In Hand Riding Club Show (
Walking a horse in front of the judge at an In-Hand Riding Club Show

One by one the judge will ask you to bring you horse forward. He or she may ask you some questions such as how old the horse is, breed and what you do with him. My advice would be to try and be as friendly as possible. Say good morning or hello when first pulled out and try and smile! Whilst the judge is asking these questions you really need to get your horse to be standing square – this is where the judge will have a good look at it’s conformation so if you have a fidget bum of an animal you will need to practice. When they’ve seen enough they will ask you to walk away from them turning to the right at a set point (usually the end of the ring) and then trot back. Don’t be put off if the judge is stood in front of you – just keep going, they will move and you need to trust that they’re stood exactly where they want to be to judge the animal.

When everyone’s been judged individually you will then be asked to walk around the ring again while the judge makes his mind up. Then the judge will pull you in in the order of placing, ie the first competitor gets pulled in first. When all the rosettes have been handed out you’re then encouraged to run round the ring again to do a lap of honour.

Top Tips

I believe in hand judges like to see flashy horses. They like to see it moving forward, much more so than if you were riding it, they don’t want to see it canter though so you will need to judge it. You will also need a lot of puff for these classes – I only have little legs and have to run like mad to keep up!

Don’t get too upset if the judge doesn’t like you horse. Show judging is very subjective and beauty always in the eye of the beholder.


  • Josie

    hiya just wondering if you have any exercises that i could do to get fitter in order to run fast enough – my horse has really long strides 🙂

    • admin

      It’s a difficult one – I’m certainly not as good at running as I used to be! You’ll be pretty fit already from riding – I’m really short so stride lengths are always a concern. I just practice in the school or the field to get the timing right. Apart from that I just think Ussain Bolt and run as fast as my little legs can carry me – a judge or two has often laughed at the rate my little legs move and the redness of my face when it’s over but it’s the only way to do it.

      Good luck!

      • Ellie Hunt

        I wonder if you could help me,im looking to buy a welsh section a to do in hand showing with but ive never done it before and totally unsure on which classes to enter when I do get him/her,also when im competing would a black show jacket,red tie,beige jods,and black jodhpur boots be acceptable?thanks for you help
        ellie xox

        • admin

          Hi Ellie… with a welsh sec A you can do a lot. There’s the sec a classes, also open pony and M and M small breeds. Depending on age you can also do young stock/veteran classes. Re attire that sounds lovely. Best of luck.

    • heavenleigh

      Are you a adult or a child Josie,
      no offence Josie.
      i am a child and i have alot of questions about lead rein pony do you.

  • Chelsea

    Hi. I have a few questions.

    1.) I am showing a handful of horses for a friend of mine. Would the following be good to dress in: Black jacket, white collared shirt, tie of some sort(help on the colour side would be appreciated), beige or white pants or slacks(a lot of the horses are dapple grey and chestnut and apparently, my pants are not allowed to match the horses leg colour), Black short boots(the working, mucking type boots so not really noticeable) and a hat/helmet. Would this be perceived as professional? If not, what can I do?

    2.) Regarding a hat or helmet. Does a helmet HAVE to be worn at all levels or can it be a boller hat or cowboy(showy) hat be worn? Which would be more professional?

    3.) When it comes to the horse, can he/she be shown in a reinless bridle with a coupler and lead? If not, what is the most professional way to do it?

    Thank you so much for your patience and time. 🙂

    • admin


      I show in the UK so I’m not sure what the rules are in other countries…. This is what I’d do in Britain….

      1) Your outfit sounds just what would be expected – just make sure you can run in your shoes! In terms of tie colour it’s up to you. I have a blue jacket or if hot, waistcoat and a blue tie – my helmet is also blue. A black coat will go with anything so choose a colour your fancy – perhaps something that doesn’t clash with the horse though.
      2) In the Uk some riding clubs have rules about wearing helmets WHATEVER class you are doing. At county level you can wear what you want for the in hand classes. I wear a velvet helmet simply because I like my head to be safe and my horses can be a bit lively in an arena – I’ve shown with plenty of others who’ve worn bowlers, trilbies or indeed cowboy hats – it’s entirely up to you but I’d check the rules with the show before you go. 3)In the UK you can show horses in a reinless bridle with lead or for some classes a white rope halter – the main thing is is that it looks smart and you can keep your horse under control. Again however I’d check with the show itself as it may have rules depending on the class you are entering.

      Hope that helps and best of luck.

      • heavenleigh

        i wanted to know a little about lead rein pony shows my little section A welsh mountain is going to be going to lead rein pony shows and i would just like to know what you have to wear and what your horse has to wear.
        . my pony bunnie girl is going to attend the m and m class but i am not sure if i should leave her mane flowing or plaited i dont know how to plait manes for shows thats why i might leave it flowing. and what colour does the leather lead rein have to be i thought it was supposed to be brown like the head collar thing was meant to be, i have a choice of black or brown but i read something on the internet and it said it was more pretty to be brown i not sure. if anyone has some good advise on lead rein pony shows please may they give it to me.

        • admin


          If it’s M and M I would go natural re mane. Try to keep all your tack the same colour – ie if the bridle is black have the lead black

          Good luck

          • heavenleigh

            i will get some jodhpurs boots then would that be okay and.

            my chestnut pony has white socks and i have beige jodhpurs would that be okay.


  • Nicola


    I have never shown in hand before and next week will be the first time! I have a 13.1 Exmoor pony who is entering M&M and bays/blacks class and a 16.2 Warmblood who is entering the in hand veteran and ridden veteran.
    I have a few questions (oh by the way this is a very very local low level show but I am still nervous!)
    Ok so dress, I have a light blue tweed jacket, a white shirt and navy tie, cream jods and short brown jod boots,
    Poppy (the exmoor) I have a straight bar rubber snaffle and simple in hand bridle with a leather lead, Im happy that she should be left un-plaited etc (much easier!!)
    Oh so my point before I rattled off all the above….! Does that sound acceptable? Anything to change?
    The other thing I am unsure of is if Oliver (the 16.2WB) should be plaited for his classes, mane or mane and tail? If he behaves in the in-hand then I may try the ridden vet too 🙂
    I’ll take some long boots for the ridden class. He has his normal every day bridle with a snaffle and leather lead but I wasn’t sure if he could wear a show brow band?

    Anyway I have gone on far too much! Any help/advice on the above would be very very much appreciated!!

    • admin

      At that level everything for Poppy sounds great! Don’t plait her if she’s doing M and M – the judges will expect to see her natural. Re the warmblood I’d be tempted to plait him just because it isn’t a breed you’d expect to see long and hairy if that makes any sense. Dress sounds good, bridle etc sounds good – have a brilliant time.

    • heavenleigh

      i have cream jodhpurs and black riding boots with a blue tweed show jacket and a pony club tie i’m not sure if i should wear my pony club tie or get a new tie. if you know what i should wear please tell me.

  • Phoebe

    Hiya, i have a 3 year old arab cross gelding that is steel grey, and i was wondering if the show halters would be better for him? (im from new zealand) or are the bridles required in that feild? Also are arabs supposed to be all plaited up or do they like seeing them natural and squeaky clean?

    Thanks, phoebe.

    • admin

      Hi Phoebe

      Thanks for your question… A steel grey arab – sounds stunning. I have to admit I have no experience of arab horses… But…. Here’s the guidelines from the UK’s Arab Horse Society both for ridden and in hand showing – I suspect it’s the same in New Zealand. If in doubt check with the centre you’re showing at – you pay your entry fee, make them work for it – they won’t think your daft, it’s how we all learn and some places have the strangest rules you wouldn’t expect.

      Best of luck

  • Tori


    i ride my horsees at plenty of comps, but i thaught it would be fun to enter a led class. i am a jr. i was wondering if it is alright if i led my horse with a bridle and reigns?? i dont have a leather lead rope………. :/. the comp is tomorow!! please help! i dont want to turn up with the wrong gear…….. !!!!!

    • admin


      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you – I’ve been out of the country. Hopefully you went with your bridle and reins and had a great time – I would have hoped at that level that would have been fine. Would love to know how you did?

  • Chloe Anderton

    Hi just wondering this year I have started in hand showing with my German Warmblood Betty. we have been in the veterans class once and i got third in our first show she had her mane down and I had the double rains in my hand was
    this the correct show gear for the veterans class
    red tie,navy jacket,short riding boots,pin,white shirt, and black pants 🙂 xxx

    • admin

      Well done on your third – all sounds good to me, unless your horse is black (judges like you to have different coloured trousers so that they can see the horses legs properly)

    • admin

      In my experience there’s no age limit – some clubs however have rules to the effect that the handler, if under 18, has to be of an appropriate size for the horse they are leading. I know of a tiny little 8 year old who shows – but her pony is a little Shetland. They may also insist that they wear a hard hat if a junior. At county level sometimes they have separate classes for young handlers – best thing to do is check before you go. Good luck.

  • Abbie

    Hi,I’m new to the showing please could you give me some tips!
    I’m showing in hand in the young handlers class. What do I need to do, what does the pony have to wear(plaited ) What do you have to do in the class ( Own show)

    • admin

      Hi Abbie. Have a read of the tips and advice further up this page as I think most of what you need is answered. If you have any further questions, do get back to me. Best wishes

    • heavenleigh

      your ponies hair doesn’t have to be plaited it could be flowing i am new to this pony lead rein thing. im starting the m and m classes in July June time i will give you all the advise i know about lead rein pony. I am getting a black leather lead rope and and a show bridle, a blue tweed show jacket and may be some brown short boots.
      They say that blue tweed show jackets look more glamorous or something for lead rein show pony shows. i am just giving you the advise i found out about it you don’t have to take my advise but it totally up to you.

  • Jessica Errington

    Hi, your article has really helped me understand what ts about! I just have some questions:
    1. How do i make my pony look nice?
    2. What do i wear?

    Thank You

    • admin

      You can make your pony look nice by washing and grooming as you would for a normal show (tips for this in the washing your horse section). You’ll get him looking nice in his show by following some of the tips in the article – ie show off his trot by running alongside at a good rate etc…. In terms of what you wear, again the article has some pointers, but with in hand showing most of the time anything goes as long as it’s smart, in keeping and respectful.

      Best of luck

    • heavenleigh

      i would wear a tweed jacket and it depends on your horses leg colors if you horse has dark legs wear light jodhpurs and if you horse has light legs wear dark jodhpurs. And any tie you have, i have a pony club tie but it is up to you what color tie you have. you don’t have to take my advise its totally up to you.


  • Chloe

    Hiya, Im showing my rising 2 gypsy cob x next weekend, Im entering the coloured class.
    What would i do with his mane? Plait it? Put it in plaited balls? Leave it natural? What do you think?

    Thanks chloe

    • admin

      Hi Chloe…… In my experience gypsy cobs tend to be shown with their manes all long and hairy – just give it a good brush and wash. Have fun.

  • Olivia

    I help exercise an Ardennes and I would quite like to do an in hand show. He follows me very well and keeps up with me. His feet aren’t the best condition though, one of his front hooves had a crack which has turned into a smooth…. Hole… I’m not sure how to explain it hahaa but its obviously not normal. Would this be an issue? Also he is very excitable in new situations (tis would be a first time thing) any advise on anything hahaa I just want to do some stuff with him before I have to go to uni 🙂 Also is it a lot about looks, I think he’s gorgeous (he is) but he is scruffy 😛 however he moves beautifully, would I maybe get a lower place because he isn’t trim and proper 😛

    Livvi x

    • admin

      Hi Livvi

      Good luck with your show. My advice would be at riding club level just have a go and have fun. You obviously love your horse. If you wash and groom him nicely and get him moving well I’m sure you’ll be fine. Re the excitable behaviour – most horses get like this in new situations, just keep him moving forward when you can and take no messing about. He may surprise you though and be an angel. It’s all experience for you both.

  • Hannah

    Hello, i am from the UK too and this weekend i am doing a show
    with my 13h pony, but when i practice, i can not turn corners with
    her in trot, as she becomes very strong and sometimes we nearly end
    up in the fence. She will not turn at all have you got any adive/exercises
    that may help? thank you very much, Hannah 🙂

    • admin

      Hi Hannah

      I’ve been through this. For me it really knocked by confidence as well. All I can say is keep practicing – sooner or later he should get a grip and give up. Controversially when I had a 14.2 doing the same thing but throwing rearing into the equation I placed a chifney bit in his mouth just to demonstrate that that behaviour is not acceptable. I only have to lead him a few times in it and then as soon as he had his normal bridle on he started behaving. Good luck.

    • heavenleigh

      when i try to trot with my horse she tries to bite me and puts her ears back at the idea of no treats involved.
      And when i turn corners she gets faster and tries to bite me on my arm and puts her ears back.
      This is a really really bad habit that she does all the time, and one last thing when i go to catch her in the field she runs away from me and runs in circles around me and gets closer and then turns her bum at me. Is this a habbit or is she just doing this to get her own way with me.
      if anyone knows please may they tell me on what they think i will try all of your ideas.
      Sorry i have been talking so long but i have loads of questions.

      • admin

        Hi – you need to show her who’s boss. She obviously believes that is her. Some of this behaviour could be dangerous. Do you have an instructor/trainer who could help you with some of these issues. Sometimes it’s hard to be tough and an outside pair of eyes from someone not so emotionally involved can help.

        • heavenleigh

          we have tried to get someone else to stop her doing it but she just comes back to being naughty again and if i am going to have a go at lead rein pony shows it is going to be a really long wait……….. where was i then oh yes so what can i do then, it would be very nice if you could tell me everything, i would try everything you tell me.


  • Amanda

    Hi im showing at a festival in three weeks. I have working huntered and showed in the past but never a in hand class. I bought a pure Connemara 14hh last month and she will be three shortly after the show..
    These are the classes i am planning on entering:
    Connemara and New Forest Youngstock
    M&M Large Breed Youngstock
    I am unsure as i have never showed ponies just horses but i take it she is a large breed M&M.
    Also is canary jods, black long laced show boots, tweed jacket, white shirt, navy gloves, dark pink tie and navy velvet helmet and hairnet ok?

  • Grace j

    I am showing in hand now I have never done it before but my horse is a sloppy 16hh cob, would I be aloud a caine in the ring.HOW CAN I GET HIM FASTER?

  • Sarah

    I have a 11 month old coloured Irish sports horse, I intend to take him to the local show this year just to have a nosey then hopefully enter an in hand class on the last open show. With him being coloured ( he is classed as roan and white at the mo but changing all the time) his legs are mainly white but the rest if him is mainly roan black and brown would you still go for dark trousers against the white legs ?
    I have a long way to go as he will not trot on a lead rein at the moment and has not yet had a bit in his mouth but I do use a control halter and lead him around the roads do he is used to being lead around but still has a tendency to tread all over me!!
    Do you think it would be best to just take him so he gets some experience of the show ground for now and aim to show next year as a 2 yr old ??
    I have never done in hand before oh and I’m 32 lol
    Any help / advise would be greatly appreciated
    Many thanks

    • admin

      Hi Sarah
      It sounds like you have a good plan, taking him to the show ground, then taking him to the open show…. Being tread over is common for youngsters, they are imbalanced, haven’t figured out the boundaries yet – mines two and is proving a challenge on the head collar at the moment…. you are not alone. The trousers sound fine, although get someone to look at you both and get them to tell you how it looks.

      It’s hard knowing when to take them for the first time – I wanted to take mine last year but the weather was so rotten I couldn’t face it… this year I’m a bit more determined but taking a horse out for the first time in a show environment is always a bit stressful.

      Best of luck – above all try to enjoy yourself

      • Sarah

        Thanks very much for your advice, I keep having to remind myself he is only a baby and to slow down as I just want to get him out there and show him off!
        There is an open show this Sunday that I am going to go to and just watch and learn, I am not expecting any rosettes this year but just to hopefully get him at least used to the environment.
        I’ve never had a youngster before, I lost my mare last August after 20 years together and fancied a whole new challenge and hopefully another life long friend 🙂 x
        Thanks again

  • megan

    I have a 5 year old new forest flea bitten grey, this will be my first show and I’m not sure about the tack what’s required and what is not. Just wondering if it would be better to use a bridle with reins (which is black) or buy a brown show bridle? also my pony 13.2, lives out and has a thick coat should he be clipped, should I plait his mane and is it allowed to use mints or voice commands, as he is trained without anything (halter,bridle,lead rope) to follow me by voice command walk and trot and I reward him with mints. Any advice would be appreciated,
    many thanks x

    • admin

      Don’t worry too much about tack – as long as it’s clean and he’s not a stallion or a foal they don’t tend to be fussed at local level. I wouldn’t clip and I wouldn’t plait – show him natural and also it’s not really that fair considering he lives out and will be starting to malt anyway. Voice commands are fine – if you’re using mints, try and do discretely.

  • sophie

    hello, i am doing an in hand veteran class with my not so cobby lightweight cob but not sure weather to plait or not even though she is a native breed !?? first time so im quite nervous but just doing it for the fun since she doesnt get out much 🙂

    • admin

      I wouldn’t plait, but it is up to you – above all if you’re doing it for fun try and remember that and have a good time!

      • heavenleigh

        my welsh mountain pony is 12 and has a really pretty flowing mane i am not sure if i should braid her mane and tail.

        if you can help admin or anyone please give me some advise on lead rein pony shows.

  • heavenleigh

    i have brought a black leather lead rope, and a black show bridle pony size.

    when is the next lead rein pony show on the isle of wight because i want to go and watch first.


  • Lizzie Thompson

    Hi there, Im really interested in showing my horse in hand this year, shes a 16.3hh, 14y.o full Tb but sadly she had an injury from a fence with her previous owner and now has a long thin scar on her back left hock, she was shown to a very high level with previous owner but im now looking to show her at county level is there anything i should/should’nt do to her r.e scar? Its purely cosmetic and doesn’t affect her confirmation or soundness in any way… I know she will get marked down so if im able to cover it should i?

    Many thanks!

    Lizzie Thompson

    • admin

      Hi Lizzie
      I’ve never had to do this…. what colour is she? My grandfather did use combinations of shoe polish and chalk when showing his ponies that had any blemishes/scarring – it was however a while ago, although he won numerous championships! I would hope these days judges would be more focused on conformation and paces, but if you’re equal with another horse on those you will probably get marked down for scarring. Best of luck

  • Clair

    Just wondering if you could answer a question for me I currently show my 4yr old cob in hand and have been quite successful. I take him into the m&m classes but at the last show I was told that because he only has cob on his passport I can’t take him into m&m classes but could take him into part bred – is this true?

    • admin

      Hi Clair. I’ve never shown a cob and I would start by checking with the society he’s registered with. In M and M we only tend to show pure breeds – Cobs (unless a welsh section) don’t tend to be as such. There are however loads of cob classes you could take your horse in.

  • rosa

    hi i was just wondering i’m showing a bay/chestnut pony, can i wear beige jodhpurs? also can i wear knee high riding boots?? or do they have to be short ones??

    • admin

      All sounds good to me… boots are fine, I don’t like running in them – but then I have short legs and mine pinch the back of my knees.

  • Shannon

    Hi there,
    I’m entering an in-hand M&M class in a few weeks with my 13 year old bay Welsh Section D and this is my first in-hand class. I’ve seen from above that most people wear tweed, but I only have a navy show jacket and white jodhpurs, do you think this would be okay? I’m only showing at a local show and in the UK.

    Shannon 🙂

  • Rachel

    Three weeks ago I adopted an off-the-track racehorse named Flynn (not sure what he raced under though). His conformation is amazing and people that drive by always slow down if they see him outside. I want to hand show him before I start competing in Eventing with him because he is the perfect size for me (I’m 5 foot 5 and he is 16.3 hh) and he loves to show off. 😛

    Flynn hates trailers and he hated the gate in his racing days, so he has scars on his face and left shoulder. Will the judges take these into account and lower the score or will they pass over them? They aren’t big scars. The biggest is maybe an inch long on his shoulder. But I was just wondering if they would hurt his final score. Thanks! 🙂

    • admin

      Hi Rachel
      Sadly I think they will affect his score. Don’t let that put you off showing him though. They should look at the whole package and it should be a good experience for you both. Also if you get really good at eventing you’ll be required to trot him up for the vet so it’s good practise.

      Best of luck

  • sheila

    Hi I am going to our local county show this weekend and have a few queries.
    Does my 4yr Shetland have to wear a bridle or could she wear a filly slip?
    Is it ok to trim the corners off my competition number?
    ANY tips or advise would be more than welcome pls

    • admin

      Best of luck….. not sure about the etiquette for Shetlands – I think a filly slip would be fine though. And yes if you want to trim your corners go for it. Further tips are in the blog. Have a great time.

  • Abbey


    I just wondered if you had any advice for me. I am planning on showing my 2 coloured ponies in M&M in-hand at a local show. My sister is showing my shetland (natural) and I was going to show my 13.3 fell x. However he is hogged at the moment, it’s growing out but not fast enough! Should I re-hog him or leave it sticking up? Or is it not worth showing him at all?
    I was thinking of doing the ridden class too, but don’t think they will like him hogged in either :/ Also both of them have a standard uk pony passport which under breed states ‘unknown’, they are both clearly natives but don’t want to turn up and be disappointed when they say I can’t compete


    • admin

      At local riding club shows they have NEVER checked my passports…… that said I would ring the club secretary, tell them what you’ve told me and see what they say – most are very relaxed and just want you to take part and get your cash – some however aren’t… and as you say it would be very annoying to turn up and not be able to compete…

      • Abbey

        Thanks for your quick reply 🙂 I rang them and they said it should be fine and its entry on the day so if I can’t compete then we can always watch.
        Do you think that him being hogged in m&m would be a problem?

        • admin

          For an M&M class strictly speaking they should be shown natural… however at riding club level some may make exceptions… I’d run this pass the show secretary too. You could also go for an open horse or pony class depending on the size of your animal.

  • Hannah

    Hi i have a show coming up at the end of july, which is a small local show that is being held at my yard, am planning on doing the turnout class as well as the best gelding class. what would i need to wear? so far have the idea of a black show jacket, white shirt, tie (havent decided colour), cream/beige jods (horse has dark legs) and black long riding boots. He will be wearing his normal tack, but would it be ok to show in his reins or do i need something else?

    • admin

      Hi – is this an in hand class? Everything you say sounds great – for a turnout class think perfection… the judge will notice so much as a hair out of place on you and the horse, they’re obsessive about it. Again you should be fine to use your reins.

  • Chloe

    Hi first time of showing..I have a welsh d cob hogged mane and clipped and he is black with white socks..what does he need ie bridle wise and what shall I wear ? I’m going to do the black pony class and maybe the hunter class ? And there is a ridden also .. Help haha

    • admin

      You can get a show bridle or if it’s easier just use the bridle you use everyday (clean it though). In terms of what to wear there are some tips in the blog – there usually aren’t any strict rules, just smart – some clubs will insist you wear a helmet though. Best of luck

  • Ladycat

    I would love to show my welsh cob (sec d) in hand. I have never done any kind of showing before and will go to some shows to see what the classes are all about and how the other horses look. 2 things I wondered about – Does my horse need to have a high trotting action in order to catch the judges eye when shown in hand? Also regarding weight, I have heard that judges prefer the cobs to be fat/ obese which hides the confirmation of the horse so can make them look better than they actually are. Is this true? My horse is the perfect weight at the moment and looks really well – I don’t want to resort to making her fat to enter a class. (My vet even said that some of the horses are so fat it was bordering on cruelty)

    • admin

      Hi. The horsey world has tried to stamp out judges who like fat horses. Generally these days they like your horse/pony looking the correct size and weight. I have a good doer who tends to pile on the pounds and the odd judge has advised that he needs to lose weight not put more on (and he was only borderline fat at the time). You should never let your horse get overweight just for a in hand class – or any other class for that matter. It’s no good for you or the horse and can lead to serious health problems. All judges are looking for something different in terms of action – as I’ve said in the blog i just tend to go as fast as my legs will let me and see how the horse responds – it’s worked so far!

  • Jade

    I have a show next week, i’m doing an in hand class, i was wondering would i be able to get away with putting on my pony his leather head collar with a leather lead rein? or would it be best to take the reins of at the show after my riding classes and put the chain on?

  • raine

    Hi I’m showing my 5 yr old Dartmoor half purebreed and she never showed EVER and im doing in hand also my first time and she’s bay so I was wondering what to do and how to do it and what shall I wear. And cool website I love it?

    • admin

      Hi there. All the info you should need is at the top of the page and in some of the answers to questions already posted. have a read through it, and if you’ve still got a question, fire away!

  • alicia

    Hello, im doing a local in hand class with my new forest on Sunday and I was just wondering if she would lose points for her being quite fat. She has been put on full turnout in the last 2 weeks and I brought her in on Saturday for a ride to find that she was really fat because of the amount she has ate :/ Will it affect my score or anything? Thanks x

    • admin

      Hi. It wouldn’t put me off going to the competition as every judge is different and some judges don’t mind a bit of weight. Long term, try and get the weight off your horse though as it will be better for you and her. Have fun!

  • molly

    I am only a child and I like to do veteran showing at south kilworth riding club. I always get told I should make her walk faster when I walk into the ring, but even when I make her walk fast I still get told to walk her faster next time., to show off her stride. do you have any advice on how to make her walk fast without troting

    • admin

      It can be tough when you’re a bit smaller than other people – I’m an adult and I’m still pretty tiny. All you can do is march around the ring as fast and as large stride wise as your legs will let you (there are some tips in the blog). You can also practice at home getting your horse to walk with you – sometimes a couple of taps with a riding crop on the flanks is all it needs. It’s good to go to a variety of riding clubs as well – different judges will give you different advice and opinions – a fresh pair of eyes could make all the difference.

  • Ellen

    sorry got a couple questions.. am hoping to show my 15.2hh chestnut irish sport horse inhand at a local level show, she’s quite chunky on top but her legs aren’t massively thick boned.. is her breed suited to hunter inhand – she has been hunted so quessing she’s right type? or should i just go with veteran which is less type specific? she’s bitless and i’ve been told i can show her inhand bitless however would it be best to lead her in a leather headcollar or her usual bitless bridle – which is a Dr Cook? she is chestnut to the floor without any white on her legs, are her legs classed as dark or light – so what colour trousers should i wear!?
    thanks !! x

    • admin

      I’d check with where you’re planning on showing on classes – different places have different ideas. I’m sure leather halter will be fine. As for trouser colours – any apart from red, orange or brown should be fine.

      Good luck

  • Tiffany

    Hi I’m hoping to show my cob in hand and she is great. She will stand and walk but when it comes to trotting in hand she is lazy:( is there any advise you could give me to help her do this she is 3 thank you

    • admin

      Practice at home and be firm… if you want her to trot she has to… If she won’t move a tap with a short riding whip will usually chivvy them along… you could also try running with a treat in your hand – they get the treat when you stop trotting…

      Good luck!

  • Ruby


    I was wondering if I could wear jodhpurs for in hand showing? or would you have to wear trousers?? also, I have a palomino pony so I’m not sure which colour I could use. would black be too casual??


    • admin

      In my experience you can wear what you want as long as it’s smart. I’ve seen some very odd fashion choices! With a palomino I’d avoid cream. Have fun.

  • Francesca


    I have a 13.2 Welsh Part Bred and I want to inhand show her but I don’t know what classes would be suitable for her size or breed. I have all the gear already but am unsure whether a navy blue show jacket is alright. Please help!


  • Sophie

    Hi I have a 17hh Chestnut Clydesdale cross with white legs and i am looking to move up in the inhand showing. So far i have gotten away with wearing my cream jods and black long riding boots with a tweed jacket but i have been told for the show i have qualified for that i could be penalised for incorrect dress. I have been told trousers and short boots and the jacket is acceptable but a waistcoat would be better.

    My question basically is do you have any tips on what type of trousers and a colour and should i get a waistcoat (if so what colour) i have a red tie with gold spots and looks great with my jacket.
    He is a hunter and seems to be popular in this category so wondering what would be best for us.

    Thank you (Sorry its long)

    • admin

      I wear a blue silk waist coat and a blue tie, white shirt – it looks nice with my chestnut as well as my grey. My trousers are basically a cream chino type. I have a friend who wears a tweed waistcoat – she’s bigger than me – I think it used to be her grandads. You’ll have to see what works but I suspect red may clash a bit with your horse. Best of luck

  • Jenni

    I am 13 years old and have a 21yr old chestnut, Thoroughbred mare. I was thinking of taking her into the in-hand or ridden veteran classes but the only times I’ve showed her are in Clear Rounds where you can just wear casual clothes so I have no idea how to dress!

    It’s a local, unaffiliated show but I’m still really nervous! She’s ridden in a french link bit with a standard brown bridle. Would it be okay for in-hand for me to use her everyday bridle? or does she need another type of bridle? also, what should I wear for the in-hand class?


    • admin

      You will be fine in your everyday bridle – please read the blog for info on what to wear, if you have any more questions just shout up. Best of Luck.

  • Lottie

    – I have a chestnuts tb that I am going to take in-hand showing. I wear a navy show jacket, cream/canary jods, black hat and black short boots and black whip. So i was wondering should I get a black in-hand bridle aswell to match the rest of my outfit or go with brown to match his colour better? Im thinking one brown think will look strange when everything else is black ? xx

  • braidy greatorex

    hi im going in a lead in hand show next year and i dont know what to wear please tell me what to wear as i dont have a clue.

  • Mya&Iona

    This Page was soo helpful Thanks 😀 !! me and my friend are planning to go to our first show with the lively and young pony we work with 😀 This is both our first show and we are very nervous and do u think this is okay to wear (we live in the UK)

    Green tweed coat
    brown stock with yellow spots
    gold stock pin
    high black boots
    and Beige jods
    and black helmet?

    also we cant really afford another jacket and everything else we cant share that one as im already sharing with someone else so do u have any Unexspensive outfit ideas that still look smart but are affordable?

    Thanks Mya xxx

    • admin

      That sounds great Mya…. Re looking for inexpensive stuff for in hand showing, you can always just wear a waistcoat, or just a smart shirt and tie…. I know of people who’ve found great coats in charity shops, my friend wears an old one of her grandads!

  • georgina downs

    hi i have a 5 year old warblood who is a death wish so thinking of doing some inhand showing to get him to settle and get used to doing things. are there any classes i could even do inhand baring handsome horse ect would like to go county level as i belive he could go that farm but i cant actually think of a class he could be put in.
    thanks for your help.

  • Amelia

    I have a miniature Shetland pony that I’m showing this season she is black and white coloured she has four white legs but then big black patches on her body iv got a light blue tweed jacket with a white shirt any preference on boot length and also colour of the trousers as she has a in hand brindle which is brown and gold with the same colour leather lead rein? Any comments would be a great help also on which bit as she has a nylon bar bit and also a drop cheek snaffle as it is hard to find a bit small enough for her mouth as she is only 32 inches big in height.

    • admin

      Re what to wear with a Shetland I’d just go for something that looks good… I would hope the judge wouldn’t get your legs and its mixed up!!! I like wearing short boots as I find them easier to run in…. the bridle sounds fine but as it’s a Shetland have you considered a nice halter???

      Best of luck

  • braidy greatorex

    For in hand showing would this be ok for my first time:
    Tweed show jacket
    Yellow showing jodhpurs
    Blue tie
    Black leather boot and chaps
    Black hat with a small vent
    White shirt

  • Becky

    Hiya, i have a coloured cob type, how would he be turned out for the native class as ive been told he will fit into the criterea for this one? Also with him having white legs will black trousers be better for me as not to ‘blend in’ with his legs? Its our first time for us both so im unsure about everything!

    • admin

      Natives are all natural…. Long manes… Long feathers… Un clipped… More effort for washing but they look amazing…. Re trousers, black sounds good for me… Good luck!

  • lauren

    Hi, I am going to be showing my bay 14.2 Arab x Cob this summer for the first time and I’m new to all this in hand stuff. What classes could I do with him? Plait or not to plait? What colour jacket do I wear? (I’ve had different people tell me different thing on that one) Do I wear short or long boots? Any other advice is welcome. Thank you x

    • admin

      Re what to wear, please read the post – hopefully it will answer your questions… as for class I’d look for an open horse/pony depending on size, it’s usually a good place to start.

  • Diane

    Hi Admin
    I’ve found all of your comments really helpful, especially since you are based in the Uk! I’m doing my first in hand show in two weeks, I’m 31 now and it’s taken me this long to get back to doing something I should have done years ago! I can’t prepare my boy the night before as I’m out of the country working, have you any advise for preparing him on the day? Should I shampoo him completely? Also I will have to plait his mane as half of it has rubbed off due to his rug! Disaster 🙁 any feedback would be much appreciated.

    • admin

      If you can for the class… ie it’s not native I would plait it, it will look tidier…. re bathing it depends on how cold it is where you are and how mucky he is… My grey is well rugged up and clipped so this time of clear I can usually get away with a leg clean and tail wash.

      Best of luck

  • Tanya

    Hi, I have a 2 yr old newforest x filly that im looking to show. the thing i have is that she looks like a hunter type when platted and a native type when left. her mane is short and she is a strawberry roan. i would like some help on suggesting classes for her as my brain is starting to ache now lol


    tanya x

    • admin

      I think you may struggle with native classes as she is a cross… there’s open horse/pony depending on height… failing that as you say there’s your hunter classes… I’d pick a few riding clubs and then ring them up and see what they do and which classes would suit…
      Good luck

  • Beth

    Im thinking of entering my five year old in her first show so wanted to do an in hand classes as neither of us is experienced with showing. Shes a coloured 14.3hh Irish Sports type mare so i think i would enter her in coloured horse/pony, my question is for this class would i be expected to plait her mane/tail, also she is unclipped, does this matter? Also what can i do, if anything, to prepare her for being in the ring and generally for this class?
    Thank you!!

    • admin

      I wouldn’t plait a cob… and the fact she isn’t clipped will be better at this time of year when most horses clips are growing out and they look a bit of a mess… re preparation have look at the blog post and if you have any more questions shout up.

  • Susan Harrison

    Hi, I’m wanting to show my 16h Andalusian gelding this year in hand and ridden at County level only, can you advise me on what attire horse & handler/rider should have. Many thanks.

  • Zoe

    Hi do you have any advise on showing stallions I’ve shown in hand before but always been Shetlands or mares and geldings after owning my boy for just over 12months and using him as a stallion at stud I’ve decided to do a little bit of showing with him as I feel he has a boring life. He’s so well behaved on the yard I’m just worried he will play up at a show I know I can handle him more worried about disrupting other people. I do know that horses tend to play up at the most silly times like shows

    • admin

      Hi Zoe

      I can understand why you worry about other people….. my gelding behaves like a total nutter at times as it’s embarrassing… that said other competitors on a whole know what its like and have probably been there…. I’d just take him somewhere quiet first time out…. and have a good bit in his mouth – you may want to try an actual stallion bit… My grandfather used to show stallions, he firmly believed the more “up for it” they where the better they did with the judges because they looked more showy… so as long as you can control him it might be no bad thing….

      Best of luck

  • Tanya Brown

    hi i wundered if anyone can help my son as a sec a 12hh mare shes a brill lead rein pony but in scared when we take her to shows and she plays up really badly.i was wundering in taking her to in hand showing would help her

    • admin

      Can you give me a few more details….. Do you just do lead rein at home… or is she good at lead rein when she’s out… how does she play up?

  • Eve


    I have a Welsh Sec B mare, she is 19 years old and arthritic in her right shoulder. I want to try veteran classes, I wondered if you had any advice on horse and rider attire, show behaviour etc?


  • millie

    hiya i was just wondering is it better to wear a tweed or plain black/brown show jacket to showing in hand and also ridden?
    many thanks millie

    • admin

      Hi I would have thought they’d have no problem with you leading… They may even have young handler classes you can enter as well…. Best thing is to check before you go
      As for what to wear… Have a look at the blog for some tips and if u have any more questions just ask
      Good luck!

  • jan

    hi i have a welsh sec b x conny gelding rising 2 last year i shown him in a white halter i was told this was fine but after a recent show have been told because he is welsh b x he needs a bridle on and to be plaited up i show him in youngstock ,best condition and in hand showing also he had a bad fall in his stable over the winter and now has a bit of a capped hock i know it will go against him in shows but is there anything i can do to try reduce it. The judge said he also needs more condition does this mean he needs more weight as we cant feel his ribs let alone see them

    • admin

      TBH I’m a little confused…. I wouldn’t think you’d need to plait him…. and I wouldn’t have thought a bridle would be compulsory either…. As for condition may be the judge means a little more muscle development, if they meant more fat unless your pony is underweight I’d just ignore them – I’d rather have a healthy horse than a fat/dead one! Also as it’s a youngster they’re bound to look a little gangly!

      • jan

        hi ty for ur response i have had a better judge sundays show 13/7/14 she said it was great to see a 2 year old that wasnt overweight and he looked brill he does look leggy at times but his bones are very well covered u cant feel his ribs last year he was ribby it has taken time to build him up from a bad start but i didnt want to pile weight on him to fast i did it slowly ur welcome to take a look at his facebook page it is called nicos progress the only thing the judge said was he isnt showing his pace yet but it will come in time he tends not to pick his feet up and takes short steps she suggested using trotting poles to try encourage him to picjk his feet up a little bit

  • Nikki

    Hi, I’m showing for the first time ever this weekend, my friend has told me I can use my bridle with reins on is this correct?

  • Lowri Williams

    Hi just wanted to say how helpful this is! i have a section a pony and it is our first year of showing. The only thing i worry about is the horse getting spooked and freaking out! any tips on this? thanks!

    • admin

      My advice would be give it a go and see what happens.. When I took my 2 year old out for the first time she was apprehensive but very good… I’d done a lot of work with her leading her around obstacles in the school and a bit of walking on the road so she’d seen a few things… if you are really genuinely bothered you could always take her to a friends house or hire somewhere local to take it somewhere new with no pressure

  • Amy Hamilton

    Hey, I’m showing my 16hh 5 year old Irish Sports Horse on July 26th in an In-hand Hunters and Hack over 14.2hh class and I’m wondering if I have to plait him. Also he’s a bay so can I wear beige jodhpurs? Lastly, what show gear do you think I should wear (it’s a low level country show). Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks.
    p.s I’m in the uk if that helps

    • admin

      I would have thought you should plait him as hunters tend to be plaited in the field. Beige jods sound fine as for other “gear” advice please read the blog, any more questions just ask.

  • Jodie

    Hi I was wondering if my 13yr old daughter who’s 5ft 1 could show her 16,3hh ISH in hand? I’ve been told she’s over horsed and wouldn’t be able too?

    • admin

      Personally as long as she can control the horse and run him up quick enough to show him off I’d have a go at in hand showing. I’m not even 5foot and although I’d expected some snide comments from people it wouldn’t stop me – and shouldn’t stop you.

  • louise maycock

    Hi my 4 year old daughter is doing her first lead rein class she has long black riding boots already and will be on a white/grey sec a what colours would my 4yr old be best wearing white jods and a navy jacket, tweed jacket and creamy yellow jods im confused on the rules lol, please help

  • Holly Mappleton

    First off, I would like to thank you for posting this article.. it is very informative and helpful. In a number of weeks (26-28th July) I will be going down to Arena UK in Grantham to compete in-hand in the CHAPS Championships.

    The horse I will be showing is a 14 month old colt, he has excellent bloodlines etc so his conformation is not a problem it is only presenting it, we have done several county and local level shows to date and he always does extremely well (Usually he comes champion or reserve.)

    I am under 18 so I have to wear canary jodhpurs, brown showing boots, tweed and of course a riding helmet.

    However, I would like to know how to get him to stand still and listen to me whilst in the ring, I have been working like crazy on getting him stood square and leaning and at home it is no problem at all and he listens to me perfectly, but at shows because he is un-cut he decides that it is OK to get a little hot..

    Any tips or advice for Arena UK?

    • admin

      Sounds like you’re doing really well….. unfortunately for colts he is likely to get a little hot… all you can do is what you have been doing – which is practice and take him out as much as you can so he gets bored by what’s going on around him….

    • admin

      Hi Kerrie. At first you just walk round the outskirts of the ring. The judge will then direct you what to do from there. If unsure you can just follow others though too.

  • Sandra

    I was thinking of taking my yearling to a little show just to get him out and looking. He is a sports horse/hunter gelding so was looking at hunter yearling class. Presumably I will plait him which I have practiced but someone told me he should be bitted! I feel it a bit extreme to bit a one year old, do I have to bit him or is it ok to show him in a show bridle with Newmarket coupling?

    • admin

      I wouldn’t worry about biting a 1 year old. Like you say it seems little extreme! As long as you can keep hold of him in a show bridle with coupling or halter I wouldn’t worry about it.
      Have fun

  • Tony

    Hi, I’m a 56 year old man who has never ridden before but has volunteered to show, in hand, my partners beautiful 7 year old Friesian gelding at Tall Trees in 2 weekends time. I will be practising frantically over the next week and a half and have read a lot of the information above which has been very useful. My question is please, what to wear? I have no riding gear, I do have beige trousers and a white shirt. I am sure I can find a suitable tie. Jacket could be a problem and I have no headgear. I’ve also been told that laces are not allowed in the showing. Is this correct? I would have liked to have worn my walking boots really. Any help and other general advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • admin

      Hey there…. everything you say sounds great… I wore a pair of blue cords for my last in hand show…. As regards laces, I’ve never heard that and can’t imagine its the case for in hand. I have a friend who runs his mare up in white football boots!

      Best of Luck.

  • Tony

    Thanks for the support. Unfortunately my Partner and I couldn’t be at the show due to circumstances beyond our control. However, the horse was taken and shown by some friends and came 1st in class invited classical breeds in hand, 1st in class invited classical breeds ridden. 1st invited classical breeds and part bred champion, in hand. 1st invited classical breeds and part bred champion, ridden. Best in show, Invited Classical breeds and Part Bred. We are so chuffed and now plan to do more shows next year. Thanks again for all the advice above. I will put it to good use next year.

  • Nat

    Sorry if this has already been answered but…
    What do I wear to show my little Welsh section a mare I’d be going in a young handler class and was just wondering really what I should wear. She’s dark bay and has two white legs.Shes only got the two white legs and it’s just above her hoof that’s White it’s not all the way up her leg?
    Sorry if its sounds a bit stupid

    • admin


      It doesn’t sound stupid at all…. please read the blog post though and if you have any further questions shout up. Best of luck and most of all have fun.

  • Harley Brunning

    I’m doing a in hand show was wondering is white jodhpurs,whiteshirt,black boots,pink tie and a black jacket with pink buttons ok xx

  • Harriet kleban

    Hi please can anyone guide me….. I have a 3 year old filly I am taking in a young stock class in hand class. she is actually just broken to ride, however how is the best was to present her. should she be in a bit less showing bridle or can she be bitted in the class? it is a local show and she is welsh x warmblood?
    many thanks 🙂

    • admin

      Tbh I would show her what she feels comfortable with, you feel comfortable with and shows her off best. I showed my 3 year old in a bridle simply because in a holter I wouldn’t have been able to keep hold of her.
      Best of luck

  • Suzy Johnstone Smith


    I have a beautiful TB mare I would like to try my first local in hand show with, she is an ex-racer and when she was in training she had an accident on a horse walker and broke her jaw, she has a scar from this on the right side of her muzzle would this make in hand showing a no go for us? It doesn’t affect her in any way, she is still beautiful to me but I wonder if she’d be marked down for this?

    • admin

      Sadly I think some judges would mark you down but don’t be put off……. In Hand Showing is a great experience and you never know who else will be in the class

  • Pippa

    Hi I’ve been reading through the comments and this has helped me so much! But I have a question about transport of the horse, I’ve never taken him anywhere and this is my first time taking a horse out to anything so do you need travel boots (the place is only 20mins away) , would it be dangerous to take him without them?

    • admin

      Travel boots can be a bit contentious. Some people swear by them – others say they do more harm than good. I’d always put my older horse in them to travel anywhere…. that said I have a youngster that doesn’t travel well and flips out so much the boots cause more harm than good – however I put them on she always rips them off. With her I’ve had to repeatedly work on loading her, standing with her in the trailer and going back and forwards on the drive…. She can’t seem to get how to hold herself… its been very long and tedious but slowly she’s getting better. I think you need to try him on the trailer before show day to see what happens.

  • Jules

    Hi, I have a knabstrupper mare, I’m hoping to show in hand at local shows this year, before I got her I think she has mainly been used has a brood mare so her belly is a bit on the large side, would this put judges off her? what classes could I enter , I’ve never done shows before, can you enter a spotted horse in a coloureds class ? Thanx

    • admin

      I have no experience of owning one myself but asking around at a local level you should be able to show in a coloured class…. if you’re not or there is a separate class for your knabstrupper it should say on your schedule. You could also enter an open horse class if it’s over 14.2

  • marc leon

    I have a 4 year old clydesdale that I am going to show in hand at a local show on Sunday. I don’t have a bridle that fits him so would it be ok to show him in a head collar . Its his first show and just want him to enjoy the experience.

    • admin

      If it’s about going and showing for enjoyment and experience and you can handle him safely – go for the head collar. Would be great if it was in good condition and clean though, unlike mine (that are a bit holey and have been dragged around a field).

  • sarah

    This is a brilliant article and all the questions and answers are fab. I want to show my two appaloosa’s in hand in coloured classes etc.. do I need to plait their manes and tails. Appaloosa are known for poor manes and tails and she doesn’t have a lot. My daughter who is 11wants to show one is that acceptable.

    • admin

      Thanks for your kind comments. I’d definitely plait the mane but you don’t have to bother with the tail – that or you could hogg! Good luck.

  • Louise

    Hi I’m showing my Welsh C in a few classes at my local show do I have to wear tweed? or can I wear a black jacket? do I need to plait him he’s showing in bony pony, new combination , M&M and young handler


    • admin

      I wouldn’t plait him as you’re showing in m and m and he’s a welsh. I’m sure you’ll be ok to wear a black jacket. Good luck

  • M&M hopeful

    Hi, this is all very helpful, especially about turnout and what to expect. My question s about what is expected about the leader-horse relationship. When leading, should the leader be at the head (or ahead)or at the shoulder? Does it differ in walk or trot? How closely should you be holding the house? Should you always turn the horse away (ie to the right)? I have.a 14.2 connie who I have been training as an RDA pony/lead rein pony with my (disabled) daughter on board. I would like to try in hand, M&M showing but wonder if the style of leading is different. He (the pony) is quite happy and forward, but tends to follow me – should I try and school him to be more \\\”ahead\\\” of me?

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