Ring Strategy: Part 1

Novice western pleasure exhibitors can put these tips to use along the rail.

Only one horse in 100 does all the gaits slowly and correctly on its own every time, and as a beginner, you probably don’t have that horse.

Instead, when you’re showing in western pleasure, you’re trying to do as well as you can with the horse you can afford.

Read the Rulebook

Whether you’re going to be showing in pleasure, horsemanship or showmanship, you need to read the class specifications. It’s going to tell you what’s going to happen in that class. You still need to see a class before you show in it, but you’ll know the basic guidelines.

You’ll know that in a western pleasure class, you’re going to be judged going both directions and that the horse is being judged, not the rider.

Your horse should be a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to ride. All of your efforts should be aimed at making your horse look smooth.

Any time you have a question about how your horse should look in the show ring, don’t depend on fads to tell you – look at the rulebook. If you’re confused about what bit to use – look at the rulebook.

AQHA’s “Show Me” DVD features numerous people involved in different areas of showing. They explain how to take the first step and get involved in your first show. Order your copy today!


If you don’t practice, it doesn’t make any difference what you do in the ring.

Some amateurs just want to show up and get on. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You need to get to know your horse, and you need to practice your riding so you can make your horse look more pleasurable to ride, especially if you’re a novice.

A lot of novices get scared when their horse goes a little too fast, because their balance changes with the rhythm. That’s something you need to practice, too: changing rhythms until your whole body is relaxed. It’s like any other sport – it takes physical exertion. Your horse won’t stay steady in the ring unless you’ve got him steady at home.

If it were easy, you could just as well go to Walmart and put your quarter in the coin horse because it will always give you the same ride. Instead, get on your western pleasure horse and practice to get ready for the horse show.

Winning Tips

Don’t let equine gastric ulcer syndrome keep you and your horse out of the winner’s circle. Know the signs for EGUS to keep your horse comfortable and competitive.

Dr. April Knudson, manager of Merial Veterinary Services, advises owners to recognize the signs of EGUS. She says, “It’s common for horses with stomach ulcers to endure mild colic, poor hair coat, inadequate body condition or substandard performance – as well as the more well-known signs of decreased appetite and poor behavior.”

In AQHA's "Show Me" DVD you’ll learn the different AQHA disciplines to choose from and the different class divisions, including plenty of choices for beginners. Order your copy now!

Stressful situations usually trigger ulcer formation, Dr. Knudson says. She urges owners to be aware of the stressful situations that can trigger EGUS, such as training, competition, stall confinement, trailering and lay-up due to injury. These common activities are almost impossible to avoid for competitive horses, and without preventive treatment, stomach ulcers are likely to develop.

There is a reliable product to prevent ulcers if horses are about to go into training or travel to a competition, Dr. Knudson says. UlcerGard is the only product that works to prevent equine stomach ulcers.  At about $10 a day, UlcerGard has been proven effective in preventing stomach ulcers when used during stressful situations.

Stay tuned for the second part of this series!