Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Going First

This show season I've noticed one thing in particular that drives in-gates, judges, show management and coaches/riders alike crazy: the first rider of the class who isn't ready on time. This happens in both the hunter ring and the jumper ring, and each time it slows down the day for everyone and makes it extra difficult to determine when the later riders will need to get ready.

There are several possible reasons why you might end up being the first horse into the ring for your class. In some cases you might prefer to go at the beginning, there might be a posted order and you were drawn first, you might have arrived late and the remaining spot is first, or you might have added into the class and as a result you were put at the top of the order. Going at the top of the order can be a desirable thing for certain horses and riders: easier scheduling, an earlier finish, multiple horses with the same rider in one class, a quieter warm-up area, etc.

Keep in mind that in many cases you will still be expected to return to the ring with your horse at the end of the class for a jog or ribbon presentation even if you go early in the order.

In the hunter ring there is no excuse not to be ready when the class begins. The course has already been posted and you should have learned it early in the day, there is no course walk, and if you've been keeping up to date with how the earlier classes are running you should have no problem getting warmed up and to the ring on time. If you expect that there might be a conflict with your trainer or if you're also riding another horse in a different ring, warn the in-gate in advance that you might not be able to make it on time. Without warning, the in-gate won't know whether you've decided not to compete in the class after all, and knowing about the conflict will enable him or her to communicate with the other ring to maintain an appropriate order of go.

When it comes to the jumpers, going first can be a bit more complicated. Ideally, you will walk your course with an earlier class so that you can warm up during your own class's course walk. If you can't walk the course ahead of time, you need to have someone at the ring to hold your horse during the course walk. When you're first in the order, there isn't time to run back to your stall or trailer to fetch your horse after the walk. Look at the course diagram well ahead of time so that you can head right in for the walk without having to learn the pattern at the same time. If your class is the first of the day, keep in mind that you can walk the course as soon as it's set; there's no need to wait until the last minute!

All of your flatwork needs to be done before the course walk, and preferably you'll be able to jump most of your warm-up jumps ahead of the walk, too. Once you complete your course walk (and try very hard not to be the last one left walking in the ring), get right back on your horse and jump a final warm-up jump or two to get back into the rhythm before heading to the in-gate.

This is the routine that others will be expecting of you, and you will throw off the timing of other riders' warm-ups if you don't promptly walk up to the in-gate following the course walk.

Unsure of when you might be expected to go first? If you're entering a mini prix, classic or any other class with a posted order day-of, expect to be put at the top of the order of go. Any time there is a drawn/posted order you could potentially be first, so check the order well in advance if you can. Lastly, if you don't sign in early for a class that's running as a sign-in rather than as a posted order, the remaining spots are likely to be near the beginning of the class. In this case there might be more leeway for moving the order around depending on the particular horse show, but you will likely be expected to go early if possible.

That being said, if you aren't sure where you will be in the order, always assume that you might have to go first and enjoy the breathing room if you end up being able to take more time to get ready. Having everyone arrive at the ring promptly is something that everyone on the showgrounds will appreciate, and it will make for that much less "hurry up and wait" for all.


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