By Andre Dignelli
I always stress the importance of preparation, but there are many facets to that. The physical and mental aspects are certainly paramount, but the details in presentation can never be overlooked.
I often get asked about my show ring “dos and don’ts,” and I think it’s important to know how to edit. You don’t need to have the latest and greatest breeches and show coat. It’s more important that what you do have fits properly. If you have all the right gear and it’s not fitting well, you might as well not have the right gear.
If the saddle pad is not fitting properly, if the martingale is hanging with a dangerously low loop, if your show coat is wrinkled and not properly fitted—these are things that draw the eye to something negative. Nothing should distract from your riding, from the round in the ring. That starts with the rider.
What are some of our pet peeves at Heritage?
- A horse with a “mohawk” makes me crazy. The bridle path should be properly trimmed before coming to the horse show.
- I don’t believe that glitter has a place in the equitation ring. This include helmets with too much adornment and dangly, distracting jewelry.
- In addition to an ill-fitting saddle pad, a saddle pad in the wrong color (including one that has faded or been stained or bleached in the wash) should only be used for schooling at home. The same goes for fleece girths and girth covers.
- Leather straps on a bridle should be properly placed in keepers.
- When it comes to front boots for your horse, you should have a set of both schooling and show boots. I personally prefer leather boots—without bulky fleece—for the equitation ring. At Heritage, we developed our own leather front boot that is minimalistic, classically styled and protective.
- Untucked shirts and wispy hair hanging out of a hairnet
- Dirty boots. Boot polishing is absolutely part of our program at Heritage.
- Being late. It costs absolutely nothing to be on time, and it is guaranteed to put you ahead.
Andre Dignelli is the owner and head trainer at Heritage Farm, a New York based institution that has produced national hunter, jumper and equitation champions for nearly three decades. In his junior years, he won the 1985 USET finals and later went on to win the bronze medal at the 1991 Pan Am Games. Since then, Andre has coached numerous equitation, hunter and jumper champions at the nation’s top shows. His program has helped develop top riders including Kent Farrington, Kirsten Coe, Maggie McAlary, Reed Kessler, Lillie Keenan and many others