In Hand Showing: What to Wear and What to do

I'm so excited to get back out doing some in hand showing this Summer with Ferdia. He seems to be growing really well, is nicely covered and is pretty level (two-year-olds are notorious for growing awkwardly and being bum high). We've been practising our in-hand trot in the field at home and I think we're ready to go public!

I love in-hand classes, it's all about your horse's conformation and natural way of going, and there is no rider to interfere with them. Most of the Agri shows have classes for broodmares, foals, youngstock with some even having classes for cobs, minis and rescues. Ozzy, who is in no way a show cob, has even managed to come home with a few ribbons before!

For some reason, a lot of people are put off with the thought of doing in-hand classes, with most citing a fear of not knowing what to do, what to wear or, sometimes, what classes to enter, as being the main reason. Well, I'm here to help and to encourage you to get out and give it a go :)

Bridle - this can be in the form of an in-hand bridle (all ages), foal slip (for foals) or a snaffle or double bridle (for adult horses, 4 years +). Make sure to use a bridle that compliments your horses head. Ribbon browbands are suitable for ponies or very light horses, otherwise, the browband should be clinched or pain.
Bit - for youngstock (yearlings to three-year-olds) you can wear a simple rubber bit. Foals can be bitless or also have a little rubber bit if they're strong. Adult horses can wear snaffles, pelhams or a double bit.
Most shows require that yearlings are bitted. You may feel they don't need it and don't want to wear one, however, with the noise and excitement of a show you will be thankful for the little bit of extra control. It can
Coupling - you can use a 2-way or 3-way coupling for leading. 2-way coupling attaches to either side of the bit while a 3-way coupling also has a piece of leather to attach to the noseband. 3-way coupling transfers some of the pressure from the bit to the noseband so ideal for those who are very quiet and don't need much pressure on the bit.
Lead - A leather lead is attached to the coupling and held by the handler.

Hat - Your head should be covered although it's not a rule. I would recommend wearing a riding hat for youngstock or anything a bit lively. A riding hat with flesh coloured straps is the most flattering. Ladies should wear their hair in a bun
Clothing - A cream, yellow or blue shirt and complementary tie should be worn. A tweed or dark jacket is recommended but can be removed on hot days. Some people choose to wear waistcoats over their shirt. Trousers can be light or dark coloured.
Footwear - Dark boots or shoes that you can run in.
Accessories - Brown or black gloves should be worn. A brown or black show cane, although this is optional.
Gortfree Hero and his handler Andrew Gardiner at the RDS 2017


1. Horses and handlers enter and walk around the ring clockwise (so that the horse is to the inside, facing the judge, with the handler on the outside). You walk around as a group, usually a few laps so the judge can get a good look at everyone. You should be well spaced out so that your horse can walk freely. At this stage, the judge is looking for a long and free walk.

2. The steward will then stop people in one corner of the ring and you form a queue. You will then be asked to trot around the ring and to the back of the line. The judge is looking for an active trot, with the horse tracking up nicely. The horse should not break into canter at any stage, however, if it does calmly bring it back to trot and continue to the end.

3. One everyone has trotted individually the class will once again walk around the ring while the judge decides on a provisional order. The steward will call people, by pointing, into the centre of the ring to line up beside each other. It is important to watch the steward at this stage so you don't miss being called in the lineup.

4. Each handler will go to the judge individually and present the horse. The horse should be presented in "open stance" and not stood square. The judge will walk around the horse looking for straightness and conformation.
Being presented in "Open Stance"
5. The handler will walk away from the judge in a straight line and when they reach the end of the ring to turn the horse away from them and trot back in a straight line towards the judge. The judge will be
checking for straightness of the trot and will move out of the way with the handler trotting around the ring to the back of the lineup. This allows the judge to see the horse from all angles.

6. Once each horse has been presented the class will be asked to walk around the ring as a group once again. The judge will make their final decisions and the steward will call people into the lineup once again for the final placings and prize giving.
Cappa Aristocrat - winner of the Irish Draught stallion class in the RDS 2017


  1. Thank you, we've decided to give in hand showing ago this year and this article was really helpful. Now to find suitable classes for our section A dun :)

  2. Before you bring your new equine companion home, you'll want to learn about the basics of good horse care. I suggest you to visit

  3. So is it open stance now that we show out horses of as it used to be that they stood square someone told me ? Just want to get it right ?