Summer showing - for horses and ponies. (In-hand, M&M, ridden show horses & ponies, working hunter)

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There are some lovely horse shows running up and down the UK currently that are offering showing classes for horses and ponies. We know that many of our customers enjoy showing, so have detailed some of the main classes available... visit The British Show Horse Association and The British Show Pony Society for more info.

Equine showing classes


Whether it’s a fun show or an affiliated one, the majority of horse and county shows have 'in-hand' classes, which may include young-stock, broodmare and some stallion classes, veteran, coloureds, mountain and moorland, hunters, and those aimed at specific breeds. Why not take part in a fancy dress class? Ideal for leading a pony in-hand, you can have great fun creating sweet costumes, and getting the kids involved too. Read more in our blog ‘Why you should try in-hand showing with your horse or pony’, HERE.

Photo by Michaela Huntington.


Ponies eligible for ridden, working hunter and in hand Mountain and Moorland classes include the Connemara, Dales, Fell, Highland, Welsh Sections A, B, C, and D, the Dartmoor, Exmoor, New Forest, and Shetland. The National Pony Society has lots of details, and a list of leading shows and qualifiers at their website). All ponies exhibited in M&M classes should be trimmed only; manes and tails must not be plaited, and no ‘false’ hair pieces are allowed!

Ridden Show Ponies

These classes are split into sections governed by pony height and rider age. Usually of finer substance than natives, the ridden show pony is of ‘fine’ breeding, with excellent conformation. In lead rein classes for riders aged under seven, a handler leads the pony. In a Horse & Hound magazine article, British Show Pony Society judge Patrick Lobb explained that show ponies should be elegant, have a nice walk, and go through three paces with grace. “They should have a pretty head, a good length of rein and their tails should be set on nicely. I also like to see good clean limbs, short cannon bones and nicely sloping pasterns, on a ridden show pony.”

Riding Horses

The riding horse has excellent conformation, with emphasis on the quality of the limbs, which must be hard, flat, and free from blemishes. Obedience, self-carriage, and calmness are key. Judge and producer Simon Reynolds told Horse & Hound magazine that a riding horse is defined as a type that fits between a hunter and a hack. “They should be elegant, with a good length of rein, but with some substance. The riding horse should have a well set-on neck, and an attractive head.”

Specific ‘type’ classes

Cobs - the lightweight or heavyweight cob stands between 148cms -155cms; Maxi Cob classes are for horses exceeding 155cms. The Cob - a type rather than a breed - should be well mannered with the attributes of a good hunter. Visit the Welsh Pony & Cob Society’s website, for more info.

Ex-racehorse classes - an increasing number of classes now exists, predominantly run under the auspices of the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) series. The RoR series’ are for everyone; amateur and professional riders and horse owners alike. Several competitions are run all over the country, throughout the year. Visit their website, for more info.

Show and Working Hunter

Robert Oliver and Show Hunter, Masterful. Pic by HOYS.

Above - Robert Oliver and Show Hunter, Masterful. Pic by HOYS.

Show hunter (or ridden hunter) classes are aimed at equines that ‘could give their owners a good day's hunting’, that are of a heavier build than the riding horse. There are lightweight (carrying up to 12st 7lb), middleweight (carrying between 12st 7lb and 14st), and heavyweight (carrying over 14st) classes.

In working hunter classes, horses need to have all the attributes of the show hunter, plus the ability to jump rustic fences. Hunter judge Judy Bradwell told Horse & Hound that jumping style is important, and a clear round doesn’t guarantee a good placing. “I like a [working hunter] horse that is bold, clever and athletic, but careful.”

Top tip

Your horse’s mane and tail need to be presented according to the equine’s breed society rules, or the class you are entering. If you’re plaiting, plait according to your horse’s need – e.g. with a very thick neck, plaits ideally should be smaller and in higher numbers, to make the neck appear finer. Thicker, rounder plaits that sit ‘high up’ on the crest can add definition to a ‘weedy’ equine neck.

Choosing showing tack

For the horse, choose a smart bridle, ideally together with a ‘Newmarket’ chain, or leather lead-rein. If you’re entering riding pony, hack or riding horse classes, you will see more coloured or ‘fancy’ browbands; a plain browband is more commonly seen in hunter pony, sports horse and hunter classes.

Something like our Plain Hunter Bridle is always popular - it has a plain browband and the traditional, wider noseband that judges favour on a heavier equine head.

If you like a fancier browband, try the Heritage Show Bridle with its gorgeous plaited browband and wide hunter-style noseband.

A similar product if your horse’s head is a little finer than a hunter is the Show Stitch Heritage Hunter Bridle, with a slimmer noseband featuring discreet stitching, and a plaited browband.

If your show horse is very fine, for example an Arab, you may prefer the Equicraft Rolled Leather Bridle to show off the horse or pony’s head - we also have a lovely new Plaited In Hand Bridle with a plaited browband and plain, narrow noseband.

Read our Kids’ Showing Classes blog HERE.

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