The Why of CTR In-Hand Presentations

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At age ten, Laurie Knuutila's first horse fulfilled her dreams and set her on a course that would offer a range of experiences: teaching lessons, training professionally, and showing in many different disciplines. Laurie is always learning new and varied skills having just attended a Working Equitation clinic. But her true love is trail riding. Since 1979, her competitive trail riding experience includes being a competitor, a ride manager, and trail master. Her current horse, Indy's Midnight Sun, has earned two Open National Championships from NATRC, not an easy thing to do living in Alaska!

Read below to see how Laurie explains the why of in-hand presentations and what you can do to ensure safety and get a great score at your next ride!


The WHY of CTR In-Hand Presentations

When participating in a CTR (competitive trail ride), competitors may lose points on their horsemanship cards because of the way they present their horses in-hand to the veterinary judge. So I thought a discussion of the WHY’s of the in-hand presentation might be in order to help riders understand more clearly why they lose those points.

There may be a notion among some riders that they cannot do well at the in-hand presentation because they are not “showmen” and are not interested in “showing off” their horse. But the in-hand presentation is less about “showing” and more about safety and presenting your horse to his best advantage. During the in-hand presentation, the horsemanship judge is observing how safely and effectively the horse is presented to the vet. An effective presentation is one in which the handler presents the horse in such a way as to make it easy for the vet judge to determine the horse’s condition and soundness. The “showman” part is determined by how much the handler cares about the impression the horse makes on the judge. So let’s get into the WHY’s.

Why not stand directly in front of your horse during the vet exam? Safety. If the horse should bolt forward, you would be stepped on, possibly knocked down.

Why keep your lead line figure-eight fashion in your hand? Safety. If your horse pulls away from you, your hand will not be trapped in loops of line and possibly crushed.

Why stay on the same side of the horse as the vet judge? Safety. You are better able to prevent the horse from stepping on the vet judge if you stay on the same side. This same principle also applies to your farrier and vet when you are at home.

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Effective presentation allows the vet to judge your horse easily and accurately

Why turn your horse away from you when preparing to trot out for the vet? Safety. You are less likely to get stepped on when you are pushing the horse away from you, rather than pulling him toward you.

Why keep two hands on your lead line at all times? Safety. If the horse jerks away from you and you only have one hand on the line, there is now a loose horse running rampant through camp.

Why trot away from the vet judge in a straight line? Effective presentation. It’s much easier for the vet judge to observe your horse’s movement when he’s being trotted straight away and not weaving left and right or moving at an angle to the judge.

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Trotting in a straight line with slack in the lead is important for effective presentation

When trotting out, why keep some slack in your lead line? Effective presentation. If you keep tension on your horse’s head while attempting to trot him in-hand, you can actually make him appear lame.

Why not look back at your horse while trying to get him to trot? Safety and effective presentation. You really need to be looking where you are going to avoid tripping. Looking back at the horse will cause him to hesitate and possibly not trot at all. If you look where you are going and expect him to follow you, more often than not, he will. A smartly trotting horse is what the judge needs to see to determine soundness.

Why keep the horse’s head next to your shoulder while trotting out? Safety and effective presentation. Keeping him up beside you will prevent you from being stepped on. And keeping him beside you will allow the vet judge to observe how the horse moves and not how you move. If he’s directly behind you, all the vet will see is you and not him.

Why stop your horse before beginning your circles? Safety. A momentary halt will allow you to prepare both yourself and your horse to start the circles.

Why make big circles instead of small ones? Effective presentation. Small circles can make even a sound horse look lame. Large circles will allow the horse to move out better and give the judge a better look.

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Always have your horse travel in large circles around you so they have room to move out | P.C: Kimberly Naugle

Why stop your horse (even if only momentarily) when changing direction? Safety and effective presentation. Allowing the horse to suddenly spin around at the end of a lunge line and go the opposite direction is hard on the horse’s legs. Stopping him before allowing him to go the opposite direction protects those valuable legs and keeps you in control of your horse’s actions.

Why stop several feet away from the vet judge when trotting back to him/her? Safety. The vet judge really frowns upon being run over or even thinking that he/she is about to be run over.

There is much more to the in-hand presentation than simply “showing” your horse. Presenting him safely and effectively begins with training and practice at home. You can’t expect him to know what it is you want him to do at the ride if you haven’t schooled him on it at home. It is absolutely necessary to school and practice these “boring” skills at home. Safe horse handling should, in reality, be practiced every time you handle your horse. Presenting your horse safely and effectively to the vet judge is the first (and arguably the most important) phase of doing a ride. Without a vet check, a horse cannot start the ride, and an effective presentation makes it easier for the vet judge to determine that your horse is well-behaved, sound and fit to complete the distance.

For further information, see the official in-hand rules of NATRC (North American Trail Ride Conference).
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