My second question...is about flat classes. I often find people riding up my butt, soAs this does happen often, it's a great question! If in fact I'm starting a class and exhibitors are jumbled, I'll ask the announcer to ask them, to spread out. Try to start by yourself. Don't assume if you are next to what you percieve to be the best horse, that you'll get noticed more. (I've actually heard trainers telling exhibitors to employ this tactic.....silly!)
to speak, and all jumbled around me. Is it alright to circle away from the jumble...and
if so, what is the best way to do this? Should we simply cut the arena in half, putting
ourselves on the other half of the arena, far from the jumble...or should we just make a
5-10m circle, and re-join the jumble at the back of the line? It's been suggested that we
should circle across the arena to be in front of the jumble...but then I find they just catch
up and I have to circle again...which in my mind, makes me look bad... or if I do a small circle
and rejoin the line behind the group, they seem to slow down and I get stuck...having to circle
again...again, in my mind making me look bad. How do you handle the on-the-rail jumble?
If at sometime during the class, you find yourself jumbled up on the rail, please, by all means, feel free to circle out. Just as in driving a car, make sure you are not going to cut anyone off and as soon as you can safely move away from the other horses, do so. This is not a fault of any kind. Some riders are never taught class protocal and some just don't pay attention to where they are going. If you stare at the back of your horses' head to see if it's 'down', your attention is not on the class but rather on whether your horse will lose his head during the class..... I assume. Your horses' head is not going anywhere without you and if you have done some preparation and practice prior to the show ring, your horse will do what he has been schooled to do.
Cutting across the ring, shows a sign of greatness, not weakness. You are able to safely move away from the other horses and it's much more of a desirable trait than trying to change your pace to suit your fellow exhibitors. Besides, pace, whether in hunters or western pleasure is everything! Set your pace according to your horse and the type of class, then keep it.
If you chose to circle as opposed to cutting across the ring (depending on the ring size and where you're located within), make your circle large so you may not have to circle again and again. If you do not circle large enough, not only could it put you back in 'traffic', but it's more likely your horse will change pace or break gait.
Circling or cutting across the ring is never wrong. It shows proper ring ettiquette, safety and control. Don't compromise your pace to stay on the rail. If you do the latter, you're liable to end up staying in 'traffic' and the judge will miss the attributes you have worked so hard to attain.
I hope that clarifies things. I can and usually do state, that this is a subjective job and this blog reflects only my personal preference and interpretation of the basic AQHA & USEF rules. BUT.....along the same lines, there is no rule, only common sense when dealing with traffic jams in the show ring. Be safe, consistant and win or lose...do your best and be gracious!