Now's the time to practise your craft. Ponies UK, The Showing Register and the Arab Horse Society judge bradley beardmore answers your questions
How did you get into horses?
Family. Well, my mum and auntie. I got my first pony when I was four. I’ve shown everywhere – at local level up to Royal International. I did Lead Rein and First Ridden, then I went into Height Sections, Working Hunter, then I had a bit of a break. Then I did a bit of showjumping and came back into showing when I was 15 or 16.
What’s been your highlight as a showing competitor?
Probably last year. We had an amazing season at the NPS [National Pony Society]. I work alongside Ian Boylan and we took 15 horses there. We won 16 classes, eight championships and Overall Cuddy Supreme.
How do you become a judge?
You have to apply to the society panels, then go for assessments, then probationaries. If you pass those you are accepted on to the panel. I’m a judge for Show Ponies, Show Hunter Ponies, Hacks, Riding Horses, Cobs and Arabs.
What made you start judging?
I wanted to start judging because of the passion and love I have for horses. And to encourage young riders and amateurs, explaining the dos and don’ts at all kind of levels – from local to qualifiers.
When the final horse walks into the ring and the gate closes, what’s the first thing you look for?
A good walk and presence. And it’s nice to see the competitors smiling, happy to be there. You don’t want a horse that’s forced into an outline. A pet hate of mine, particularly in the pony rankings, is seeing forced outlines with Wilkie snaffles.
In individual shows, what makes one competitor stand out from the rest?
First of all, doing what I ask for. The majority of the time I ask for a set show. If I’m asking for canter at a certain corner, I want it there – not before, not after. Transitions should be smooth and the horse forward.
How important is turnout and how is it judged?
Turnout is important. I hate shaved tails – I like them to be pulled and neat. With natives, I like them in a natural state – tidied up, not trimmed up.
What do you look for when it comes to how a horse rides?
A good, forward-moving animal with good movement and a light contact. Also, easy to go off the leg. It’s nice to feel like you’re in a big armchair. When I ask for transitions, it takes me. Touch wood, I haven’t had any bad experiences when riding in the ring.
Is it tiring riding so many horses?
Yes. I’m at the gym now ensuring I’m fit enough to ride the big classes.
How can a rider improve their ring craft?
Clinics – Anne Leaver, Jayne Pimley – are a great start. Go to shows and watch what others are doing.
Do you mind competitors asking for feedback?
Not at all. You don’t get that at higher level, but at lower levels I try to give it so that next time they know what to improve on.
What’s your “type”?
Ridden animals should have plenty of scope with a good shoulder and a well-set front. Same with in-hand. True to type and limb is the main thing for me. I don’t like a weak hind leg, shorter front and horses that don’t move.
How has judging changed over the years?
As a judge I always stay professional – and that’s even more important these days with social media. You get people trying to approach you.
What’s been the highlight of your judging career?
I’m the head judge coordinator for the Isle Of Man, so I love going over there. It’s a great atmosphere.