Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
It all depends on what level you are doing. For the casual Pony Club or unofficial riding club shows they will not be so strict or harsh. Generally though you will be marked down for using a synthetic, and for using an all purpose.
I know around here many riders ride in a snaffle except in the show ring. Apparently the judges don't even look at you unless you are in a double bridle.
From what I hear you want a slow but active walk. A faster, bigger trot and a slow canter to attract the attention of judges. If you must do something "bad" do it when they are not looking. Stay on the inside. Hack circles are small, and if you are on the outside the judge cannot see you. They seem to do a fair bit of canter so make sure you are slow, and on the inside, and others can go to the outside of you.
Make sure your horse has good transitions, nothing look worse than half the horses cantering on the command, and the other half rushing in a trot. Be once of the first to transition.
Always be polite to EVERYONE even when not in the ring. Word gets around quickly. People get nervous and might be rude to you, although being rude back doesn't help, just smile and move on.