As with any type of horse competition, there are rules and show guidelines for entering a New Forest pony. The New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society sponsors and hosts many of the New Forest Pony shows and also sets the guidelines under which the ponies are shown. Since the New Forest breed has been developed to be a versatile, working style of pony there is less focus on the enhancement of the appearance using additional tack and specific types of show ring styles as seen with some of the other breeds.
A New Forest Pony show pony will be entered into a competition in his or her natural state, save for a few slight cosmetic options. The ponies are shown with their manes and tails down and full, although they can be slightly but not overly pulled. This is different than many competitions that allow the manes to be pulled very short or the mane is plaited or braided for competition. The New Forest Pony's tail is likewise left natural although it can be trimmed to present a flat bob-like appearance at the hock level. In some events such as show jumping or dressage the pony's mane may be plaited as per the requirements of that particular discipline.
The coat may be clipped for ponies over the age of four years old, but the legs may not be fully clipped. Body clipping can occur for New Forest ponies shown in-hand or in halter classes, in the working pony classes, or in ridden classes. For all New Forest ponies it is acceptable to trim the long hairs under the jaw line to accent the structure of the head, plus the heels may also be trimmed. Unlike other pony breeds, the whiskers may not be trimmed and should be left natural. There is absolutely no make-up or colorations that may be used to change the markings of the New Forest Pony in show, this will result in an immediate disqualification. Shampoos that enhance color or bring out the shine are acceptable, but attempts to actually change the color or markings are not allowed under any conditions.
Yearlings are shown without a bit and any ponies over two years old may be shown in bridles and bits, and stallions are required to be shown in bridles and bits after they are two years of age. The New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society do not allow Chifney bits to be used in the show ring under any circumstances. The Chifney bit is designed to control rearing and pulling, but can be very dangerous and harmful to the horse if used incorrectly. Judges in the ring are looking for well-behaved and well tempered New Forest ponies and will remove a horse that is a danger to either the handler or rider or the others in the ring. This emphasis on training rather than relying on potentially harmful corrective measures has greatly influenced the show New Forest Pony and has enhanced the already gentle and calm temperament that the breed is well known for.