Show-Off Showmanship Tips

At first, a showmanship class may not sound like much fun. Why enter a class when you don't even get to ride? But, think about it. Every rider communicates with her horse in and out of the saddle. Grooming, tacking up, and leading all require you to communicate with your horse from the ground. Showmanship and halter classes are all about showing the judges that you can effectively communicate with your horse.

Cleanliness is very important in a showmanship class. Make sure that your clothes and tack are neat. Some competitors wear leather gloves. You should also wear a helmet (english) or hat (western), and your show outfit. See the western lessons page for western clothing ideas. Girls' hair should be pulled back with no pieces sticking out, and it is always nice to wear makeup, especially for western. Your horse should have a bridle, or a leather show halter with a chain.

Thoroughly groom your horse before you enter the ring. His coat should be shiny, his mane braided (english) or banded (western), and his hooves blacked or clear coated. Get that show-ready look by applying a good spray of Pepi or Show Sheen to your horse's coat. Many exhibitors apply baby oil on the horse's muzzel and around the eyes. Baby powder or horse spray paint are great ways to make those white marks look bright. Also, drench your horse with fly spray before entering the ring.

Showmanship classes may be English or Western. They usually contain a pattern that you will perform for the judge. At a show, the pattern is usually posted at the entry booth. A showmanship pattern may require you to "square up", set up for inspection, trot, back up, circle, or spin.

"Squaring Up" is when a horse's front feet are directly under his shoulders, and his hind legs are directly under his tail. Click Here For a Picture Example! In a showmanship class, you must "square up" your horse without touching his feet.

To do this, you use your lead strap or reins to communicate with your horse. Stand to the right of your horse with your feet together and toes pointed toward your horse. To get the feet "squared", tug on the reins or lead strap in the direction you want his feet to go, focusing on one foot at a time.

For example, if your horse's right hind leg is too far forward, angle your reins to the left and tug backward with steady pressue. When he has correctly placed his leg, release the pressure. If your horse's left rear leg is too far forward, angle your lead strap to the right and tug forward with steady pressure. Set one foot at a time. If your horse takes his weight off of a hoof, steadily pull down. This will make him balance out his weight and stop resting on his foot.

Setting Up for Inspection is when you stand, with your horse "squared up", and the judge walks in circles around you as she examines your horse. Every times the judge passes your horse's shoulder, hindquarters, or head, step to the other side of your horse. When the inspection first starts, don't block the judge's view of your horse. Stand on the side of your horse that will not block the judge's line of vision, and then begin changing sides. When you change sides, cross one foot over the other and then snap your feet back together. Cross-step-together. Also, each time you change sides, clearly look at your horse's head and feet.

When you walk or trot with your horse, don't let him run out in front of you. Walk or jog along with him. To cue the trot, lean forward slightly and kiss or cluck loud enough for your horse to hear. If you are having difficulty picking up the trot, practice with a whip or reach around and tap your horse with the reins/lead line to get him moving. It is good to practice keeping the trot while moving in a circle, in case your pattern requires you to do so. Don't make your circles too small, as this will cut off your horse's pace.

Pivots require your horse to move off his right hind hoof and spin, while keeping the right hind still. He should also cross his front feet, left-over-right, while pivoting. If your horse doesn't already know how, teach him by starting out with small quarter-turns. Stand on the left side of your horse and kiss while walking into his shoulder. Use your hand or the lead line to push or smack his shoulder if he is not pivoting or crossing the front feet correctly. Remember to take it slow and praise heavily when he moves accurately!

Confidence is the key to winning showmanship classes! Walk with you head held high and a smile. Move crisply throughout the class and have that "I'm the best" attitude. Also, when walking or trotting in your class, remember the "cookie tray" rule. Hold your arms up, even, and apart, as if you are carrying a tray of cookies. If your arms are too high or low, the cookies will spill! Click Here For a Picture Example!! When pivoting, backing, or setting up, don't touch your two hands together!

At first impression, showmanship may seem like a useless class. However, it requires you to be able to successfully communicate with your horse from the ground. Have fun and, good luck showing!

All photos used in this article are of the webmaster and her horse. Do not copy :)

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