Educate me on Showmanship

I’ve got a young TB mare who I plan to show eventing. But she’s 3, and going to be doing very little for the next year in regards to my goals in eventing due to her young age. I’m getting on her and putzing around putting steering, brakes, and yield to leg pressure, but want to have a goal in mind outside of trail rides.

Trying to think of how to keep us both busy and have an excuse to get her out and about other than trail rides, I was thinking of trying my hand at showmanship. Seems focused on ground manners and presentation, so shouldn’t stress her baby joints too much.

So, if you were to give someone a crash course on showmanship (english version) what would you tell them?

What attire is ok? I don’t have a velvety helmet, but have presentable clothes otherwise.

What about for the horse? Would a plain leather halter be ok? What kind of lead, and how long does the shank have to be?

Do I braid her for the show? Mane and tail? Hunter or button braids? She has a super wimpy tail, do I need a fake tail to look presentable?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I’m 100% ignorant, so if you say to wear hot pink and a clown nose, I’m going to think you’re serious lol

Plain leather halter is perfect. Braiding depends on the show level but of course it does always look nice. I personally hate fake tails and when I judge local shows find them a turnoff but others will have another opinion I am sure. Showmanship is about how you present your horse to the judge. Best would be to watch some videos and to understand that what is done in AQHA is different than what is acceptable at other shows.

Good luck and have fun.

Showmanship is about the presentation and training of the horse and handler, it is not about the conformation and movement. You and your horse show be as clean and turned out as possible, a well fitted bridle or plain leather halter is fine, ask the group putting on the show about how fancy to go but usually as turned out as possible is best. However the pair that does everything as smoothly and seamless as possible will place higher than the pair that is turned out to the nines but is having trouble.

She needs to be able to set up (usually square, but depends on what is correct for your breed or discipline ex a qh will set up differently than an arabian or a saddlebred) as quickly and with the least amount of assistance as possible, no touching her with your hand or toe (to move the feet) and she needs to lead quietly at the walk and pick up an easy trot when you ask and then go back down to the walk without fuss when you ask, same with backing.

Ideally she can pivot on her back leg and follow your lead for doing the pattern for the judge, no head shaking or trying to nip.

You also need to be able to watch the judge and move to the correct quarter as the judge moves around to inspect your horse. It is easier to have that explained in person or watch a video.

But it is a great way to get out in the ring and get experience on show grounds, have fun and get dressed up and get pictures.

So Leather Halter is great better than a bridle or nylon halter. I like my shanks to be long enough to clip up or loop through on the opposing sides top metal piece. I like to have about 4-6 links showing of my shank on the handlers side. Make sure your horse is not timid of the shank, and try not to use the shank to correct much if possible in the class.

One thing I’ve taught my guy is my body position shows you what we’re doing. To engage the walk I will be standing tall with good posture and engage with my hands by pushing them forward and clucking quietly. I do the same for the jog I just push my hands again and encourage the movement. When Jogging I do what I call a squat jog 😂 basically holding your posture and make your leg movements dramatic and match the horses stride( this also is what I do with my registered AQHA gelding so your movements will most likely be more short or quick). To stop I just lean back and stop. My favourite drill for stopping is to correct the horse when not paying attention to you by backing them up a bit ( it also helps with you backing up). Then backing up your mare step directly in front of her and walk into her head she will move. When halting and setting up point your toes at a 45”¢ angle directly at her front hoof closest to you. To set up her hind feet pull down on the chain and then on the side of the hoof your adjusting, for the front do the same but pull upwards. For spins on the hind quarters I will pull their front hoof closest to me forward a smidge then with my hand on my horse shoulder to encourage walk directly at your horses neck clucking and tapping their shoulder. It should be the hoof closest to you in front if it’s in behind then move it up again. Watch the hoof placements.

These are my suggestions from breaking my own horse a couple years back. He’s a western pleasure horse that competes in showmanship. Also look the best you can Wear boot cut jeans or dress pants and a button down OVER your boots. Also if you want to do a fake tail or braids I recommend it looks lovely and do a hunter braid if you want( if not just put in a fake tail or make sure it’s clean and brushed).

Have Fun!

Theres really no way to explain how to show in Showmanship on here and varies wldly depending on what kind of show and where. Best thing is to go watch some of your local shows and see what everybody does, what they wear and what the horse wears.

For example, what Showmanship in a QH show or Open show In QH country looks like is going to Be quite different then an Arabian show or an Open show on the East Coast.

Your best bet is going to be just going to watch first, maybe haul your mare along just to introduce her to the show environment without the stress of standing quietly, perfectly posed, in a large group in a strange ring with a PA blaring for some time. It takes considerable practice.

There should be videos out there from AQHA and 4H it would benefit you to watch, the trappings are different but class procedure is similar, horse has to stand quietly, pose on command, walk and jog, halt and be impeccably turned out and presented- and thats what judged, Your skill in presenting.

Its not easy but if you work at it, it will help you and the horse greatly in your future show careers, even under saddle. Showing is all about impeccable presentation and most of that doesn’t cost anything but your time and making it a habit.

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