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    Showmanship 101 | Summer 2012 Out Here Magazine

    You don't have to saddle up to compete in horse shows

    a rider dressed for show checking her horse
    Neatness and a well-groomed appearance count for both you and your horse in showmanship competition.
    Out Here

    By Samantha Johnson

    Photography by iStock

    With classes like English pleasure, Western pleasure, horsemanship, equitation, and hunter hack, plenty of options exist for the accomplished rider to participate in horse shows. But what if you're not a rider, or aren't yet ready to compete in ridden classes? Does this mean that you can't enter a horse show?

    The perfect option: showmanship, where you can exhibit your horse while keeping your feet on the ground. In showmanship, you are judged on your ability to prepare your horse for the show ring — including grooming and conditioning — and your ability to show him to his best advantage.

    Your horse's conformation and breed type are not judged.

    Showmanship classes generally include a pattern that involves walking, trotting or jogging, executing turns, halting, and backing.

    When the class begins, you will enter the ring and guide your horse through the posted pattern. At some point during the pattern, you will be required to halt your horse and prepare for the judge's inspection.

    Your horse should stand squarely and evenly, with an alert expression, while the judge inspects each side of the horse.

    It's wise to attend a couple of shows prior to your first competition. Watch the classes and observe the judge at work; talk to other exhibitors and ask questions.

    These five tips can help you successfully compete in showmanship:

    • Neatness counts. Your horse's appearance — as well as your own — is judged in showmanship. Your horse must be clean, well groomed, and presented according to the specifications of his breed. A considerable portion of your total score is allotted to appearance and conditioning. Don't overlook your tack, either. Be sure that it's polished, neat, and fits properly. Keep your eye on the judge. Smile a lot, and be confident.

    • Memorize the pattern. To achieve a top score in showmanship, you must memorize and properly execute the posted pattern. Precision is important. If the pattern says to "back your horse four steps," be sure that you back your horse exactly four steps — not five, not three.

    It's wise to attend a couple of shows prior to your first competition.

    • Read the rules. Rules are important at all shows, but they vary from one organization to another. Ask the show manager for a rule book ahead of time and study it thoroughly.

    • Don't follow the crowd. If you watch the other exhibitors in your class perform their patterns ahead of you, be careful. It's all too easy to watch the other exhibitors and then follow their example, but if they perform the pattern incorrectly, you will end up doing the same.

    I've judged many classes in which the first exhibitor left out an important component of the pattern — omitted the halt, for instance — and several exhibitors went on to make exactly the same mistake. Don't follow the other exhibitors; follow the pattern.

    • Practice makes perfect. You can't expect to perform your best if you haven't practiced. Set up a practice pattern at home and work your way through all of the potential elements of a showmanship class.

    Weave through cones, practice pivots, back your horse in a straight line, and ask a friend to pose as "the judge."

    And above all, don't forget to have fun.

    Samantha Johnson is a certified horse show judge and raises purebred Welsh Mountain Ponies.


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