dog & horse books: breeding, training, showing, judging, performance
SHOW YOUR HORSE LIKE A PRO
We're midway through the show season, with fairs and horse shows happening throughout the country. You know you can win if you just had a little "extra something."
In her book,Understanding Showmanship, Laurie Truskauskas offers up some very helpful tips on how to polish your showmanship maneuvers:
1. One of the most important tips to consider is your attitude. If you walk into the arena with the best trained horse, who is immaculately groomed and nails each pattern, but you slouch around, don’t make eye contact with the judge and only halfheartedly ask your horse to do the maneuvers, you will knock yourself way down in the point standing. Remember to be self-confidant, with poise and confidence in your ability to handle the horse. Be courteous, smile naturally and show with dignity.
2. Make sure you are properly attired. Wear clothes that are comfortable, clean, neat and appropriate in the show ring. Dress to the level of show in which you are participating. Keep in mind that wearing an outfit that you feel attractive in gives you that little boost of self confidence that can carry over into the ring.
3. Condition your horse. Coat, mane and tail should be neat and tidy. He should have no excess fat. He should be in very good to excellent physical condition. Even though this class is not judged on conformation, “a judge at the higher levels assumes that you know and understand the rules behind conformation—form to function—and would choose to own a well-conformed horse.” Keep in mind that although this class is judged on your ability to fit and condition a horse, the more attractive your horse is, the better chance it has of catching the judge’s eye. If your horse has a minor flaw, you will not have to work as hard as if your horse had a number of flaws or one hugely glaring flaw.
Teach your horse to stand patiently while you groom sensitive areas.
4. You will impress the judge greatly if you have taken the time to teach your horse the maneuvers to the point where they come together flawlessly and automatically. Plan on spending 10-15 minutes a day for at least 90 days before your first show on getting not only your horse, but you, ready for the ring. Most points are deducted due to handler error, so make sure that you have the patterns down to perfection and that you and your horse work as a well-oiled team.
5. Practice your set up times so you can have your horse set up in under three seconds. The longer you take, or the more you have to pull or push your horse to get him to set up, the more points you will lose.
6. Practice leading him with your hand three to four inches away from the halter, leaving a slight loop in the chain so your horse can travel in a straight line without interference. Don’t move forward until your horse is moving also!
Train your showmanship horse to walk in a straight line.
7. Make sure to always stay in position. Be sure that you are even with his throat latch when leading, and always lead from the left side. Do not lead from the right! This will cost you the ribbon! If you find you are on the right side after the judge’s inspection, switch to the left side of the horse and then continue on.
8. Perform your patterns clearly. If you are asked to walk a straight line, walk a straight line! If asked to walk an “S” pattern, make sure that you walk an “S” pattern. Five steps means five steps. Not four, not five and a half, but five. If the judge specifically requests a certain number of steps, rest assured that he is a stickler for that, and expects that from you and your horse. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are at all unsure of anything in the pattern. Better to be sure than to complete the pattern slightly off, as points will be deducted for that.
9. When turning the horse around, make sure you push him away from you. Do not pull him. Back him up by facing his rear and walking forward while he backs. Throughout the turns and maneuvers, the horse should stay aligned from head to tail. This includes when you ask him to stop. The horse should stop squarely with his body in a straight line.
These tips should help you polish your routines to the point of creating a seamless performance in the ring, which should impress the judge and get you that much closer to the blue. Even if you don’t win, think of each show experience as a report card. Learn from your mistakes. After each show, go home and practice those areas that you didn’t do as well in as you would like. But most important, remember to enjoy your time with your horse, in and out of the ring!