Learn how to shine in showmanship classes
If you think riding your horse is the only way to be in a horse show, you need to learn about showmanship at halter. But why have a class where you don’t even ride? Think about it, a lot of your relationship with your horse takes place on the ground; leading him from his corral or stall, grooming him, loading him in a trailer and feeding him.
How you manage your horse on the ground helps keep you safe, and also builds your bond with him. This class gives you a chance to show not only how well cared for your horse is, but what a good team you are.You are the star in a showmanship class. Only the person is judged, the horse is a prop. The judge looks at how you groomed and cared for your horse, your appearance and how you control him through a pattern.
Proper fit and cleanliness of your tack and clothing are more important than how expensive they are. Showmanship classes require a western hat and clothes and most exhibitors wear a coat and gloves. The halter should be made of leather. It should come completely under the jowl (back of his jaw) and the noseband should come right under the cheekbone.
It should include a chain shank that runs through the halter, goes under the horse’s chin, and attaches to a leather lead strap. This chain helps give you control when you don’t have your legs and reins to help you. Rub your horse every day from head to tail with a rubber currycomb. This promotes a shiny coat and increases circulation for healthy muscles, mane and tail.
A good diet and regular exercise will help give him good muscle tone, which tells the judge you take proper care of him. Part of this class is an inspection by the judge. How your horse stands for the judge is called "squaring up.” When a horse is "square” his front feet are directly under his shoulders and his hind legs are straight down under his tail.
You must square your horse without touching his feet. You need to do it with your chain and lead strap. Before you start practicing "squaring up” fly spray your horse. It’s hard for him to stand still if he’s covered with flies. Stand facing your horse slightly to the right of him (your left foot in front of his). Imagine there is a 10-inch box under your horse’s head.
If his left hind leg is forward, hold your lead strap about two or three inches from the chain and move it at an angle to the back right corner of your imaginary box.
Your horse should move away from this pressure and step back. As soon as he’s correct release the pressure.
If his right rear leg is back too far, bring your chain to the front left corner of the box. This should bring his foot forward. Always set one hind foot first and move the other one to it. Use your imaginary box to set his front feet by lifting the chain slightly when you bring it forward or back. If your horse relaxes by lifting a back foot and dropping his hip, pull down firmly (not jerky) on your strap. This will make him lift his head and he’ll stand on that hoof to stay balanced.
This takes lots of practice, but never work with your horse longer than a half hour at a time. The "quarter method” keeps you out of the judge’s way and helps him see your horse better. Imagine there are two lines dividing your horse’s body into quarters—one from head to tail and the other just behind his withers. You never want to be in the same quarter as the judge or leave the front quarters. If he is in the right front quarter, you should be in the left front.
As soon as the judge crosses the imaginary line by your horse’s withers into the right rear quarter, you should step to the right front one. When the judge crosses the line at your horse’s tail to the rear left quarter you should move into the left front. This game keeps you in the right place and also forces you to watch the judge (this is important because the judge is looking for your confidence—make sure you SMILE). You also need to quickly check on your horse. If he’s out of position, fix him.
You also have to control your horse through a pattern. The pattern is set up with three cones that you jog between or back up to, and where you have to make pivot turns. When your horse is moving straight he should never be in front of you (it looks like he’s taking off) or behind you (looks like you’re dragging him). Your shoulder should be at his throatlatch.
It’s a good idea to practice this position every time you walk your horse in a halter.
During a turn the judge will want to see that your horse doesn’t bump into you or pull you.