Horse showing is an integral part of many youth’s passion for their horses. Many spend countless hours preparing both their horses and themselves for competition. As with most things, horse showing goes through many trends and fads. However, the bottom line is how are these new and sometimes expensive fads perceived by the judge in the show ring?
To band or not to band, braid or not to braid? Much of this will depend on the level of competition, what classes the horse is being shown in and how skilled the groomer is. There is nothing worse than a poorly banded or braided mane! Some breeds and disciplines traditionally are shown with long flowing manes (reining, cutting, Arabians, etc); whereas others tend to look for a more “finished” or “tailored” look (Halter, Showmanship, Western Pleasure, etc.). Braided manes are more traditional for English/Hunt seat type events. However, braiding is not a requirement. The level of grooming and preparation should increase with the level of competition and the exhibitors expectations. It can send a message to the judge as to how serious and/or seasoned the exhibitor is. The more “polished” the turn out, the more the judge will be initially impressed.
Banding a Mane
Braiding a Mane
Long or short, tail extension or not? Much will depend on the natural tail of a horse and the tail does help with the overall picture and presentation. In most breeds, the trend is towards long, flowing, full tails, which few horses naturally have. Therefore many exhibitors choose to add tail extensions to add fullness and length. A judge does not place a horse depending on the length of its tail; however it is part of the entire presentation and can enhance the overall “look” of the horse.
Grooming the Tail
Presentation in Showmanship classes has gone through many extremes in recent years particularly in exhibitor’s posture, way of running and how the lead shank is held. Furthermore, recent trends with slack in the chain under the horse’s chin are found offensive with some judges. Anything that distracts from the natural, smooth presentation of the horse throughout the pattern is usually scored down by most judges. A person’s running style, how they hold their hands, and over all posture should enhance the horse’s performance and not distract from it.
Raising Your Showmanship Score
The pace and forward movement in Western Horsemanship patterns has been a topic of discussion in numerous recent judging seminars. Good horsemanship riders should ride their horses more forward to display control and skill; patterns which are ridden to slow are discouraged. Furthermore, Western Horsemanship is meant to be ridden on light contact, which is not the same rein length desired in Western Pleasure.
In this video playlist, Kathy Anderson explains certain drills that riders can do to develop the desired horsemanship hands and seat for both english and western disciplines.
Speed, passing, head set, head carriage and overall movement continue to be points of importance in Western Pleasure. The poor moving, low headed horse intimidated to move forward has been discouraged for some time. However, horses are still presented in this manner and need to be discouraged. Quality of movement and brokenness are the critical elements most judges will evaluate Western Pleasure horses on.
Trends and fads with competitive horse events will continue to come and go. Most judges simply strive to find the best horse in each class. Some new things can enhance a performance, some can distract from it. Just because one person is successful showing their horse in a certain manner, does not mean everyone needs to copy that person. New clothes, tack, halters, etc can be very expensive and they may be “out of style” within a year or two. Before making a big investment, be assured the style will be around for a while and enhances rather than distracts.