Horse Showmanship for Beginners

What is showmanship? What are the rules? What equipment is needed? Read to find out.

At any horse show you go to, there is a good chance that there will be a showmanship class. If you've never competed in showmanship before, it can be confusing at first.

Have no fear, once you know the rules and what to expect, you'll be bringing in blues in no time.

What is Showmanship?

Besides halter, showmanship is the only class in a show that is performed in-hand, or on the ground. It was designed as a class that would showcase the horse's willingness on the ground, the handler's grooming ability, as well as the handler's leading abilities. You and the horse are to follow a pattern as marked by the judge.

You will be scored on the horse's appearance, the horse's movement and behavior, as well as your leading skills. Both English and Western riders may participate in showmanship, since it is not a riding class.

The Horse's Condition

The horse must be impeccably groomed, as well as clipped in the proper areas. The horse must be at a proper body weight; not too fat and not too thin. He should have a shiny and clean coat, as well as noticeable muscle tone. Muscle tone reflects on how much exercise the horse is receiving, and how well he is being kept. The horse's hooves should not show any signs of cracking or bruising, and they should have a healthy appearance.

The Day Before the Show

You will need to bathe the horse on the day before the show. You will want to use shampoos and conditioners suited for your horse's coat color and skin. Mane and tail detanglers and shampoos are a must, since proper hair care is enforced in showmanship. You won't want to have excess whiskers poking out or an untrimmed bridle path, so you should get out the clippers and begin trimming.

Thin the mane if it has grown too long, unless you have a breed that is known in the showmanship ring to have a long mane. Always groom to the highest standard possible.

Equipment and Attire

The horse's equipment consists of a halter and a lead line.

For western horses, you should always show with a leather halter and leather lead. There should be a stud chain running from the end of the lead and through the halter. The horse's mane should be banded, and the tail can be left natural. Some people choose to add on fake hair to the tail, which is usually allowed for horses with skimpy tails.

English riders should braid their horse's mane and tail. The horse should also be showed in hand with a bridle, not a halter and lead.

The horse's equipment should fit properly and not stand out so much that it distracts the judge from the actual horse.

Handlers should be dressed in clothing appropriate to their chosen discipline.

Showmanship Patterns

Showmanship patterns can involve a series of gait and direction changes, as well as stops and pivots. Some patterns even require the horse to back up a couple steps. Gait changes only involve walking and trotting (jogging if showing western), and the judge may ask for certain directional changes, such as a 270 degree turn to the left.

When your horse stops, he will be required to stand perfectly square, or you will lose points. Backing up will probably never take more than a few steps, but your horse must understand how to move backward.

Showmanship is a great way to show off your horse and your grooming abilities. You may not get a ribbon your first couple times, but you may notice a difference in the way you handle your horse on the ground at home after a few shows.

Most of all, have fun!