10 Smart Showmanship Tips

10 Smart Showmanship Tips

Shine in showmanship with these horse-showing tips.

red roan in showmanship class

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No matter what level you are competing at – 4-H, weekend breed shows or the AQHA world championship show – success in showmanship comes down to three things: presentation of the exhibitor, presentation of the horse and performance. 

It’s that third piece that calls for a horse and his exhibitor to work in harmony, like longtime dance partners. 

Be on your way to showmanship success with these 10 tips.

  1. Aim for telepathic communication with your horse. The ultimate goal in showmanship is to get your horse to setup almost without being told. It shows a communication you have with your horse that is almost telepathic. 
  2. Keep pace with your horse. In showmanship, your pace should be equal to your horse’s pace – that’s what gives the pattern a natural look. If you know your horse’s rhythm, it makes it look like you’ve done your homework.
  3. Practice rhythmic and precise turns. Your horse should turn with some speed and rhythm in a showmanship pivot. Executing a turn too slowly decreases the overall flow of the pattern. But executing a turn too fast can sacrifice accuracy, especially on the “shut off” at the end of the turn.
  4. Back with a light touch. The natural reflex of all horses is instinctively to oppose pressure instead of yielding to it. Since backing your horse is a common maneuver in showmanship classes, it’s important to do it correctly and seemingly effortlessly.
  5. End each practice with something you and your horse do easily. This could be as easy as walking or cross-overs as you set, but whatever it is, always be sure to end each practice on a positive note. 
  6. Always mix up how you practice patterns. Some horses need to practice the specific pattern that they will perform at the show. Others only have to do the pattern twice before they start anticipating moves. Practice parts of the pattern – but probably not in order – over and over.
  7. Analyze the pattern. The more detail that is written on the showmanship pattern, the more likely it is that the judge will be a big stickler for those details. To help commit the showmanship pattern to memory, try writing it down yourself when you first get to the show. 
  8. Make a plan and stick to it. Before you enter the arena, you should have a plan for how you are going to execute the showmanship pattern based on your horse’s ability to perform the maneuvers. Don’t change your plan as you are in the chute waiting to go because you see an exhibitor in front of you do it differently. 
  9. Look up and know exactly where you need to go all the time. When you do so, you’ll be sure to hit your marks, exude poise and show the judge that you are a really good hand with a horse.
  10. Show off your confidence and personality. Showmanship can no longer be judged strictly on the correctness of a pattern; the competition has become much too tough for that. When you’re in your showmanship class, look the judge in the eye, smile and enjoy what you’re doing.