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Horse Etiquette: Be Prepared - Proper Horse Show Presentation


Proper Horse Show PresentationCompetition is a little like flirting, you only have a minute to catch the judge's eye and hold it long enough to entice them to write down your number. Make that minute count by following these pre-show ring tips.

Ready Or Not

You may be ready for the show ring, but is your horse ready? Make sure that you and your four-legged partner are on the same page when it comes to show goals. Competitive riders are usually ready to hit the shows after their first riding lesson, but some horses are not mentally or physically ready to show for many years. So, make sure your horse is as ready and willing as you are.

The art of putting together a show horse lies in the caretaker's ability to continually maintain or improve the details that "make" the finishing touches. The horse should be in competitive shape in terms of physical conditioning, but it's up to you to make him shine. There is no amount of spray-on coat enhancer that will make up for neglected hours of grooming.

Cutting Edge

An effective clipping job helps to achieve a refined and elegant edge. However, don't wait until show day to begin the clipping job. It's wise to clip at least a week prior to allow for mistakes to grow out. On show day, a razor can be used to clean up any rogue muzzle hairs. When clipping the legs, even up hairs around the coronary band and clip excess hairs on the pasterns and fetlocks (feathers are beautiful on a draft horse, but not on a western pleasure horse). White leg markings can be clipped to give them a brighter white, but make sure to blend the white line smoothly into the bordering dark hairs. While you're working on the legs, remove excess growth on the ergots and chestnuts.

A good show season mantra to post in your tack room, "Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity."

Another huge clipping endeavor, the horse's face: the muzzle, the short fuzz inside the nostril, long hairs under the jaw area, and the bridle-path (make sure to check with breed standards) should all be taken care of with clippers. Two areas of clipping that are a matter of personal preference and should not negatively affect you in the show ring if left natural are the long guard hairs near the eyes and the hairs inside the ears. However, the edges of the ears should be neatly trimmed.

Mane Focus

Whether you band, braid, or leave the mane natural, it should be brilliantly clean. A note about taking the extra step to band or braid – only take on this job if you have plenty of practice and can guarantee that the banding/braiding will enhance your horse's image. Don't forget the forelock! The forelock is usually presented in the same state as the mane (banded or braided) but always clean and tidy. The tail is another part of the horse that can tell on you if you didn't do your homework. The judge expects to see a clean and debris free tail. Leave the shavings in the stall! From head to tail, from start to finish, success depends on being prepared.

Dress "Tactfully"

Now for you and your tack. Remember the horse is not the only part of the show. You don't have to have the most expensive saddle to be competitive, but your tack should be clean and safe. The judges will notice if there's mold sprouting on your headstall, so give your tack the same attention that you give to your training and your horse.

Choose clothing that's appropriate for your event. Consider colors that complement your horse's coat and markings. Once you are fashionably ready, the real challenge can be to stay looking good until show time. Eat before you dress, and if you must have a quick snack, be sure to have wipes handy. It's always helpful to have a friend, parent, or trainer available for a last minute look over.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the show, keep in mind that you're there because you love your sport and are confident in your horse. No matter the outcome, always look your best and have fun.


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