Sharpen your Showmanship Precision

Looking for ways to polish your showmanship performance? These tips will sharpen your precision and help you align your horse perfectly. By Jackie Lee Jackson.


Showmanship is a test of precision. To score well, you must nail the pattern and demonstrate a perfect presentation. In a tough competition, how you lead your horse to the judge and halt for inspection can make or break your performance. Sharpen your presentation with these pointers.

As you prepare to lead your horse toward the judge in showmanship, make sure you’re prepared to stop the proper distance from the judge, and your horse is carefully aligned. | Photo by Darrell Dodds

Position Your Horse Perfectly
You should position your horse so that you’re just a little more than an arm-length away from the judge. Try to imagine the judge stretching her hand toward your horse. You’d want her to be just barely touching your horse’s nose.

This will not only give her a better perspective to evaluate your horse, but will also allow you to move comfortably and effectively around your horse’s front end. If you’re too close, you’ll block the judge’s view, forcing him or her to step back to evaluate your horse.

If you’re at a show where the judge’s place is marked, you’ll have a tough time moving freely around your horse–you’ll have to squeeze between your horse and the judge and ultimately prevent a professional presentation. On the other hand, if the judge’s position is marked, and you’re too far away, the judge will have to score your horse from afar–a less-than ideal perspective. (Note: arm lengths vary. A couple of inches off in either direction shouldn’t hurt your score.)

Check Alignment
Make sure that you align your horse with the judge, rather than yourself. To practice, ask a friend to hold her right hand up and to the right, as if she’s holding a lead shank and has an imaginary horse to her right. Then, while leading your horse, focus on the upheld hand so that you automatically line up straight with your friend’s hand. You’ll be “mirroring” her position–so that when you line up with her hand, your horse is directly in front of your friend. In the show pen, aim to place yourself in front of that imaginary hand, and you’ll align your horse perfectly with the judge.

Jackie Lee Jackson develops showmanship champions from her Top-Step Farms in Aubrey, Texas.



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