Event appeal: Showmanship at halter.

Goal: To improve the aesthetic quality of your showmanship presentation. You’ll study, and learn to avoid three common hand-position mistakes–pulling your hand toward you; pushing your hand away from you (toward your horse); and pulling your hand down.

Benefits: By mastering a correct hand position, you’ll maximize control over your horse’s body, while minimizing excessive movements that would detract from the overall fluidity of your showmanship pattern. A correct hand position also guarantees a good first impression, as it allows you to project a controlled, seamless, and natural presentation.

As a judge who evaluates showmanship contestants, I’m privy to a lot of presentation mistakes–and hand control is a biggie. Poor hand position prevents your horse from moving and stopping straight, decreasing your chances of a high placing. A correct position ensures control of your horse’s body, so you can easily keep him straight and balanced.

When I judge, I want to see fluid, controlled movements. Your maneuvers should happen with a purpose, but shouldn’t be overdone. A showmanship pattern should look like a flowing “dance,” with all movements blending together. To achieve this, you and your horse must be familiar with one another, and you both need to practice extensively. Hard work pays off in the show ring.

Here I’ll give you a judge’s-eye perspective on proper–and improper–hand position and control, and tell you why attention to detail here is so important. If the class results come down to one or two competitors with similar scores, I’ll place the detail oriented one higher.

In the slideshow that follows, a student demonstrates three common hand-position mistakes–pulling toward her body; pushing away; and pulling down. After you’ve studied the wrong ways, you’ll see the correct position, so you can mimic it the next time you’re in the showmanship ring. But, before you examine the mistakes, you need to know how to set yourself and your horse up correctly, before stepping off toward the judge.

> View the Showmanship Polish: Hand Position and Control Slideshow

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