On Sunday, June 4, 2017, Stonewall Farms, Jeffersonville, NY hosted a Multi-Species Showmanship Clinic, offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC)’s 4-H Youth Development program. Barbara Moran, 4-H animal science program coordinator and Stonewall Farms host, coordinated the event, which was attended by upwards of 100, including 33 4-Hers their parents and families. Stations were set up around the big indoor arena that included farmers and experts of different species of farm animals regularly shown at County Fairs, including horses.
Barbara came up with the idea for a showmanship clinic after realizing that when people came to talk with her about getting ready for the show season, many did not quite know the rules, what the judges were looking for in the animals being shown, or what the youngsters needed to pack to ‘go and show’ instead relying on their parents having to run back and forth.
She explained to the group that showmanship it is more than just leading an animal around an arena or in front of a judge; it is a way to show the relationship between the animal and its handler, a working partnership. She asked the group to imagine their horse as a dancing partner — and to envision preparing their horse so that it would show to the best of its ability. “Since our animals are not ‘perfect’, we may need to prep them to look their best — for example, clipping a certain way, standing with their legs in a certain way to be correct. Showmanship also involves knowledge of the animals you’re showing — their breed and age, being able to correctly describe their body parts, knowing what you are feeding them, what kind of equipment you use, and how to properly take care of them.”
Presentation was also discussed — “you need to know what is acceptable dress in the show ring, as there are rules to this regard, such as having clean shoes/boots and wearing a belt if it is required. You need to make sure your hair is neat and tidy,” she added.
Julia Mariski, of New York City was the presenter for the horse showing station.
She used Lucky, a gentle bay mare, to teach her class. Emma Moran, who helped out at the different stations, demonstrated how to lead the horse at a walk and trot. Julia pointed out the most important thing is to lead the horse correctly, straight towards the judge, stating the judge cares more about the horse than the presenter, or exhibitor. The presenter should be on the correct side, and you should stop the horse a few steps before reaching the judge to be sure there is enough distance between the horse and judge, and the horse is able to ‘set up’, or stand squarely; if you know that your horse takes a bit extra time to set up, leave a short distance to accommodate before stopping in front of the judge.
Attendees at the clinic were encouraged to try their hand at leading and setting up the horse, and were shown how to do so. “Setting up” means to have your horse standing squarely — Julia explained you turn towards your horse and she should move her feet to “square up”, or stand ideally with the two front feet perfectly in line and the two back feet perfectly in line. She said when you are showing your horse and you stop, turn your body so that your toe is in front of her toe to get her attention back. She also stressed good posture, standing straight, and to “always pretend you’re holding a box or tea tray in your hands — you want to present the best version of yourself to show off the horse to the best version of herself.”
She finds that pointing your toe toward the horse’s front foot will encourage her to move her front foot into the correct position. And to make her hind feet stand squarely, she suggested looking at the hind foot, clucking at it a little and jiggling the lead chain; when she moves that foot into position then say a quick “whoa.” Practice saying “square” a few times until the horse obeys.
She pointed out that Lucky wasn’t prepared for the show ring, coming straight from her stall. To be in show shape, your horse should be impeccably groomed, with white markings bright white and clean. Horses should have the excess hair at the pasterns and in the ears clipped, as well as long hairs on the muzzle. Be sure your horse’s feet have been recently trimmed or shod and her mane and tail are brushed and neatly presented.
She then discussed ‘cross-overs’, referred to as the “Quarter System” in NYS 4-H horse show guidelines, stating that you always want to be able to let the judge see the horse rather than you, the exhibitor. The guidelines describe the system and explain that the exhibitor will move back and forth across the front of the horse depending on the position of the judge. In general, if the judge is positioned toward the front of the horse, the exhibitor is to be on the opposite side; if the judge is standing toward the rear half of the horse, the exhibitor is to be on the same side. The exhibitor should at all times remain in front of a line perpendicular to the long axis of the horse’s body at the horse’s nose, facing the shoulder, and the exhibitor’s body should remain stationary but the head may be turned to keep the judge in view.
Julia also stressed the importance of being confident, with your head up, your back and arms straight, and being in command and control of your horse.
Some guidelines for New York State 4-H Showmanship at Halter classes:
Personal attire for Western classes require an approved (ASTM1163/SEI) protective helmet, long sleeved western shirt or short sleeved shirt with jacket, (shirts must have collars — no t-shirts or sweatshirts are allowed!) Western type boots with distinguishable heel, and Western riding pants or denims. Optional attire includes a Western style tie, a vest — to be worn with long sleeved shirt only, jacket, sweater and gloves. Prohibited items include Western hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts or crew necklines, chaps and spurs.
Under Appearance of the horse, the hair coat should be clean and well brushed, with mane, tail, foretop and wither tufts clean and free of tangles. Hooves should be trimmed properly and if shod, shoes must fit properly and clinches should be neat. Manes and foretop should be trimmed according to breed type and/or division shown; wither tuft must be left. The inside of the ears may be clipped, and long hair on jaw, legs, and pasterns should be clipped.
Tack should be neat, clean, and in good repair, and appropriate for the division shown.
In showing the horse, the exhibitor should enter the arena leading the animal at an alert walk in a counter-clockwise direction unless otherwise directed by the judge. Walk on the animal’s left side, holding the lead/reins in the right hand, 8 to 12 inches from the animal’s head. The remaining lead/rein is held neatly and safely in the left hand. A tightly coiled or rolled lead/rein will be considered a fault at showmanship. The equine should lead readily at the walk or jog/trot.
After the judge has lined up the class, he/she will call on each exhibitor to move their horse individually. When moving the horse, be sure that the judge gets a clear, unobstructed view of its action. Allow sufficient lead/rein so that your horse can move freely and in a straight line. Lead her from her left side to the required distance; stop; and turn to the right around your horse, following the judge’s pattern.
When posing your horse, stand toward the front facing the horse, but not directly in front, and always in a position where you can keep your eye on the judge.
Stand the horse with her front feet squarely under her; rear legs should be placed squarely under her according to breed type. Do the positioning with the lead/rein — do not use your hand or foot to position your horse, and never kick your horse’s leg into position. Do not get too close to the horse and exhibitor next to, in front, or behind you. THIS IS A SAFETY ISSUE – STAY OUT OF KICKING AND BITING RANGE OF ANOTHER ANIMAL!!
Remember that while the judge is observing other horses, keep your horse posed as well as possible. Stay alert and be aware of the position of the judge at all times; do not be distracted by others or happenings outside of the ring and remember to show your horse, rather than yourself, at all times. Respond quickly and politely to the requests of the judge and show officials, and be courteous and sportsmanlike at all times.
Have your exhibitor number clearly visible; be sure long hair does not cover your number.
And lastly, remember to smile — to show you are enjoying the opportunity to present your beautiful and well-prepared horse!