I am going to enter my mare in showmanship at a local schooling show (tomorrow!) for the very first time. I have watched a few videos on line and picked up a few tips: handler should be opposite horses throat latch, stand on opposite side of horse when judge looks at front of horse (from side), stand on same side of horse when judge looks at back of horse (from side), if doing a circle have horse travel to inside. Anything else? Any tips for spiffing out horsie girl? Especially hooves (does the onion trick really work?) The class is after several under saddle classes so I'll have to be sure she has no evidence of having worn a saddle. Thanks all, its really just for fun but I'd like us to do as well as possible.
From someone who did hunter showmanship in 4-H for a few years (and was fairly successful):
The whole point of showmanship is to prove that you have an obedient horse that you control easily on the ground (that's a very simplistic version but essentially true).
On turnout: Horse should be at appropriate weight and conditioning. Tack: spotless. That means polish, well-fitted, and appropriate (i.e. hunter bridle for hunter showmanship). Braiding is big plus; if not, nicely pulled mane. Shiny coat, that sort of thing. You are correct in thinking that sweat marks are not good so definitely give your girl a little bit to cool down and get cleaned off. On that note, your turnout is just as important. Well-fitting clothes, neat hair, etc. etc. etc.
On the class itself: Your goal is to do the pattern promptly, smoothly, and subtly. A few tips here: make sure you do the exact pattern. I can't tell you how many times people are marked down for doing something silly like walking on the wron g side of the cone. If the pattern says walk on the right, do it. Similarly, try to do your movements as you pass the cone/marker/etc. Obviously, depending on how quickly your horse responds, you'll have to ask sooner or later. But the best patterns are those where the handler and horse seem to be exactly in tune. The handler quietly moves forward and the horse trots, spins, etc. No excessive clucking or pulling. You might practice the movements at home before you get on -- 5 minutes or so is enough. Work on backing up, walk/trot/halt transitions, pivots, turning left/right, and standing. Making sure your horse stands squarely or with back feet offset is one of the biggest things as well.
On presenting for the judge: I really would recommend doing a Google search for 4-H and showmanship because you can find a lot of great guides. The big thing is to use the quarter rule -- you always stay in the quarter adjacent to the judge. Move promptly and quietly. They want to see quiet competence and confidence, really.
Just a 5 sec search pulled up several links, so that's where I'd recommend you go. Overall, have fun! It's a good exercise that pays off outside of the ring as well. Good luck!
Smile. But not crazy person smile. Just I love my horse smile.
When trotting/walking away from the judge, shoulder check to make sure you are still in line. Practice shoulder checking and running in a straight line. Harder than you think.
Make sure you pay attention to your horse AND the judge. Too often people forget to look at their horse.
My favourite pattern when judging involves a 180 pivot, back up, 180 pivot and then present. This requires the handler to know how much space they need to do all this and end up right in front of me....moral of this story is to know how much room your horse needs to do these things.
Do not chew gum.
IF there are bugs, bug spray so your horse doesn't get wrestles.
Wow! Thanks everyone. Fortunately, horsie is very in tune to me. I can "lead" her around with my hand just behind her poll (of course we won't be doing that at the show). I surely appreciate the crash course in showmanship- and any comments to follow.