One of the most popular events in Western competition, halter showmanship is not as easy as it looks. Although it may seem as though the handler is simply leading a pretty horse into the ring, it is truly more complicated. The horse must be well groomed, have excellent conformation and demonstrate competence in particular maneuvers. There are six basic maneuvers performed in the showmanship ring; leading at a walk, jog and trot, stopping, backing, pivoting, and setting up. Once your horse becomes skilled in these maneuvers you are ready for the ring, Remember, training takes patience and time.
The winning halter horse has a pleasant attitude while walking. The horse leads beside the handler calmly, with its shoulders in line with the handler’s shoulders. The horse holds its head balanced and level with its body.
Outfit your horse with a showmanship halter with a chain. Lead it up to a fence line or wall of an arena. Position the horse so its right side is boarding the wall or fence. This will help you keep your horse walking in a straight line.
Keep your body firm and step off into a quick walk. If the horse does not start walking with you, the chain should tighten up a bit, and the horse will get the idea. If the horse comes too far forward pull gently back on the chain and continue walking. The horse will learn that chain tension dissipates when it walks properly next to you. Practice consistently until you reach a flawless walk.
A showmanship horse in the trot should appear as calm as it did during the walk and maintain proper body alignment. The horse should step off into a trot smoothly the moment the handler begins to run.
Position your horse along a wall or a fence like you did for the walk. To give the cue for the trot, place your elbows at your side, lean your shoulders forward, and take a giant step forward. After your step begin a slow jog. Pick up the pace, so your horse can trot. If needed, a cluck may prompt your horse to start moving. Repeat the same steps as with the walk. If the horse lags behind continue running and allow the chain to tighten. If the horse trots too fast pull the chain back but continue your pace. The horse will then realize that trotting in line with you results in a reward.
An excellent stop is critical in halter class. A soft and balanced stop with proper body alignment receives high regard in shows.
Begin leading your horse at the walk. Firmly say whoa, and promptly stop. Most horses will continue walking past you. Keep your place and do not pull back on the horse, rather, allow the horse to walk far enough that the chain tightens. The horse must learn to stop immediately when you stop. This may take several practices to achieve. If you have a difficult time still getting your horse to stop properly, you can try a different approach. Right after you say whoa, start walking backward briskly, allowing the chain to tighten. When the horse stops, immediately release the pressure on the chain.