Ten Tips for Showmanship Success


There is a lot to learn when you’re starting out in showmanship. It takes time and practice to become familiar with all of the skills. However, these 10 tips will help you avoid some of the common mistakes made during a showmanship class.

  1. Give yourself as much time as possible to memorize and practice the pattern before your class.
  2. “Quarter” your horse even while standing in the lineup when the judge is elsewhere in the arena.
  3. Correct your horse if he moves a foot out of position during the square-up.
  4. Work toward being able to square up your horse in 4 seconds or less.
  5. Wait to start your pattern until after you’ve made eye contact with the judge and he or she acknowledges you.
  6. Make sure your halter is clean and fits snugly against your horse’s face.
  7. Hold on to the leather part of the lead and not the chain.
  8. Shorten the chain by clipping it to itself on the off side so no more than 2 inches extend from the halter.
  9. Make your physical movements and cues precise and natural, not overly exaggerated.
  10. Make sure that your show clothes are clean, well-fitted and that they complement your horse.

Further Reading
A Guide to Showmanship
Perfect Your Presentation

Dale Rudin trains horses and riders at Maverick Horse and Cattle Company in Eagleville, Tenn. For more information about clinics, visit

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.

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Dale Rudin is a CHA certified riding instructor, trainer, clinician, and contributor to Young Rider, Horse Illustrated, and HorseIllustrated.com. She is the creator of Unnatural Horsemanship—a mindful approach to the horse-human relationship, and a founding member of Force-Free Tennessee, an animal advocacy organization that fosters humane low-stress training and handling of all animals.Rudin sees horsemanship as an opportunity for a mutually beneficial collaboration between our two species. To achieve positive results on the ground and under saddle, Rudin makes the horse’s welfare her first priority. She emphasizes the important of comfort, calmness, confidence, balance, and clear compassionate communication. She works with all breeds of horses in every discipline using positive reinforcement, clicker training, and the principles of classical dressage. Dale offers training, lessons, workshops, and clinics on her farm in Santa Fe, Tenn.


  1. Practice Practice Practice… every day.. even for 5-10 minutes… always make your horse walk in the correct position… throat latch at your shoulder… they work off body language and the more often you practice in short bursts the more natural it will be for you and your horse … also train the pivot from the shoulder not the nose…


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