Show Your Horse!

I really love to show a nice Morgan Horse in harness but the thing I really love is to show a nice Morgan Horse in hand. There is a skill to showing a Morgan in hand and nothing frustrates me more than watching an in hand class and see a nice Morgan get placed back in the ribbons when it should have taken a blue instead. It’s not because of the judge but it’s because of the handler and how the horse was presented. For some reason people think that all you have to do is walk your horse to the judge and trot off down the rail. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes a skill that not everyone has in order to show a horse in hand and a person who has that skill will take a horse and get it pinned with the best ribbon possible.
I have shown horses like Half Lippitt Royalton Supreme Aire, Full Lippitts Rohan Deor, Weathermont Ethan and others as well as my own stallion Denlores Desert Storm. Storm took in hand championships at many A rated shows, presented at presented at Equine Affaire and then was sponsored by Nutrena for four years in which he took year end championships on the VHSA circuit for stallion in hand, open in hand and he has never been defeated in the Justin Morgan Standard class anywhere. The horses I have shown were nice horses no doubt but they were shown at nothing but their best.
First of all if your showing in hand someone else should be getting your horse ready. My wife Laura puts the final touches on Storm while I go out and watch the judge. Every judge is different in what they will allow and what they like. Some judges will let a horse skip a beat going down the rail or forgive a horse if he acts up a bit. Other judges like to see a horse stretched a bit and others want a horse to stand square. I am not talking about sport horse in hand class I am talking about a stallion or mare in hand class here so you’re going to want your Morgan with his head up and alive looking. I see people all the time trot their Morgan down the rail dragging the head down to the ground. Lift your arm up and bring the curb bit in so that you get your horses head up and slightly in so he looks arched or well-rounded and not all strung out. You may want to practice this at home so that you get his head set just right. At home is the time to train your horse, not in the show ring. A judge likes to see a Morgan bright and excited but yet controlled. I usually work my horse at home and teach my horses the kiss method. When I kiss I want my horse to move so that as I am going down the rail and I want my horse up more in the bridle I will kiss to him which tells him to give me a little more gas pedal. I may also have someone use a small plastic shopping type of bag behind him when I kiss so that he gets the idea that when I kiss I want him up more in the bridle. Desert Storm is such a well-trained stallion that anyone can walk him anywhere however the minute I take him and kiss a little he knows it’s show time. When I show a horse that is not mine and I did not train, I will always talk to it. I may grumble or kiss to it but I will look for something that will excite that horse in order to make it look brilliant. I might use a candy wrapper or clicker but I’ll use something that will excite that horse. I test him a little using these things to find that out before I go into the ring.
When you trot down the rail you will line up head to tail and the judge will ask each person to walk their horse to him/her. Walk your horse right to the judge. Don’t stray to the left or to the right because the judge wants to see your horse walk from the front. I see so many people pay no attention as to where they are walking. Stop your horse and show him in the direction that the judge requests and stretch him a little and make him stand. If the judge wants your horse square they will tell you to square your horse up. Please do your homework and teach your horse to stand when you are at home. There is nothing more aggravating to a judge than when they have to run in circles because a horse has not been taught to stand.
Make sure your horses head is up and the curb bit flexed in a bit to give the horse that well rounded look. Scratch his neck and talk to him nice and calm so he knows that what he is doing is correct and what you’re looking for. The judge will ask you to walk to the rail and trot down. Again walk directly away from the judge turn left and trot your horse down the rail just like you did when you came in the in gate. Go back to the lineup with your horse.
You always want to be showing your horse. While the judge is looking at other horses you will want to have your horse stretched and looking brilliant just as if your showing to the judge. Many times while judging the horse in front of them a judge may look up briefly or without notice because he may be comparing your horse to the one he is judging. Always show your horse and never stop until the judges card is handed in.
Here are a few tips. Know the conformation faults the horse that you are showing has before you show him. You can set your horse up so that they may not be so evident to the judge. A horse may have a leg that does not place right when over stretched so if that’s the case just don’t stretch the horse so far that it shows that fault. Always know how you want your horse to stand in order for him to look his best. If you see a spot on the ground that goes up slightly you will want your horse so that he is facing on the up slant if you can. Most judges will let you reposition your horse as long as you can do it reasonably fast so you don’t hold them up. Learn little tricks that may mean the difference between a blue ribbon and a red ribbon. Many times the difference between horses will be small that the little difference you make could help you take a championship ribbon. Let me give you one last example. I was showing Desert Storm in a stallion class and we had been to a show the day before so between the showing and the traveling he was not as brilliant as I wanted him to be. So I had kissed to him and got him to show fairly well in front of the judge but I wanted a great final impression so in the final line up as the judge was walking down the line one last time, I turned Storm around so he was facing the stallion that was behind him. I then took one step toward that stallion which made Storm look really excited and brilliant. The judge did make us turn back around and face in the same direction like all the other horses but that brilliant moment was enough to take a blue ribbon.
Remember, I’m not saying that you can take a horse with poor conformation and make it a winner but the person handling a horse can make a difference in an in hand class when the judge is trying to decide between two very close horses and that could mean the difference that makes your horse win the blue ribbon.

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