Thursday, April 18, 2024

How It's Made-Part 3: The making of Showmanship

Source: Text by Katie Navarra • Photos by Jeff Kirkbride and KC Montgomery


...Cross usually judges a pattern designed by someone else. "The show committee, one of the other judges or one of David Denniston's patterns from is used," he says, "we don't always have the option of designing our own."

Christopher Strong and All Time Favorite
Christopher Strong and All Time Favorite
o excel at Showmanship a horse and exhibitor team must do a lot more than correctly execute each maneuver in the pattern. It is demonstrating an ability to move as one with the horse.

"Showmanship is like a dance," says Christopher Strong, of Shoreview, Minnesota, the 2011 and 2012 Pinto World Grand Champion in Western Showmanship, "you have to be 100 percent coordinated with your horse."

With fewer elements than Trail or Horsemanship, Showmanship encourages handlers to develop their own style to differentiate themselves from other competitors.

"I like that you get to add your own style to the pattern," says Sarah Miller, of Boulder, Colorado, who finished in the Top 10 in both the AQHA and NSBA Youth Showmanship 15-18 classes and third in both the NYATT and NYATT NSBA at the 2014 All-American Quarter Horse Congress. "You also get to show how athletic you and your horse are in different parts of the pattern."

Eugene, "Gene", Spagnola an AQHA Professional Horseman who trains out of Powder Brook Farm in Harwinton, Connecticut, said, "a well-designed Showmanship pattern is one that allows individuals to demonstrate their connection with their horse on the ground. A commendable pattern flows from one maneuver to another with ease and precision."

Though Showmanship requires precision, it may be the most inviting event for competitors new to breed shows.

"I consider Showmanship an introductory class to association shows," says Terry Cross of Dry River Ranch in Weatherford, Texas and an AQHA Professional Horseman with AQHA and NSBA judging cards.

"At the higher levels there is a separation of ability, but when an exhibitor is just starting out anyone who walks into the ring has a chance to do well. You don't have to own the most expensive horse to have success in Showmanship," he adds.

Gene Spagnola

The Evolution of Showmanship

Whether you're a seasoned Showmanship competitor or a rookie learning to master the class, chances are you've wondered how a judge or show committee develops the pattern you are asked to perform.

To understand how Showmanship patterns are created it's important to recognize how the class came to be. Showmanship evolved out of halter classes.

A decade ago, the class was based on how well one presented their horse for halter. All exhibitors were in the arena at the same time and completed a short pattern. The judge(s) completed individual walk-around inspections.

"A handler's ability to show a halter horse wasn't enough for judges to separate exhibitors as the level of competitiveness evolved," Cross says.

Nowadays, patterns are prescribed and are run individually. "Today judges are able to enhance the complexity of their patterns. It is much more than showing a horse at halter, but rather demonstrating one's ability to convey their effortless partnership with their horse," Spagnola explains.


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