What a crazy year for 4H fair it has been… So far! From virtual practices, to the last minute Go-Ahead for fair to even happen, it has been time crunching. One of my favorite divisions is the horse division. You’ve got Halter, Showmanship, English, Equitation, Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, Reining, Ranch Pleasure, Trail, Poles, ETC… Whatever division you and your horse are in, I’ve got the “know-how” on preparing your horse for show!
Show Ready Horses~ How To
First things first, you need to give your horse a good bath before any preparing! Make sure you get the crest of their mane, scrub the tailbone, and get your socks (If your horse has any) nice and white. Once your horse is dry, You are ready to show prep!
What judges look at for mane banding/style on a horse depends on the breed/class they show in. Typically, your halter, western pleasure, and English classes band and cut the manes, but lets say you have a western pleasure Morgan horse that has a long, beautiful mane you would rather die first than chop off! Don’t worry, I’m going to break it down for you into breed categories for mane styles.
- Stock Horses
- Stock horses include breeds like Quarter horse, Appaloosas, and Paints. For Halter, English and Western pleasure, judges like the look of a 4″ long mane that is thinned (If needed) and banded. The color of the bands don’t have to match their mane, but they do have to be natural colors. This means that you cant use pink for a sorrel horse. However, you could use white or brown! It is all up to the 4Her on what natural band color they want to use.
- So, Let’s say you’re only entering your stock horse into a reining, barrels or trail class. What do you do with them? Simple answer is nothing! they like the look of a long, natural looking mane for these classes. Just a short bridle path and you’re good to go! However, if you decide to enter your horse into a halter class and then turn around and enter him into a trail class, you would band the horse for halter and you can keep the bands in for trail. The Judge wont place you down for going the extra mile and having your horse banded. Also keep in mind that most counties do speed events on a different day than halter and pleasure classes.
- English Horses
- English bred horses include breeds like Saddlebred, Morgan, Arabian, and Tennessee Walker. For halter, you can show your English horse in their bridle or a plane leather halter. A judge looks for a long neck, higher headset, and a slender face on an English horse. Because of this, the longer natural mane accentuates this look. So If you plan on showing your horse halter and English (Or just English) you can braid your horses mane into Hunter, Button, Continental or a Running Braid. However, if you decide to show your horse in English and the western class leave their mane natural. No bands or braids. Their bridle paths are typically longer too. About the length of their ear.
Preferably, you’ll want your horse’s hooves trimmed or shod a week or two before a show. That way, your horse has his hooves looking nice for the show and he’s used to the new feel of freshly trimmed finger nails. Horses can have white, black or candy striped (black and white striped) hooves. sometimes they are all black, sometimes all white, and they can defiantly be mixed if your horse has socks. First thing you’ll want to do is wash and scrub your horse’s hooves to get rid of any dirt and debris. If you want to go the extra mile, you can grab a sheet of sand paper and sand them down so you get rid of the stains! After your hooves are dry, you are going to polish them (My favorite part!). White and candy striped hooves just need to be clear coated. My favorite product is Supershine clear polish. It stays on all day and helps seals cracks. It also drys in 60 seconds! For black hooves you will use the Supershine black polish. Voila, your horse feet are ready!
Clipping can vary from 4Her to 4Her. Some horse really don’t like to be clipped, and some horses don’t mind it. Whether the case might be, a good basic outline is all you need for fair! For starters, a good 2-3in bridle path between the ears right after the forelock starts is perfect for your stock horses and for some of your English bred horses a 3-5in bridle path looks sharp. Their muzzle and chin you’ll shave all the whiskers, and under the jaw you’ll shave the hair short. Their ears can be the trickiest part. If your horse lives outside, the inner ear hair helps protect the ear canal from flies. So when clipping ears, you have two different options. For outside horses that need the extra protection, you can shave the edge of their ear and a little bit of the inside to where it’s level with the the outside of their ear. A little tip for achieving this all in one swipe is to fold your horse’s ear like a taco and you’ll start from the tip and shave downwards. Doing this you’ll get your edges and make the inner ear hair flush with the edge so no tuffs of hair are sticking out of their ear. For inside horses that are well maintained for fly protection, you can clip the outside and fully clip the inside of their ear. It might be a two person job at that point, but hey… they look pretty!
For their feet you also might want to consider whether they are an outside or inside horse. The extra hair can help protect their legs from flies as well. First option is to take a longer bade clipper and shave the back of their pastern and up the fetlock. Then, you’ll take the back of your blade and blend in the front to the back. This will give you a clean fetlock and still keep their hair for protection. Second option would be for horses who are inside with fly control maintenance. You’ll start out the same way, shave up the back of the pastern to the fetlock and up the cannon bone to the back of the knee. Then you’ll take the back of the blade and blend in the cannon bone to the fetlock. the rest of the pastern you’ll shave and blend in the ankle. This will give you a clean look. Either of these shaving methods won’t dock you from getting a purple ribbon. It is your preference on what you think is best for your horse and what you thing looks nice.
Tails can vary on the breed and how thin your horse’s tail is. For stock bred horses, you want a “dust broom” cut. Which is a straight across cut that is level to the horse’s ankles. If your horse’s tail is too thin and/or too short, you can get a tail extension that matches your horse’s tail. I love the look of a full, thick tail on a stock horse. it completes look of the breed.
For English horses’, a long tail that can drag on the ground is the picture you want for these guys. They also make tail extensions for these horses. It’s different in the fact that it is going to be a lot lighter in weight, longer, and a natural cut. The base is also flat to go around the tail bone instead of the knob of a stock horse extension. Either way, tail extensions are not required and is just a look preference.
To finish up your horse’s look, you can get some World Champion Shine On and gloss up their muzzle, tips of their ear, above their eyes, and their bridle path. Next, if your horse is black or bay, you can spray paint your horse’s legs black. It really makes their legs look sharp and consistent with the color of their coat. After you got all your touch-ups done, the last thing to do is spray them down with some World Champion Coat Conditioner. Oh, and of course fly spray!
Now, take a giant step back and look at your finished product! Did your jaw just dropped to the ground?! That’s right, you did that and your horse looks fabulous! With these tips and tricks, you’ll be looking fly for your classes. Your horse is now Show Ready! Oh, and yes, we carry all these fine products here at Lakeside Country story.