Authentic exhibitors radiate elegance and confidence. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

Six Life Lessons Learned from Showmanship

Horse showing teaches exhibitors invaluable life lessons. Everything from how to win graciously to how to lose with class. We learn that it is okay to make mistakes because they only make us a better equestrian and an overall stronger person. Showmanship exemplifies these ideas in the most elegant and complicated ways. Showmanship’s core values and traditions span far beyond the show pen. Trophies collect dust, champion titles are passed on, but the life lessons learned from this class are timeless.

1 – Walk with purpose

If you have ever shown this class before, then you have probably been told: “Walk with purpose!” Even though this is difficult to do, it presents an air of confidence to the judges. Walking with pace also helps an exhibitor maintain the connection with their horse giving a pretty overall picture. This phrase can also apply to the world outside of the show pen. Even when times are challenging, hold your head high. Be confident in yourself and all that you do.

2 – Confidence is key

Successful showmanship exhibitors convey confidence in their patterns. Every step, turn and inspection must portray this. Judges look for a poised, confident exhibitor who knows exactly where they are going. For example, standing anxiously at the start cone conveys uncertainty. Even if your horse is less proficient in a certain element, exhibit that maneuver to the best of your ability and radiate confidence. Doing this may help you win blue ribbons, but most importantly, it teaches you to be sure of yourself, both in and out of the show pen. Whether in the show pen, work or school, have confidence in your abilities. This will bring you success in every facet of life.

3 – Authentic is better than artificial

No one likes the fake smile or squat trot. Many judges have made comments about their preferred style of running in the showmanship and they all have one thing in common – squatting while trotting is a major taboo. Fake smiles also deeply pain both the judges and audience watching. Remember that horse showing is about having fun. Just relax and focus on the task at hand. Being artificial makes the overall picture of an exhibitor and their horse less enjoyable to watch. Authentic exhibitors radiate elegance and confidence. Apply the same ideology to everyday life. Much like a squat trot, no one likes an artificial person. Remember to take time during the day to relax and reflect. Do not try so hard to be “perfect” that you lose sight of the line between authentic and artificial.

4 – Dress to impress

First impressions are everything. Whether at the start cone or a job interview, dress to impress. You always see successful showmanship exhibitors with a nice shaped hat and well-fitted clothing. They walk to the cone and are ready to present their horse. Showmanship’s roots are in the art of presentation. Pants that are too short, an ill-fitting jacket a sloppy bun…these all convey the exhibitor’s lack of preparation. If you have a job, college or another critical interview, dress to impress. This conveys to the interviewer that you are prepared and professional. You cannot make a first impression twice.

5 – Create your style

Style is what separates those who are merely good at showmanship and those who are excellent. A beginning exhibitor must first learn the basics such as proper footwork, posture, etc. However, as one progresses in the class, they can start to develop their style. It takes time to develop your “showmanship style,” and it is always a work in progress. However you decide to develop your style, own it — it is yours. It is not always easy, but try carrying this mentality through everyday life. Being “normal” or “average” is, frankly, quite boring. Judges don’t want to see every pattern look the same. You do not need to conform to the latest trends or society’s ideals to be a winner.

6 – Progress over perfection

I wish I could say that progress leads to perfection, but, perfection does not exist. There is always going to be something less than ideal. Maybe your horse slid his pivot foot or trotted during the walk off. However, progress is everywhere, whether this is in a showmanship maneuver or any normal situation. Take time to reflect on your progress. Be proud of how far you have come and excited about how far you will go. Everyone has a different journey to their goals. The idea of “perfection” has killed more dreams than anything else. Whether you just started showing or are a world champion, we are all human at the end of the day. Be proud of your horse and yourself for the progress you have already made as a team.

About the Author – Cat Guenther of White Lake, Michigan is in the 12th grade at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She has ridden horses since she was eight years old. When Cat is not at the barn, she focuses on her small business “Behind the Bit Tack Sales.” Cat is very excited to take on the rest of her youth career with her new equine partner, Zippos Kat Man Do. She hopes to one day attend Michigan State University and study to become an equine veterinarian.