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How Showmanship Has Changed Over the Years – with Charlene Carter

Trends are all around us; in clothing, media, and especially music. The music industry has undergone one of the most dramatic changes. Songs from 1939 probably would not perform well on today’s charts. Similarly, listeners from the past would turn their noses up at the music we listen to today. Despite the polar opposite styles of music we have today from the past, there are elements from the past that have influenced today’s music.

These trends don’t stop with music. They carry directly over to horse shows and trends and fads influence the classes we see today.

One class in particular that has been subject to trends is showmanship. A class designed to showcase an exhibitor and horse working in concert with one another has experienced its fair share of the “radio scan” to find the perfect tune. So what are some of these trends?

We spoke with Charlene Carter, who has over 40 years of experience in the equine industry and has spent more than 20 years judging the top showmanship exhibitors in the business.

Trends of the Past

Carter’s first piece of insight on past showmanship trends started with the set-up. “Back in the day, there was a lot of angle towards the front feet. This caused exhibitors to make U-shaped movements around the nose during the inspection. It also caused exhibitors to strain to look over their shoulder. This trend led to a slight decrease in the fluidity and correct positioning of the exhibitor.”

Another past trend was the differences in fluidity. “We have evolved in bringing back the smoothness and fluidity of showmanship,” Carter shares. “Back in the day, exhibitors looked more choppy and like less of a partner with their horse. I am happy to see that we are evolving to a smoother, more unified partnership in showmanship.” 

Trends of Today

There is no doubt that trends and “fads” are happening throughout every class at the horse show, and showmanship is no exception. While these trends may take longer to be adopted, they are still prevalent in showmanship today. “Showmanship today is subject to trends, but not all advantageous trends,” Carter states. “It seems like more of the trends in showmanship have more to do with attire and appearance as opposed to maneuvers.”

While the maneuvers and rules are similar, the presentation is changing with the times. Today, spectators and exhibitors will see a wide variety of attire when attending a horse show. Between suits and rhinestones, one may find themselves lost in which fad to follow. With all of these trends going around, remember that you are being judged on the ability to execute a horse through a pattern. 

Another trend that has presented itself is education. “We are still using some of the same techniques from back in the day, and these techniques are available to everyone,” Charlene says. “There is more information being put out for exhibitors.”

Several e-books and articles regarding all classes, including showmanship, are available to exhibitors around the globe. Aside from e-books, several associations are offering virtual horse shows for exhibitors to show off their skills. 

Trends of the Future

One trend Carter hopes will stick around is judging the setup and inspection separately. “I think it is great that we are looking at those two aspects of the pattern separately. It is placing more emphasis on the setup as a whole. Before, exhibitors were focusing on speed as opposed to accuracy. This trend emphasizes the need for a proper setup.” 

Another trend Charlene hopes will stick around, is the bond with your horse. “There is a lot of one-on-one development with your horse in showmanship. There is a level of skill and communication that can be developed by participating in showmanship that carries through other events.”

One of the first standards mentioned in the rulebook is judging horse and rider as a pair. Creating this pairing takes time and hard work. While all classes reward a great pairing between horse and rider, showmanship takes it to the next level.

“You have to do the work to be successful in showmanship,” Carter adds. “Yes, a trainer can help get your horse ready, but the exhibitor has to do the work to be successful.” Showmanship is the perfect event for exhibitors wanting to create a strong bond with their horses. 

While trends may come and go, a strong pair will never go out of style. Successful showmanship exhibitors spend hours creating the perfect song with their horse. Next time you are scanning the radio, try to listen to trends of the past because they help make up today’s concerts. 

About the Author: Camille Bethers is a devout equestrian and a recent graduate of Utah State University. She has been riding and showing horses for over ten years. She served as captain of the Utah State University Equestrian Team for three years, where she placed in numerous regional and national shows. Her favorite classes are showmanship and horsemanship.