By guest blogger Leah Haney
I’ve been showing draft horses and ponies in New England for almost 15 years. In the state of Maine we are very blessed with a big system of agricultural fairs. I believe we have 24 fairs total with just over half of them supporting a draft horse and pony show. There is plenty of opportunity here to get your horse out and about.
Showing drafts at halter is one of my favorite activities. I remember sitting on the sidelines as a kid in awe of these big beautiful horses trotting into the ring. I’ve never lost my appreciation for a well fitted horse! When my Suffolk filly ‘Cornish King’s Lightning’ (We call her Foxy) turned three this year and we felt she was ready to have some off the farm experiences I immediately lined us up some trips out to show at halter!
To be ready for the show ring, I would spend just five minutes before or after each workout asking Foxy to walk and trot on the lead. This helped me find out her most comfortable speed at the trot ( we don’t spend much time trotting pulling the drag in the pasture or twitching logs ) and once I knew where her comfort zone was, always encouraging her to maintain that speed, not falling behind or taking off with silly three year old leaps. It didn’t take my little red filly very long to understand the program.
The other important piece of showing at halter is standing square in front of the judge for the inspection. Anytime my husband and I have Foxy out on the lead we ask her to “stand square” when she stops. If she whoa’s with one leg in front of the other we always adjust until she’s square. She’s now beginning to adjust herself automatically every time she stops!
The week before there is a show we clip her her bridle path, whiskers, and hair under chin up nice and clean. The night before the show she gets a good scrub down with shampoo, we rinse her well, and then brush some show sheen into her coat so anything she rolls in overnight won’t stick! That way she only needs a good brush down in the morning before we leave.
We’ve attended two shows so far this year and I’m so happy to say those little five minute lessons were well worth the time invested. Foxy has handled the show ring like a veteran horse. Though we haven’t placed well under the judge, we have received compliments from many of our competitors on her excellent feet, bone, and the copper shine in her coat. The fact that many of these compliments are coming from people who are mainly in the hitch horse business, makes me even more proud.
I am so excited to see the ring full of nothing but big red horses on the line at the Spectacular in October. Present your horses to the judge to the best of your ability and to quote Ms. Val Barnica, be “Proud As Punch” of all your hard work!