These tips will give your horse the ultimate show-ring shine.
From AQHA Corporate Partner Farnam with contributions from Kristin Syverson
Want to prove you are a serious competitor? Then enter the ring with a serious shine. Not only does meticulous grooming demonstrate good horsemanship, but it also creates a lasting impression in the judge’s mind. Set yourself apart from the crowd with these tips.
Manage That Mane
To shorten your horse’s mane, do not cut it with scissors. The proper way to shorten is by pulling and thinning the mane by hand. Horses are not as sensitive about this as humans. However, if too many hairs are jerked out at once, the horse will become irritated.
Start pulling at the longest part of the mane. Work evenly along the entire mane. Take the longest hairs from the underside, pulling only a few hairs at a time. Make sure you pull the hairs out completely rather than just breaking them off. Broken hairs make manes thick and bushy with frizzy split ends.
How about what’s under the mane? In AQHA’s 15-page FREE report, Judging Halter Classes, you’ll get an understanding of the ideal American Quarter Horse. You’ll train your eye to acknowledge balance, structural correctness, breed and sex characteristics, muscling and more.
Clipping is an art, and the only way to be good at it is to practice. If you are a novice, don’t start practicing the day before the show. If your horse has never been clipped, you’ll have to work with him long before the show date to get him used to the clippers.
For the show ring, bridle path, ears, muzzle, jaw and fetlocks should be clipped clean, so they look smooth and neat. The best time to clip your horse is after a bath, once he is dry. Clipper blades must be sharp, clean and oiled. Dirty, dull or dry blades will not do the job. To help achieve the polished look you want, download AQHA’s FREE Clipping Tips report.
Give your horse a bath a few days before the show to give natural oils enough time to regenerate a glossy sheen on the coat. Any stains or spots can be touched up on the day of the show.
Keep soapy parts wet. If allowed to dry, shampoo leaves a film that will dull the coat. Rinse your horse thoroughly with clean running water. Keep the water running until no more soap runs out with the rinse water. Be gentle when you wash your horse’s face and head. Use just a little soap. Do not get water in your horse’s ears or soap in his eyes.
Shampoo your horse’s mane and tail like you shampoo your own hair. You can double up his tail and wash it right in the bucket of soapy water. Don’t scrub too vigorously when you’re working on the mane and tail; you can break off hairs.
A shining finish makes the biggest impression when it is combined with a conformationally correct horse. To learn what characteristics judges value, get AQHA’s FREE report, Judging Halter Classes.
Use a good conditioner to make the mane and tail more manageable after shampooing. After your horse is rinsed, scrape his coat as dry as possible with a sweat scraper. Towel-dry your horse after you’ve removed as much water as possible with the scraper. Dry his heels to avoid drying and cracking. Then walk him until he’s dry. Depending on the weather, you might want to use a cooler or blanket. Wool is always good because it keeps him warm while letting moisture escape.
Make a Shining Finish
While nothing can replace a healthy, natural shine, a good-quality hair polish gives your horse the added edge that attracts attention. Apply hair polish to your horse’s mane and tail right after shampooing to keep the hair tangle-free and more manageable. Then, right before you go into the show ring, use it on your horse’s entire coat for a first-place finishing touch.
Hoof cleaning and moisturizing are great for day-to-day grooming, but feet have to look extra neat for the show ring. Use hoof polish to give hooves a sharp-looking shine. Make sure to remove it completely after the show and apply moisturizing hoof dressing immediately to the clean hooves to keep them in good condition.