Iron River Showing at State Fair 2003

How To Show Your Colt in the Show Ring

1. Most shows require a negative Coggins Test not more than 12 months old – some are 6 months old – on a colt. This test can take anywhere from 1 hour to a week, depending on where you live. Allow time to get the results before the show.  Also check to see if any other shots, health certificate or vet work is required by the show officials.  If you are showing a mare and foal (i.e., the colt is not yet weaned), you may only need a Coggins and health certificate on the mare.
2. You may be required to purchase an Amateur’s Card before showing. Contact the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) for membership card information.
3. Check to see if you need to reserve stalls and make early entries. If it is a futurity, you may need to nominate the mare, the colt and the stallion. Often the owner of the stallion will pay for the stallion’s nomination.
4. When you get to the show grounds, you must go to the office and enter your classes and receive your back tag with a number on it. Sometimes the back tags are assigned to the specific horse and sometimes to the specific handler. Be sure you understand which.
5. If you get to the show grounds a day or so before you show, be sure to walk your colt everywhere – especially in the area were you will be showing, so he is familiar with most “scary” things ahead of time.
6. Before entering the show ring, all colts must be inspected by the Designated Qualified Person (DQP) who is looking for soreness in the pastern area of your horse. Also, USDA officials may be present and inspecting horses before entering the show ring. You must find the DQP and have your colt inspected before it can enter any class at any show. Be sure to take your back tag with the number on it when you go for inspection and tell them the class you are showing in.
7. It is a good idea before you go to the show to get your colt used to having his feet inspected. Pick up the hoof, press around in the pastern area and make the colt stand still while you do this. If you take a colt up to be inspected and it misbehaves badly, you could be disqualified from showing even though the colt is totally sound.
8. If you place either 1st or 2nd at most shows, you are required to go back through inspection with the DQP. Failure to do so can result in suspension from the show ring and a possible fine. (Show officials may require other placements to be inspected also – check with the rulings at each show.)
9. Have your colt ready to enter the ring when your class is called. They are only allowed to hold the gate for a short time, so you could miss your class if you are not prepared.  Some people do not like to be first into the ring – they want to make a “grand entrance.” It really doesn’t matter what order you enter the ring, because the judge isn’t supposed to start judging until all horses are in the ring and when you are walking in a circle, there is no “first” or “last” horse!
10. Try to leave a space between yourself and the horse in front of you. If you are getting “bottled-up” with other horses, either pass the horse in front of you (to the insider of the ring) or make a circle to allow the other horse to pass you. It is best to do this when the judge is not looking directly at you. Always try to see where the judge is and where he is looking. 
11. It is not unusual for your colt to act up a little in the show ring – especially the first time. With weanlings, the judges are more lenient – just try to get control of the colt and continue showing your colt. (All that walking at home pays off here!!)  Do not take shortcuts across the ring, but maintain the same circle.  Bump your horse’s head up if he is carrying it too low.
12. Walk the same speed as the other horses unless you have an unusually fast-walking horse. It is better to pass another contestant than try to hold your horse back if the other one is walking too slowly. Also, pass another contestant if he is having trouble with his colt. Do not allow the other contestants to make your colt look bad. Show your horse – don’t be rude to anyone – but show your horse!
13. If your colt balks on you, try pushing him on the withers to make him go forward, or, if you have a long quirt, tap him on his back legs with the whip, being held in the left hand facing backwards.
14. You will be expected to go both directions of the ring, entering to your right, and then reversing. You can reverse either toward the judge or away from the judge – it does not matter.  You are then asked to line up, facing the ringmaster (or sometimes, “on the ringmaster” – I don’t recommend taking them literally!!!!)
15. If you have a colt that will park out well and hold it, you might want to be near the end of the line up (notice which end of the line the judge will be starting from); however, if your colt will only stretch for a short time, you may want to be near the beginning of the line up.   There are advantages and disadvantages both ways. If you line up at the beginning of the line, you don’t have as much time to set up your colt before the judge arrives to look at him.

If you line up at the end of the line up, the colt may get tired of holding the stretch and move just when the judge gets there to judge him, not allowing you time to re-set him.  One advantage of being at the end of the line up is that it is the last impression that the judge has, and if it is positive, he might forget about the good colt at the other end of the line up.

Perhaps the best location is about the 3rd from the beginning. You have time to set up your colt and he could possibly make an early “good impression” on the judge, whereby he compares all other colts to him.

16. Always park out the colt and stand in front of him until the judge looks at him. You should not be holding the halter – only the lead strap. You can have your quirt in one hand to use to bump his head up or shake to get the colt’s attention when the judge is looking at him. The more alert the colt looks, the better.  The colt should be taught to always hold his head high and his ears forward. A sharp looking colt on the line up can win a class regardless of how he looked when being lead.
17. After the judge looks at your colt and the other colts, step back next to your colt, facing the same direction as the colt. Now your number on your back will be visible to the judge who will then be standing behind the line up, looking for numbers and making his final decisions.  CONTINUE TO SHOW YOUR COLT RIGHT UP TO THE END OF THE CLASS!!!!!
18. If the colt moves just before the judge is approaching you, or after the judge has just looked at your colt, just try to position the colt as quickly as you can, and then stand firm. It is more important that the colt is looking smart than whether his feet are perfectly positioned. (Work on that colt at home so that when you back him slightly, he positions his back feet together – then if his front feet aren’t perfect when the judge looks at him, he won’t look as bad as if his back feet are not together.)
19. NEVER, NEVER bend over and position the feet with your hands!!!!  Some colts will come out into a natural stretch just by positioning their back feet and pulling out a little on their head. Even if the colt isn’t stretched, if his feet are positioned together, you can get by with it if the colt is looking sharp.
20. Practice (at home) leaving the line up while the other colts are still there, i.e., such as leaving to go collect a ribbon!!!! Sometimes a colt just wants to follow the other colts, and he has to learn to go when you say go.
21. If you win first place, there will usually be a photographer to take your picture.

Always be a gracious loser. Just because you did not win, does not mean that you do not have a good colt. There are many reasons why people place where they do – and it usually isn’t a reflection on the quality of the remaining colts.
22. Sometimes there is such a thing as “politics” – I don’t want to sound like sour grapes and I don’t want to dwell on the subject, but it certainly is a factor in all showing – not always, but sometimes. Then, it doesn’t matter how good your colt is – you cannot win – unless, of course, you are part of the politics. But we have to go on the assumption that politics is not a factor.
23. Sometimes there is a whole class of good colts – and it is anyone’s guess as to the best of the bunch – this is becoming more and more the case as we are breeding better colts each year.
24. Sometimes a judge prefers a particular color or body type or way of movement or bloodline and will completely overlook other good colts that are not of his individual preference.  Since every judge has a different perspective, keep in mind that it is one person’s opinion at a given time and place. This week you may not even place and next week you may win the blue ribbon.
25. Keep in mind that many colts that do well in halter classes may never do well under saddle and vice versa – one that does not do well at halter may make an excellent show or pleasure horse.  Do not let the results of showing at halter determine, in your mind, the absolute worth of a colt. Only about 10% of all walking horses make show horses. You never know how good a horse is until an experienced trainer gets on his back and starts the training process.
26. It is the responsibility of the breeder to be true to yourself. Take a good look at your own colt, analyze your mares and the stallions you are breeding to. As you become more experienced as a breeder, you can become more objective about your colts.

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Last Updated: March 28, 2017

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