Showing Halter Horses: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Showing Halter Horses: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Troubleshoot the halter horse set-up, leading and showing to the judge with these pro tips.

multi judge halter horse showing AQHA Youth World (Credit: Bee Silva)

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When it comes to showing halter horses, we all make mistakes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a pro or a rookie, you’re going to mess up every once in a while. But if you know how to keep your eye open for mistakes before they happen, maybe you can prevent them.

Here AQHA Professional Horsemen share the top five mistakes are that most halter exhibitors make, and how to avoid them.

No. 1 – Setting the Horse Up

Know the conformation of your horse and how to show her so she will look her best.

  • For a long-backed horse, bunch the horse up a little bit in the set-up, which will round her back. Don’t set your horse up too wide, which also hollows out the back.
  • Don’t set your horse’s head too high. Look at where the neck comes out and present the horse’s head so that it doesn’t dip the back.

No. 2 – Leading the Horse

Walk and trot your horse properly to the judge.

  • Don’t pull your horse’s head to you. This will kick your horse’s rear end out to the side, and it will make your horse look and travel a little bit funny. This won’t give the judge a clear picture of how your horse travels.
  • Make sure that your  horse’s head is pointed straight and ahead. As the exhibitor, you should focus on the wall in front of you, rather than the judge as you lead the horse.

No. 3 – Getting Too Close to the Horse’s Head

If you stand too close to your horse’s head, the horse might want to start playing with your hand, biting on you or chewing. To avoid this, make sure your hand is away from your horse’s head. 

Need training tips for establishing personal space with your halter horse? AQHA Professional Horseman and halter world champion Jason Smith offers halter horse training tips

No. 4 – Paying Too Much Attention to the Judge

Don’t lose focus on your horse because you are spending too much time watching the  judge. Always make sure that your horse is properly positioned, just in case the judge looks over at you.

If your horse is set up improperly, and the judge is coming, don’t be afraid to re-set your horse. If you just take a second and get it right, the judge will give you the time to set your horse up correctly.

No. 5 – Over-Showing the Horse

Don’t let your nerves get the better of you and help you to make the biggest mistake of all: over-showing your horse.

Keep up your self-confidence, and you’ll find that you won’t make as many mistakes. Positive thinking is a must, as well as getting to know your horse. If you’re not sure what to expect at a show, go and watch it first. Going to lots of horse shows will calm your nerves and let you know what to expect.

And if you find that you get nervous at big shows, just treat that major show like it’s a weekend show. Slow it down and stay in your regular show routine, and you’ll do a better job of presenting your horse.

Final Tip for Showing Halter Horses

Remember that horse shows are to be enjoyed. Take your time, relax and enjoy it.

Keep in mind the words of AQHA Professional Horseman Denny Hassett of Auburn, Kansas: “Your horse is ready, you’re dressed properly, and if you get it shown properly, you’re going to win a prize.”