Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Blair Nebraska- where the weather always changes
Here are some things you can do.
Practice your trots. A lot. The quicker he responds to your cues, the more the judge gets to see how he moves.
Have him stand still often. Make sure he doesn't move and do this as much as possible so he gets used to having to stay still. Judges have a hard time judging conformation when the horse is dancing and the horse will most likely not place as well as one that stands still, because the judge can tell how he's built a whole lot better.
To teach your horse to set up, you need to do several things.
1. Be sure you can back him up. Practice little tiny steps, and practice regular backing. Once he backs up every time you ask, and does it at the PACE that you ask, move on to step 2,
2. Have him stand still. Take a small crop and tap his foreleg with it. If he doesn't move it, increase the pressure of the tapping. (Oh, be sure to use the lead to cue at the same time)
3. Once he moves his forelegs off without the crop, move to the back legs. Stand by his side and repeat what you did with the front legs.
4. Finally, ask him a little at the lead to adjust his feet. When he does, reward him and stop. Then practice getting his feet in line. Every time you stop, set him up, so that it will become automatic almost. I did this with Dai, and when I stopped, he would move his feet until he was set up on his own.
Judges like smiles, straight posture and confidence. Showmanship is about how YOU show your horse. It's important your horse responds well too. Always back up straight. It'll screw up your pattern if you don't. When doing pivots, it's better to go slow than to risk having your horse step out, but keep him moving enough that he won't get bored. Practice trotting with your horse in sync! It pays off really well when you trot in rhythm with your horse!
You probably won't win the first time (if you do, more power to ya!) but these are things I learned in my years of showing!