Supposed to be getting advice and actually shown somethings (if this snow and mud ever disappears) by the 4H leader for my son to do showmanship. He is still a clover bud so he can only do showmanship with his horse this year (next year he can do more!
What I am looking for is some tips on what I should be doing to teach him above and beyond the normal horsemanship things.
Also, what is normally looked for (clipping, grooming, etc) of the horse for 4H showmanship. I am
planning on discussing this with his leader and her daughters (who are going to work with my son), but I would love to get some idea before hand.
Thanks a bunch!
The biggest showmanship-specific trick that your son will need to learn is how to cross over around the horse during inspection - when the judge is circling the horse looking at things up close. Your 4-H leader should be able to show you and your son how to do this; it's easy enough in practice, but difficult to describe clearly in text. Also, have your son practice leading the horse as he will have to in the ring, so that it becomes second-nature - leading from the left side, right hand near the halter but not touching the snap or chain, left hand holding the lead neatly coiled. This hand position should stay the same the entire time. The biggest thing for the horse to learn will probably be to set up square - if the horse doesn't know this, your leader should be able to get you started on teaching it. There are also a few threads here on training the horse to stand square. All turns should be made into the horse, not pulling the horse toward him. He shouldn't need to touch the horse at all to move him; touching a shoulder to back up or turn will lose points in the ring.
In terms of clipping and grooming, 4-H in my area likes a pretty generic clip. The exception would be if the horse is an extremely type-y non-stock or non-hunter breed (i.e. Arab, Morgan, draft, gaited). Assuming that your son will be showing western, you'll need the horse to be spotlessly clean. I find that bathing strips the oil from the coat, and prefer to bathe a couple of days in advance of the show, but that's just my preference. Stock-type western horses should ideally have their manes pulled and banded (I've seen natural manes in the ring, but pulled is the ideal), and a bridle path clipped the length of the ear laid flat against the neck. The long whiskers on the muzzle and face should be clipped, and the ears folded closed and the protruding hairs clipped away. The long feathering on the fetlocks should also be clipped, unless the horse's breed standard allows them to be kept, such as a draft breed.
In showmanship, remember that the horse is a prop that your son is using to demonstrate his ability to condition, care for, groom, and handle a project horse. There shouldn't be much focus on the horse beyond that. As a clover-bud, I would expect a very simple pattern in the class.
The best thing is to absorb everything your leader and her family can show you - the preferences of 4-H judges in terms of clip style can vary pretty widely with geographical area. Your County Extension Office can provide you with a rulebook for your state that outlines the expectations for each class. The rulebooks get updated every year or two, and your leader can probably get one for you if she hasn't already.
Good luck, and remember that the most important thing is to have fun!!