Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan – Part One Proper Attire to Catch the Judge’s Eye

March 22nd, 2018 12:44 PM | No Comments

mark 3 and Show Horse Today would like to extend a warm welcome to AQHA Professional Horseman, trainer and judge Mark Sheridan, our latest contributor! Mark will be sharing his knowledge in the next few weeks, all the while answering the question:

”How do I give my horsemanship patterns the polished look that can win, and what are the first things that catch your eye as a judge?”

In Mark’s opinion, “That is a great question and I could go on and on for hours about what it takes to win. This article will be part one of many as I talk about the basics of horsemanship. I always find myself wanting to get up and help everyone in the class and give my opinions on how they could improve their scores. That is the trainer and coach in me coming out and I realize that is not my place as a judge to do that while I am judging, unless I am asked after the class during some down time at the show.”

Part I: Proper Attire to Catch the Judge’s Eye

Because a lot of different things go into answering this question, Mark will break it down into several pieces over the  next few weeks, beginning here with proper attire and what catches his eye:

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Photo by Bree Hokana

The very first thing I notice is your hat. I don’t personally care about how much silver you have on your saddle, or how much bling you have on your outfit. But, if your hat looks like it has been in a rainstorm or you slept with it on, my first impression is going to be pretty negative. First impressions are the most important, and as judges, we are paid to do a good job and evaluations from the start are where it all begins. You do not need to have a thousand-dollar hat, but you do need to have it shaped correctly, by a knowledgeable person who can clean and block your hat. I have a 100x myself that cost that much and have had it for over 10 years. You can buy a 25x or 50x and if taken care of, will look just fine and last a lifetime. But when it comes to hats, you get what you pay for. It will need maintenance from time to time to keep it looking good. I live in Arizona, and I purchase most of my hats and clients’ hats from companies in Georgia, Texas, and California. I only allow about three people to touch my hat when it comes to reshaping and cleaning. It must be kept out of the rain, it must be kept out of the horse trailer on hot days, and when you are done at the end of each day, lightly brush it off, and store it in your hat can, making sure that the crown holder is adjusted properly where the brim does not sit on the bottom of the can. Do not set it down on the brim, always upside down on the crown, and never, ever set it on the bed! That is just really bad luck! I guess now you are aware of how important the hat is, in my opinion!

DSC05594Secondly,  I would like to talk about proper equipment, tack, and attire. Saddles, bridles and tack are the next thing we notice when an exhibitor enters the ring. I am not one who likes tons of silver, and who bought the most expensive saddle. Clean tack that is properly adjusted and well fitted is what I notice. I would invest in a quality, handmade saddle with no silver over a more expensive factory saddle loaded down with silver. Make sure that the saddle size fits both you and your horse. Sometimes a plain tooled or basket stamp saddle works the best for me. Remember, you are showing off yourself, not your saddle. Make sure the cinch straps, leathers and all keepers are tucked in and not flopping all around. Make sure that everything is tucked down and nothing moves. That also goes for hair on women. Tuck your hair up in a bun and make sure no hair is sticking down from under the front or side of your hat. Hairspray it down and no ponytails. Anything that moves will distract and make the rider look loose.

Girls, put on the makeup! You are showing yourself off, so always look the best you can. Remember to put it on a little heavier than normal as you are being viewed from far away and it needs to show up. If you have excessive jewelry such as too many earrings, face piercings, nose rings, and the like … please take them out! I am a traditionalist and there are places for everything. I mention this because I see it from time to time.


Photo by Don Trout

Photo by Don Trout

As far as outfits go, any clean looking and well fitting equitation blouse will work just fine. If you have the expensive thousand dollar tops then go ahead and wear them. It is not necessary to have all that, and you can purchase a well-fitted blouse with a neck scarf for well under a hundred bucks. Make sure that your colors match and your chaps and blouse are the same color. It is important to create the nice straight line from top to bottom.

Don’t break up that line. Your hat should also match your outfit. Gals wear felt hats but the guys can get away with a nice well shaped straw hat except for the big shows. Guys have a little more leeway and can get away with a nice white or solid colored heavy starched shirt and starched jeans under their chaps. Girls need to have slacks that match their chaps. Sorry, but that is just the way it is, the guys always seem to have it easier in attire.”

We are looking forward to hearing Mark’s thoughts on horsemanship and judging, and hope that you have found his information just as helpful as we did! Keep an eye out for the second in the series to come later this week, where Mark will discuss the best way to start your class off!

Learn more about Mark Sheridan by visiting his website HERE

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