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Heather Asks:
HI was curious as to what was legal in the show ring concerning long manes, in western pleasure, english pleasure, and halter classes.

I used to pull his mane and band/braid, however I am not showing as much in the pleasure classes (just local shows), but I still want the mane to look neat and professional. I hated having to pull his mane in the first place since he had such a long and full, mane and tail. The level of showing would be at most the state 4-H fair.

Thanks for your time.

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Heather-

I don't know of any rules that dictate the length of the mane or tail. Usually, the rules will say (hunters being an example) "may be braided".

In one of the recent questions, I mentioned that I had just judged a high school championship show in Michigan. Each morning, the coaches of the high school teams met with the judges to address questions. One coach asked, "We have a horse in showmanship with a very long tail. Would it be OK to put a knot in the tail for the showmanship pattern so he doesn't step on the tail?" Five of the six judges said no and I added that they might consider trimming the horse's tail for it's safety and comfort! It certainly doesn't sound as if you have reached those lengths. But my suggestion to you, is to make sure whatever you do, that it flatters your horse and doesn't distract.

For the hunter classes, a French braid works quite well with the longer manes that aren't pulled.

You are most welcome. I was happy to get your thoughtful question.

Anne Johnson

Shannon Asks:
Hey. im 14 and I just bought a new horse. Hes going to his first show WITH ME in 11 days (Nov 19 2006). Ive shown alot .. BUt i have never gamed an arabian. I ride in western gaming (poles, barrels etc) and i was wondering how i could make him stand out in the show ring (braids and such). And also, he is a VERY good gamer.. but hes also really hyper; Ive been riding my whole life so It isn't a problem. but if you could tell me a way to calm him down. it could make the shows more comphortable. He isnt getting fed grain that hypes him up.. and hes Always in the first place ribbons. Just a few tips could help. 


Judge Anne Johnson's Reply

Recently, I judged the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association show. Great show. Michigan has high school riding teams and they compete in showmanship, equitation, reining, trail and plenty of games. They dress up their game horses with brightly colored bridles, glitter on the mane and tail or painting designs on their horses. Now in some shows, that would not be legal so as I have stated in this column so many times....check your rules! And, of course, nothing stands out more in a show ring than simply being the best at what you do.

I've worked with a number of champion barrel racers and their horses. No horse with an overly excited mind will perform their best. In general terms, the best ones I know don't run patterns at home much but when they do, they practice a lot at a walk or trot to refine cues. Practicing rollbacks, stops, balanced circles, bending, listening to leg cues quietly and promptly. Your horse should know that every time it enters an arena, it's not time to run.

Good luck on the 19th!

Anne Johnson

Audrey Asks:
I have a 4 year old arabian gelding that I show in alot of disciplines (such as western, huntseat, games) do you think that is alot for my horse to handle. Would I be burning him out so young?


Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Audrey

Yes. Slow down.

Your horse and I are both glad you asked!

Anne Johnson


Lindsey Asks:
I show a quarter horse and I was wondering how do u judge a quarter horse I'm 11 yrs old.

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Lindsey

First, it's terrific that you are 11 years old and showing! You are likely to have many, many wonderful experiences by getting involved.

To really understand how Quarter Horses are judged, I have some suggestions:

1. Go to shows without your horse and just watch. Everything. All day. I learned a lot that way.
2. Get the AQHA rule book, read it thoroughly and repeatedly. Know your rules!
3. Understand the breed standards...what should a Quarter Horse look like? Are there differences in what judges look for in halter, western, hunter, reining, cutting, etc.?
Read as much as you can. Subscribe to a Quarter Horse breed publication.
4. Check out 4H judging teams in your area and see if you would like to get involved.
5. Watch the judges judge.

My guess is that you will have a lot of fun in the process. And it will help you be so prepared to show and do your best for years to come. Good luck!

Anne Johnson

Kris Asks:
I recently purchased a 7 year old Arabian mare. She has a long mane and tail and I was wondering what braids would be best for her. She is only 13.2 hands. I really appreciate your help!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Kris

Congratulations on getting your new mare! 

I can't tell from your question your purpose for braiding her. To preserve the length of the mane and tail or grow it longer? For hunt classes? Generally, for hunt classes, when a horse has a long mane, your best choice is a French, or running braid and the tail is neatly braided from the base down a portion of the dock. If you are not sure how to do it, check with people who show Arabians and I'll bet they will be glad to show you. And there are books with illustrations...something we can't do here!

Manes and tails can get too long. When a tail drags on the ground, the horse steps on it for backing and can get it caught on a multitude of things. Very painful for the horse. It depends on the horse, but some manes get so long that they detract from the horse's appearance.

Leaving braids in the mane and the length of the tail can be a great way to get more growth and fullness. It helps to shampoo, condition and thoroughly rinse first and then follow with a moisturizer (baby oil and Show Sheen work) before braiding. To avoid breakage, periodically take the braids out and repeat the process.

I hope you and your mare have a great time together!

Anne Johnson


Yasmin Asks:
Hi Mrs Johnson, I have a beautiful thoroughbred with a really fine mane. I like the look of a shorter mane as it makes my horses mane appear thicker but I also like to braid it for shows. What style of braiding would you recommend to be the best looking for a short mane, and the easiest to accomplish.
Thank you!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Yasmin

Quality braiding of any type gives your horse a finished appearance for the show ring, shows respect for
your sport and the judge, and the impression that you know what you are doing! The braiding will draw
the judge's attention to that area. So make sure what ever style you choose, it is neatly and evenly done. With high quality horses that have beautiful necks, simple, single braids that are right at the mane line look great and likely is your easiest way to go. The short, fine mane limits some of your other options.

You might enjoy checking out some of the books and articles on the subject for added technical assistance.
As you know, braiding can become a real art form. You might have a lot of fun with it!

Thanks for your question--

Anne Johnson

Joker Asks:
I show a paint horse he is a spur stop horse and I NEVER need to use rein on him I was wondering if Judges will demerit points if they see you use leg? Also I was wondering if in Western Show Apparel if the Judge is looking for color coordination with the horse? Because I have a Chestnut Tobiano and I dont have any outfits that match his coloring they are purple and exotic colors that flash so I was wondering if that would demerit me?

Thank You!
PS I'm 11 years old so please make this easy to understand! 
Thank You again!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Joker-

To guide a horse well, a rider incorporates the proper use of hands, seat and legs. When the cues become nearly imperceptible to an observer (the judge for example) and there is a real harmony between horse and rider, to me this is the art of horsemanship. If a rider is jerking the horse around or abusively spurring, it's anything but good horsemanship. So it becomes a matter of degree. No judge should demerit the use of your legs unless you are demonstrating poor horsemanship. 

It's fun to get show outfits! But sometimes we have to just work with what we have. If the colors are so loud that they detract from your horse, you might tone your outfit down a bit by just adding a neutral colored hat or shirt or pad. You want the judge looking at your horse and the performance. Always check your breed rules for the equipment and attire that is required.

Have fun!

Anne Johnson

Joker Question 2
Hello Anne,
I have a Paint and his coloring is Chestnut Tobiano! He is very flashy in my opinion the problem is when I show him halter and showmanship he wont set up I realize in Halter you can pick up there foot and physically move it but what about showmanship?

Thank You

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply

Breed rules can differ but I think showmanship is about control and showing your horse to its best advantage. And that means, training your horse to set up without picking up the foot. With just a little practice and patience, you usually can get them to walk right into it. Lavish the reward when he does!

Anne Johnson

Shaunna Asks:
I'm working on ground manners for a few horses at our barn. However, the owners of the newest horse want to show her in halter classes. She's half-Arabian and I don't know the first thing about what judges look for in her discipline/class/breed. I show Western Pleasure on a Quarter/Paint, totally different. Do you have any suggestions of reading materials or videos that I can read up on to help them out.

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Dear Shaunna,

To get ready for showing Half-Arabian halter I suggest reading the United States Equestrian Federation
(USEF) rules on Half Arabian halter. You can get the information on their web-site or through a member
with a rule book. The class specifications are very well written, very descriptive. Just by attending an Arabian show, watching and asking questions before you take the horse to a show would be very helpful. Feel free to ask the show steward there or exhibitors about the class. They will likely be very happy to help you.

Have fun,
Anne Johnson

Dennis Asks:
Hello Anne,
Would you have any information where, in the Stockholm region, we could find trainers for Halter, Hunt and English Pleasure. We are contemplating bringing our two Arabian purebred geldings and a 4 year mare to Sweden from the US when we move, and nobody seems to be able to provide us with any ideas about how to find boarding and trainers.
Thanks for your help!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Dennis--

Yes, I do have contacts here in the United States that might be able to help you find trainers in Stockholm, Sweden! Please forward your email address to me at  and I'll provide that information directly. In addition, I judged the Arabian National Championships in Israel once with a terrific judge from Sweden and I'll located
her information, too.

Anne Johnson

Miranda Asks:
Hi, I was wondering about my Arabian show gelding. I show him in western pleasure and huntseat. He has a very nice collected headset with his nose tucked in, but he tends to move his nose around or bob his head every now and then instead of carrying it steady. He is not lame. What can I do to get him to carry his nose steady? Also, how long does the bridlepath need to be clipped. And I have seen show Arabians with almost an eye shadow look on their eyelids. Is this just clipped hair or what is this?
Thanks, Miranda

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Dear Miranda--

The headset comes from the hindquarters. So first look at driving him into the bridle more with your legs and be sure that you are using your seat effectively. In judging a close class, I look a lot at transitions to
see who is really doing it right and who falls apart. That's when you generally see the horses come out of the bridle. Make sure you are not riding him just off your hands. He could be bobbing his head to get away from pressure so once he responds to your hands for collection, lighten (but don't pitch away) your hands. It could also be that your bit and/or curb chain need readjusting. Or finally, he might need a little dental work.

There is no requirement for a bridlepath or the length of one. It should be of a length that flatters
your horse's neck and head...and during the off-season allow it to grow out. Some of the horses hardly
have any mane left because the clippers just keep taking more and more! There are rules against "balding"
around the eyes and it is illegal to use coloring around the eyes. Only clear materials. People can really
get carried away with this one....just clip enough to flatter your horse's eyes.

Thanks for your questions--

Anne Johnson


Stephany Asks:
My horse is a Thoroughbred cross and I ride him hunt. I was wondering if I should braid him for my county fair or not? I won a blue last year without braiding his mane but my trainer wants me to braid when I go to all the shows, should I do this or not?

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Stephany,

Your trainer has my vote! Show horses are usually clipped, bathed and polished to the max. And most of the people I know just love to go shopping for that perfect show outfit. Braiding your horse is the finishing touch. It's not mandatory but it does demonstrate that you understand the tradition of the hunt style and that you care. I think most horses look better when braided for all hunt classes.

Have fun...and please make sure your trainer gets this email!

Anne Johnson


Katelynn Asks:
When you judge for halter class what kind of questions will we be asked ?
This is my first year and I have no clue what I going to be doing!!

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Katelynn-

I’m pretty sure you are talking about showmanship classes. In halter, the horse is being judged but in showmanship, you are being judged on how well you present and show your horse. The judge may ask
questions about your horse knowledge. Usually, they are about parts of the horse, conformation, unsoundness.

I teach all of my students parts of the horse right away so they can communicate well with vets, farriers,
people at the tack shop, etc. So I recommend that you study and know those first and then learn about 
basic unsoundness and blemishes (splints, capped hocks, spavin, founder, etc.). These are things everyone
should know about and chances are, you'll enjoy the topics. Before you show, watch some of these classes
and of course, read the rules and you will have more than a good clue as to what to do!

Anne Johnson


Patti Asks:
Would you be so kind to answer a question for me? My 4yr mare recently got a small splint and I would like to know how much of a deduction is that in a halter/conformation class? Can I still show halter or would it be a wasted of time because of that? Absolutely sound with it.

Thank you

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Patty-

A splint is a blemish (like wire cut or scar of some sort) not an unsoundness (lameness or sore) and should not be a major deduction in halter classes. Unless....the splint appears to be the result of poor conformation.
So if a horse has bad front legs that would contribute to the creation of a splint, it is a major deduction. Also, if a splint appears close to the knee joint, periodic lameness issues can result even if the horse otherwise has good leg conformation and that is also a serious fault. 

As you probably know, horses can get splints easily all on their own by banging into something like a feeder. You can't do much about that. I always recommend putting on splint boots whenever you ride, trailer, lunge or free lunge. It only takes a minute.

Good luck with your mare!

Anne Johnson

Christine Asks:
I have a 8yr old appaloosa with a very short mane. I know you are supposed to braid the mane for pleasure classes. Is braiding an absolute need in a pleasure class?

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply

I’m not aware of any rules that require braiding. It's always a good idea to thoroughly read the rule book for your division before showing. Sometimes a grooming technique can be illegal and the judge can't place you. 

Happy reading!
Anne Johnson 


Courtney Asks:
Hi Anne,

I have an saddlebred/quarter cross. He is such a baby. He is perfect to show except i cant get him to stand still! Do you have any tips?

Judge Anne Johnson's Reply
Hi Courtney,

Your question raises more questions! Is he a baby because he is young or mentally immature? Or is he a baby because he's been spoiled? What does he do perfectly when showing? At what point won't he stand still? And within those questions, you will find your answer.

It's always about consistency and repetition. Young and mentally immature horses generally need more time and patience with training. Any horse that has been spoiled (treats, babying, inconsistent cues, etc.) needs to know what is expected within reason time after time, and rewarded for good results. Horses want to please and you said he does some things perfectly when showing...he learned that somehow and your technique worked. Figure out what is stimulating him and at what point it happens when he won't stand still (crowd noise, horses leaving the arena, impatience, doesn't respect "whoa" enough yet). It usually works when you ask for the change in behavior (standing still) for very brief periods and lavish praise when the horse does it...if only for a second or two. Then move on to something else so he thinks moving is your decision.

Good luck--
Anne Johnson

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