The author’s first performance entry - with her first
If you’ve gone to any model horse shows that also have a performance division, perhaps you’ve taken a closer look at the set-ups and marveled at the intricate details of the Western tack, the decorations of a draft harness, or the beautiful clothes on the riders and drivers.
It might seem daunting, but performance showing can be an exciting way to learn more about real horses and equine events, capturing a moment in time.
Performance showers strive to create that moment in time. Starting by carefully considering the model to use, they then build a miniature scene using tack, handlers, props, bases and footings, and other animals. Extensive research and preparation go into the more extensive set-ups, but anyone can start in performance with just a few simple pieces of tack and a horse!
Breyer’s Trooper and meadowbrook cart,
While there are many different classes in a performance show, most shows divide them into 3 divisions - English, Western and other. English classes include anything that would be shown in an English saddle or equipment - English pleasure, dressage, saddle seat pleasure, jumping classes, and English trail.
Western would include those you’d see working in Western saddles - Western pleasure, Western trail, stock work classes (those involving cattle or ranch work) and some new classes in the real horse world such as Western riding, ranch horse pleasure, and extreme cowboy trail. The Other division would be a catch-all for anything that doesn’t fit into the other divisions, which includes driving, showmanship, and costume classes.
If you’re going into performance showing for the first time - start small! If you have some real riding experience, draw from that, as the tack and requirements for the classes will be similar to what you’ll need for models. When I learned to ride, I started in English, so naturally, my first attempts at performance showing started with those classes that I understood. It’s helpful to research what is allowed in classes and what is not, especially when it relates to real horses. Certain breeds show in specialized tack. For instance, Tennessee Walking Horses have a certain type of bit that is used for both English and Western classes, making it different from a warmblood or a Quarter Horse.
Ideas for performance showing can come from multiple sources. You can attend local horse shows that may either be breed oriented, like Quarter Horse shows, or open shows that have multiple breeds performing in classes at the same time. National and World horse shows will often have classes streaming online, and YouTube and other video sources online can be invaluable for being able to closely watch classes and see what horses and riders are wearing. You can also visit breed websites and Facebook groups to see pictures and videos of the breed in the show ring. The websites will also have guidelines and requirements for different equipment and attire.
Just like you use documentation in a halter class when you are displaying a rare breed or a hard to find color, documentation in performance plays a critical role. In any sort of a pattern class (like arena trail, showmanship, and reining) documentation tells the judge what moment you’ve captured. A great source for trail patterns, patterns for showmanship or even Western riding classes can also be found on breed association and show websites. One great example is the AQHA website. Since they have shows throughout the country, as well as Nationals and Worlds shows, many patterns that are used at the shows are available on their website!
|Arena trail entry set up with pattern||Trail entry with pattern showing where the horse is currently in the pattern.|
The great part about performance showing is that any breed can be used. While there might be better breeds suited for certain classes, like a warmblood in dressage and a Quarter Horse in reining, many breeds can be quite versatile. It can be fun to think outside the box and find a great draft horse to show in a saddle seat class, or to show a pony in a large jumping class! There are many real-life examples that can be mimicked in showing. Use your imagination and see what happens!
Fjord entry in a Western pleasure class,
showing the versatility of the breed.
|Costume class entry - a "French poodle"!|