Halter Showing Tips

This series by judge Mark Sheridan will help people who are showing their horses in halter competition. The new class of Performance Halter has hit most of the breeds over the last few years. In addition, versatility ranch classes and various competitions require showing your horse at Halter for breed and open shows and there has been a major increase in people exhibiting their horses in Halter and Conformation classes. The tips in this five-part series will help make your experience in Halter more enjoyable and more competitive. Most importantly, it will give you the tools that will make it easier for the judges to place you closer to the top of the class.


One thing to keep in mind is that the halter class is usually in the morning. It is a great way to make a positive first impression with the judge. You want what you show to the judge to say, “Look at me and my horse close up; see that we are the best in the class and you are going to be seeing a lot more of us throughout the day.”  This starts with a smile and a confident look. Seeing a person having fun and enjoying what they are doing has a positive effect on other people, and in this case, the judges. Do your best to make a positive and confident impression on the judges and try to get in the arena first if there is not a work order. If there is a work order for the class, make sure that you are ready to go when it is your time to enter the arena.


Reading your rule book in detail, and knowing all of the rules is one of the most important things that exhibitors can do to help their chances of success. Every breed association or club will have the rules that will be enforced regarding lip chains, class procedures, and how the class will be judged. There are many rules that change from year to year, and judges are required to keep up on the rules. Class procedures are important, and make sure to always give the ring stewards, and gate people the courtesy that they deserve. Many of the show staff are volunteers or underpaid but provide an invaluable service to the shows; they deserve respect from exhibitors, judges, and everyone involved.

Know your equipment rules, and make certain that your halter and leads are properly adjusted and fitted to your horse. Make sure that your halter is pulled up and fitted so that it is not hanging loose on your horse’s head.  I see this at every show that I judge on quite a few horses and it makes me want to walk up and tighten up the halter myself so that the horse’s head looks better. It is fine to have halters on a little loose at home when you get a horse out of the stall to saddle them up, but when showing at halter it is important to snug them up and create that clean look. I also want to note that the chains need to be sturdy chains and not the smaller chains that I often see that look like chains one would use to walk their dog. It is not so important that the halter has an abundance of silver, but that it fits well. We are judging your horse, not the halter. Just make sure that your halter is clean, well made, and fits your horse properly. Do your research and find companies or saddle makers that specialize in quality hand made show halters.  The well- fitted halter on a horse is just as important as how well your hat is shaped.

~ Mark Sheridan


Look for the next four editions of Halter Showing Tips to be released for the next consecutive Monday mornings. 


1 thought on “Halter Showing Tips”

  1. Pam Wiechern

    I thank you for the great info. You mentioned that the rules change in each breed all the time and it is up to the judge to keep up on them, however I see many times where a judge may be (or not) up on the rules and place a horse that are very questionable. This is not just at halter. I was recently at a show (I was not in the class) that the judge was placing two horses 1st and 2nd consistently. One horse had his head passed his knees and behind the vertical and the other was (at the lope) going down the rail sideways, 3 beating, and having to throw his head up and down vigorously just to get his front end off the ground, because of the way he had to move. What is up with that. And I know that every judge has their own way off judging and the they all see horses in a different manner but when are we going to get all judges on the same page?
    I was at an approved OPEN Paint show with my (2011 top in the USA halter) appy mare, I had one of the judges completely bypassed my mare without even a glance. I was so upset that I paid good money for the judges to JUDGE my horse, and to get treated so disrespectful. There was one judge (out of 3) that placed my mare in every class. Not very high but she was in there. Since then I have got to know this judge because of the Extreme Trail Challenges I compete in, and he remembered my mare from that show, approached me and apologized for that day. He told me he got picked at that day for using my mare in the placing’s. He said to them, “How can you pass that mare by?” I told him that the show was close to where I lived and seeing it was an OPEN show, thought it would behoove me to go. When I arrived and saw that myself, and 2 Arabians were the only other breeds there, that I made a boo boo. I only showed 3 halters classes and gave my remaining tickets away to a couple of young kids and left. I was so embarrassed to have a judge so blatantly ignore my mare. So how do we change thing like this from happening to other people? Or is there even hope?

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