Article by Susan Hargrove, Oh Joy Farms
The first performance class many model exhibitors attempt is Western Pleasure. This class does not require the props of trail, jumping, cutting, etc. - however, for that reason, it can be the largest class in the performance division...so details are of utmost importance!! Western pleasure is a “show-ring” class... save your “trail” riding models for the natural trail or other performance classes.
Let's begin with a class description so you can pick your best model to exhibit in this class. “The western pleasure horse should be a pleasure to ride and a free, natural mover. Horses are to be shown at the walk, jog and lope both ways of the ring, on a reasonably loose rein, without undue restraint. Judge may ask for an extended walk, jog or lope. Horses may be asked to back. Silver equipment will not count over good working equipment.” Western pleasure horses should appear calm and relaxed...so pick your models that would convey that impression!
Working with our “diminutive” equines can making placing the tack correctly a definite challenge! I'll discuss “tacking up” a horse for this class and the things to watch for to make sure your entry will receive serious consideration from the judge.
Bit Placement: It's very important to remember where the mouthpiece is on your bit so you place it correctly in the corner of your horse's mouth. Make sure the two sides of your bit are (1) in the corner of the mouth on each side of your horse's head; (2) double check to make sure the “sticky wax” has both sides of the bit attached to the horse's head; (3) the shanks are at the proper angle...remember the mouthpiece and what it's position would be in the horse's mouth (bits are often placed at too severe an angle which would imbed the port on the mouth piece in the roof of the horse's mouth); (4) the curves in the shanks of the bit (if there are any) are aiming down or towards the ground. Place the chin strap on the underside of your horse's head behind the bit!
Reins: Exhibitors...remove the “kinks and curls” from your reins!! (1) You want a smooth drape (graceful curve) to your reins in the western pleasure class; (2) make sure your reins are of the same length and look even!!
Headstall: (1) Make sure the cheek piece is not too close to your horse's eye (2) make sure the crown piece (the part behind the horse's ears) is not too far back...you want it up next to the ears...but not “scrunched” against them.
Saddle and Saddle Blanket
Blanket: Make sure the blanket is straight and an appropriate amount shows around the edge of your saddle (including the front over the withers).
Saddle: (1) Make sure the saddle and blanket are resting comfortably on the withers of your horse (Common Mistake: saddle much too far back on the horse!) (2) Make sure the cinch is in the proper position... again, not too far back!
If using a doll with your performance horse... make sure it is in the correct “body” position (feet in the stirrups, not leaning too far back and actually holding the reins). Think about what your performance entry is “doing” and have the doll looking in the proper direction (not up at the sky).
There are many models that can show in the western pleasure class and start you on your performance career. All of your hard work will “pay off” when your entry places in the tough western pleasure classes seen at today's model shows!