Showmanship Pivot Critique

I couldn’t resist taking a break from the English Equitation Series, to post a Showmanship Critique. Showmanship is my specialty, once I received this picture; I had to write a post. Please feel free to ask questions if something is not clear.

This is Tori and her gelding Iza Hot Shot performing a 180 degree turn, in Western Showmanship at a Black River Valley Horse Association Show.

The pivot is the most difficult maneuver in a Grooming and Showmanship Class. The exhibitor who performs the best pivot, often times wins the class.


Tori has her horse beautifully groomed, he is spotless actually. Those of us with Paints know how difficult that can be! What I would suggest is that she outfits her horse in some Sleezy Sleepwear the night before to allow the mane to lie more flat the next day. A Sleezy Hood works better than a regular hood, or even a mane tamer. From what I see, she probably had the bands perfect the night before, and by the next morning, they were not lying as flat as they were when she initially banded her horse.

I also really like her geldings nice thick natural tail. For me, and this is just my personal preference, I would allow a few more inches of growth on the tail, and then cut the tail straight across at the bottom. The tail would then rival any of those horses with the tail extensions, but be completely natural. I don’t allow any tails to grow long enough that they drag on the ground. If a tail drags on the ground, the horse can step on it when backing, and rip out those precious hairs that take so long to grow.

Horse Position:

The horse does have his weight on his haunches and his shoulder nice and light. The horse is also going to cross the left hoof in front of the right hoof, which is correct however, if you look at the right hind quarter, (fascia latae) the part where you can see the muscle flexing, and the right hind hoof, you can see that is the weighted foot. While this is acceptable, it is not ideal. What is ideal is that the horse weights his right hind leg to make the turn.

The reason the horse is weighting his left hind leg as opposed to his right hind leg is because his head is not directly in front of his chest, Tori is bending the horse’s head and neck slightly to the right.


I can envision Tori performing the pivot here at a nice brisk pace; she has nice posture and is looking up which I like, and not down at the horse’s hooves.

What I would change, is, the bend in her right wrist. She is cuing the horse to turn with her hands. Your hands can really only control the horse’s head and neck, not the rest of the animal’s body. The position of the head and neck dictate what the rest of the body does, but they don’t directly control it. She should not be faulted for the position of her left hand, but I am a real stickler at showmanship, so as an Instructor, I would insist she keep it closer to the left side of her body.

Here’s why: By placing her left hand in front of her body it gives the impression she is using her left hand as well as the right hand to cue the horse to turn.

Moving down to the exhibitor’s feet, I like the way she is not walking back toward the horse but instead walking out and a bit forward. Her horse probably won’t back because of the direction she is walking which is good, but he is on the verge of moving a hoof because he is too compacted. Notice the space between the front hooves and back hooves. They need to be a bit more spread out so he can have some space to turn and not take a step backward.

The Fix:

Before beginning the pivot, allow the horse to begin to step forward with the left leg. Midway through his stride, face your shoulders to his neck and start to turn. This will allow the horse to open up his stride and start with a nice forward momentum.

Exhibitor Position: Tori should remain at the horse’s neck, between his head and shoulder. In the photo she is too far out in front of the horse, and that is why she needs her hands to cue the pivot.

When pivoting the horse, you should cue the horse to turn by walking toward the neck and moving the shoulder. I actually train the horses to pivot when they are first learning to balance by holding the nose toward me. This keeps the neck of the horse straight.

Troubleshooting Tip:

If the horse does not move his shoulder when you ask him to pivot, you can use a crop to tap his shoulder. I like to use the handle of the crop; it’s easier for me and gentler for the horse. I don’t want to beat the horse into submission; I just want him to understand that he is supposed to move his shoulder when I walk toward him.

Don’t allow the tap of the crop to become the cue to pivot; it should be you walking toward his neck that is the cue.

For more information see Showmanship Pivot Secrets Revealed.

I would like to say a special thanks Tori and her gelding Iza Hot Shot!


Related Posts:
Tips For Teaching and Learning Patterns
Showmanship Pattern 1
Squaring The Horse’s Front Hooves
Squaring The Horse’s Back Hooves
Directional Backing From The Ground


About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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4 Responses to Showmanship Pivot Critique

  1. EquineSpirit says:

    GREAT post! :)

  2. Deanna says:

    Thanks! I am such a fanatic about Showmanship, I don’t always know if others enjoy it as much as I love teaching and writing about it.

    I <3 showmanship lol.


  3. EquineSpirit says:

    I’m taking a showmanship class through Iyuptala but haven’t actually done much with Diago with the knowledge yet. Anyway…once I put these practices into play with him I may just have to pick your brain someday if I get stuck and the lessons don’t help! Hope ya don’t mind…LOL! :)

  4. Deanna says:

    Absolutely! I wouldn’t mind at all pick away. I’d be interested in hearing what they have you do for the course. I really like that GaWaNi Pony Boy. He is originally from a town called Jim Thorpe, about 30 minutes from where I live.


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