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Grooming your Curly for the Show Ring

Are you thinking about showing your Curly, but you aren't sure how to prepare them properly for presentation? Well, we hope this article will help you!

To begin, you may want to review the article on Grooming tips for every day, to be sure you have the proper equipment for a good start: http://curlyhorsecountry.com/curlygrooming.htm

First and foremost, you must remember that anytime you go out in public with your Curly, (whether organized group rides, Endurance, Competitive Trail or in the Show ring,) you are promoting the breed, so presenting your curly in the best way possible, is extremely important. There are alot of people that have not had the pleasure of meeting a Curly horse in person and yours may be the first one they see.... make sure it's a GREAT lasting impression. Keeping a curly groomed and looking good is about good nutrition, exercise and daily grooming.

Okay, so let's get started!

As far as "RULES" for showing this rare breed, there are some guidelines the Curly Registries note for showing your Curly. If at all possible you want to keep your Curly as true to their natural appearance. Most show horses are clipped, ie inside the ears, fetlocks, face & chin whiskers etc. However, it is suggested that other than a 2 inch bridle path that your curly not be clipped in any way. You may wish to present the "letter to the judge" to the show secretary at the time you sign up for your classes incase the judge has any questions.

The mane presents the most challenge and the most questions. So I posted some examples of ways you can present your Curly in a professional manner. First, the mane should be trimmed to an even length and kept free of matts and frizz. (see the curly mane article for helpful tips) If your curly tends to rub out areas of his mane or it is impossible to manage the matts, you should cut it short or roach it for the very best appearance for showing. (roaching means you would clip it down to the base of the neck) Don't worry, it WILL grow back. ;-)

Example of Roached Mane Example of Short Trimmed Mane Example of Longer Length Mane

I asked those that have experience in this area to give you a few pointers. I also posted many pics of Curlies in competition to demonstrate the appearance you are striving for while competing.

If anyone has more photos or suggestions they would like to add, I welcome them! Just email me.

Suggestions from Creekside Curlies

(In presenting for USEF/USDF shows) I clip ears/jawline/face  to prepare..and legs...but I don't go to extremes like other folks do...if we clipped HB's legs like other breeds, he would end up with a little that was very thin at the bottom, and thick above the knee, so we just clip to follow the lines of the legs, and to make a clear fetlock to hoof area.  He has SO much hair there, like a draft horse almost.. clipping to make the fetlock and below clear, allows the judge to see how that lower leg is working. I also clip the hoof line....to show off his great feet!  he has tons of hair there...

I use "Brite White" shampoo, a Farnam product (to make his coat very white)...it is purple in color, and you can not leave it in too long.. HB is a hard prep...takes me AT LEAST 2 hours, longer if he has not had a bath recently, but I hope the pics show what great results we get ;-) I would not call our prep "easy" but he is such a mud piggy, with some horses it would be easier...His mane we trim to all one length, then fluff it up with some gel...the judges LIKE to see the neck and how it works.... Hope this helps, and...if I was going to own just ONE set of clippers, it would be the ARCO cordless, those things are awesome!

Creekside Curlies Show Photos

Suggestions from Curlies Austria

I chose to cut their manes short but leaving enough to show the effect when the mane hangs over (both stallions have double manes so this was also important for us to present to the judges). These judges had never seen Curlies before. The stallion breeding inspection was to determine their quality and if they would be accepted for breeding, there were 6 judges looking at each horse. To present them, they were washed, and their manes and tails trimmed. We trimmed the tails across at the end to give them a clean straight-edged look. Clooney's mane is difficult, we washed that the night before in order that the curl would return (instead of standing up fuzz) and treated it with Balsam and a Mane spray (something very popular here which makes the mane and tail hair shiny and soft and smooth). The inspection was in February or March, the stallions still had some winter curl. It was a bad time to show because they were in the process of shedding, so Billy Jack looked half-in half-out. We worked very hard to remove loose hairs, without rubbing out too much of the curl all over his body. We left fetlocks because it is part of the breed description that the fetlocks are curly, and we wanted the judges to see this. At the same time, the fetlock curl was short enough that the judges could see the angle of the fetlock to the hooves. I trimmed the mane very short over the wither and also where the bridle goes over the crown. I would say that I trimmed away 3 inches long over the wither, and also three inches down from the crown of the head. The point was that the judges want to see the wither conformation and also the neck and head connection.

About hooves! We scrubbed the hooves of the stallions for the inspections and polished them with "hoof-fat" a green paste that makes the hooves shiny, because they are shown on a hard surface (asphalt) to see their movement. They are also shown in a free arena later though. At fairs, we do not polish the hooves with "hoof-fat", instead we wash them with plain water using a mane brush to scrub off all muck and dirt until they are thoroughly clean. Even the undersides. We then let them air dry in an asphalt area. The reason is because the fairs have warmup arenas and you are doing 4 shows a day in different arenas. We were just at a show this last weekend. It is 4 days long, and we had two presentations a day in different arenas, plus the warmup periods in the warmup arena. If you polish the hooves with "hoof-fat" they become sticky and shiny, and then the sand ends up covering them and you have a mess to get off. With fully clean, air-dried hooves, the sand falls off and doesn't build up and due to the sand always rubbing the hooves it polishes them automatically.

The stallions were only a little over 2 and a half years of age at the time these photos were taken, so it wasn't as important to show of the neck as they were not yet fully developed.

Curlies Austria Show Photos - Taken in 2005

In the picture of Billy Jack (our black stallion), that is the president of the breeding association smiling at seeing a curly horse for the first time!

More from Allyn Babitch

One method I've found for getting a dirty or muddy horse really presentable even when you can't bathe (esp in the winter) is to spray it thoroughly, mud/dirt and all, with "Healthy Hair" Moisturizer - this comes in a concentrate that you dilute in a spray bottle.  While that's drying and doing its thing, you can spray the mane and tail, either with the Healthy Hair again, or with Show Sheen, etc. (the Show Sheen works better IMO on the mane and tail)  When the Healthy Hair has dried on the coat, it makes the brushing out of the mud much easier, both for the groomer and the horse.  I use either a metal curry comb or shedding blade, or both, for this job.   Once the horse is free of mud, etc. brush it well, then spray again with Healthy Hair, and brush- it will get a nice shine to it.  Finish by doing the mane and tail, and you've got a perfectly presentable horse again.  It will not be deep down clean, but it looks good.

The Healthy Hair Moisturizer can be used everywhere, even under the saddle area, as it does not "slick up" the coat and make it slippery.  It doesn't last as long in the mane and tail as Show Sheen, but I've found it a treasure for the coat itself.  Here's a link to it- http://www.healthyhaircare.com /hair_moisturizer.html .  There are other Healthy Hair products that I haven't used;  we have occasionally used the spray on hoof moisturizer (just for looks, our horses don't need hoof help) and been pleased with the visual results.  Here's a link to the whole Healthy Hair line- http://www.healthyhaircare.com /index.html .

Tips from Curly Standard Place

We always clip fetlocks, we leave whiskers (this is more accepted now anyway) and we definitely leave their ear hair.  If their manes are short anyway we make them quite short and sort of scrunch them.  If they are long we may band them.  If the horse is Sandman we definitely roach his lol.  He has little or no tail during show season and for some reason the judges never seem to mention it at all.  I do get asked outside the ring why I shave his tail - people seem to think I shave it lol.

Curly Standard Place Show Photos

Helpful tips from Laurie & Dream

(Dressage show) I discovered that after I gave her (Dream) a GOOD bath and a hot oil treatment of both mane and tail, that when they are wet, I can work it with my fingers into individual curls much more easily, and I used a human hair treatment that had beeswax as its first ingredient following the idea of the two strand twist that Annette found for me.  It dried that way, and it held, so looked great.  Also, washing her made her entire coat fluff up and look distinctly wavier already, so she looked more like a Curly already!  The comment from the judge that makes me the happiest of the whole day is "Cute horse!"  :-) I am so thrilled.

Tips from Andrea & Hat (Preparing for Breyerfest!)

A product I would recommend is Proclaim Anti-Glossing Polish.  I purchase it from Sally's (link below) and it works wonders for conditioning mane and tail without attracting dirt.  For those of us with light haired horses this is HUGE!  It has no alcohol in it so it does not dry out the hair and has made a huge difference.
http://www.sallybeauty.com /shop/1225/631510
Prior to giving up my "curly" curly (as opposed to my "straight"curly) I used this weekly in both their mane and tail.  It minimized breakage and really helped bring out Kodi's curls.  Both the kids had long, soft, beautiful mane and tail.

The mane is simply done with rubberbands first and then you simply use colored electrical tape to cover the bands.  This is a common technique for manes in dressage (although for that application it would be black tape on white mane or white tape on colored mane.) For the ribbons I bought some pretty expensive barrettes that I love because they stay in my hair, but don't rip it out.  (Made by Scrunchi ??? - carry them at rite-aid/walgreens/walmart)   They have a "grippy" plastic covering on the part that latches to the hair.  They also have multiple levels so you can really tighten them onto the hair - whether the hair is then or thick.  We made the ribbons and wrapped them around the barrette and then clipped them to the mane and tail - we also did a braid on the tail.

Andrea & Hat @ Breyerfest

More comments from Conroy's Curlies

We showed at open shows and a small hunter jumper schooling show circuit. At both levels, we found no discrimination to our curlies whether they were completely clipped or left natural. At a couple shows, Tracy wanted to braid Chy's mane, which she did but if you have a really nice corkscrew curly mane on your curly, I wouldn't attempt it...you won't get great results and chances are that you will ruin those gorgeous locks. It took years for Chy to regain his dreads after years of showing. We found best results to be just evening out the mane, apply some Jojoba oil the night before to make the curls silky smooth and spritz with a tiny amount of show sheen to keep the hay and particles out of it. (don't use show sheen on the mane any other time)

On some of our curlies we would leave the fetlocks, if the curl was nice. If the curl was just straggly and looked un kept, then we would clip the fetlock hair. We didn't clip the face, ears or any other parts of our curlies for the open shows, but for the hunters we did clip the whiskers on Chy's head and under his chin.

Conroy's Show Photos

Judge's Opinion - by Elaine Elmer of http://danceswithhooves.net

I'm a USDF Dressage judge, so I'll tell you what we are taught in the judge's training program. Keep in mind that some judges are going to make comments about presentation but there is no specific place on the score sheets for that information. Some will comment on the rider score portion, if the rider looks sloppy. The dressage RULES state that the horse is presented according to breed standard, but breed standards do not mean half rubbed out manes and filthy horses, regardless of the owner's interpretation. (-;

Feathers on the legs are acceptable, as is a long mane. You'll see Friesian's shows in full feathers and long manes. Arabs are shown in long manes. Although the owner may choose to put the mane in a running braid or a diamond braid for neatness, that's the owner's choice.

The guiding rule should be that the horse should look neat and clean, regardless of the breed standard.

I will say if the owner has * concerns * about the judge making the wrong assumption about what is under the feathers, than trimming is in order. When you show you have to be willing to take what scores you get that day and the judge can only evaluate what he/she sees. So if hair covers up something important, than maybe it would be better to hang the breed standard and make sure it's seen by the judge.

I personally feel if you decide you need to make a point to educate judges, you will mostly just irritate them. Their task is to judge what they see, the movement of the horse and it's performance, regardless of the breed standard. If you make a big issue out of presentation, it probably won't help your cause, and may make it sound like you are making excuses, particularly if the presentation isn't on the judge's mind at all.

Personally I don't like to hear anything from the competitor, beyond "good morning " or "good afternoon". for example, lots of people what to stop by and announce how young the horse is that they are riding but the truth is that it CANNOT change the outcome of the test. They can't get brownie points because the horse is only 3 or over 20, it's still the same test, and all horses are evaluated on the same criteria. I'm glad riders are proud of their horses but it's just not news that I need to hear before they go down the center line. I would rather the rider show me rather than tell me by riding the test with a smile on their face and correct aids and at the end of the test, dropping the reins and making a huge fuss over their equine partner. I believe that presentation is so far less important than performance in a dressage test. It doesn't hurt to have nice turn out but it's not the reason for being there, it's not a beauty contest after all, it's a performance test.

ABCR Letter to the Judge

Can be printed from http://www.abcregistry.org/judges.htm

Dear Judge,

In the event(s) you are about to judge you will find a breed of horse you may not be familiar with.

At this show is an American Bashkir Curly Horse. The curly mane, tail and body hair is natural. The body hair may range from tight ringlets or crushed velvet, to long, spiral-type curls. The curl is more pronounced in winter. When these horses shed in spring, they may lose all of their body curl as well as the mane and tail hair.

The American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry breed standard allows for only minimal clipping of these animals. We discourage any removal of hair from the ears, on the face, and the fetlocks.

The head should be medium with a well defined jaw. Basically, they are short- coupled, deep through the girth, with medium withers. Their hooves are round and proportionate. Their height ranges from 13.3 HH to 16 HH, the average being 15 HH. Some will shed their mane and tail in the summer months.

We expect these horses to be cleaned and well groomed in appearance as any other horse entering the show ring.


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