Show Guide

Quick Guide to Showing Miniatures

Here we have put together a quick guide to showing miniatures. It is by no means the ‘be all and end all’ of showing, but it should serve as a good introduction to showing. The offical rules can be found here.

  1. Choosing the Show
  2. Completing the Entry Form
  3. Preparation
  4. Traveling
  5. Showing Conduct
  6. Attitude


Choosing the Show

If you’ve never taken your treasured creature to a show before you may wish to try out your expertise, and their manners, at a low key affair first, most areas have local fun in-hand shows which are an ideal starting point. 

 Before you do however, it is very worthwhile to watch some Miniature classes which will give you a good idea of what is and is not correct and also what is pleasing to the eye. Once you’ve tested the water at some local shows (and if your nerves can stand it) you’ll probably get the bug and want to compete at shows and in classes affiliated to the British Miniature Horse Society where qualifying for the BMHS International Show each September is the aim. You will know which are the shows affiliated to the BMHS by checking newsletters and show schedules. Of course, the pre-requisite to entering an affiliated class is that your horse is registered with the BMHS and that you are a fully paid up current member. Please also bear in mind that for reasons of safety, Show rules often specify that a child should have reached a certain age to permit them to exhibit stallions.



Completing the Entry Form

You’ll need breeding and registration documentation to hand for each Miniature as Entry Forms, for classes affiliated to the BMHS especially, often require information such as breeder, Miniature’s registration number, owner’s Society membership number and age. Classes with age stipulations for the horses can be a little confusing, to keep it simple you need to ignore your Miniatures birth date and just remember how old it is in that particular year, i.e. a filly born 12 June 2003 should compete only in Yearling classes throughout 2004 and in 2 Year Old classes throughout the whole 2005 season. Along with selecting the correct class for your Miniature’s age, it is also important to check its height for its age. A yearling should not be over 32”, a 2 year old should not be over 33”, and an adult Stallion, Mare or Gelding (3 years and over) should not be over 34″. 

 Always be sure to read the small print on Entry Forms and in Schedules so as to complete the forms correctly and therefore make life a little more pleasant for the poor Show Secretaries! 






Proper feeding, nutrition and conditioning are all important for your Miniature to reach its full potential and is not something that can be rushed into a few weeks before a show. Indeed, it takes many months to achieve the excellent results of a trim horse with a sparkling eye and a shiny coat. Nutritionists, feed suppliers and other Miniature horse owners are always happy to give guidance.



Along with the correct feeding, exercising your Miniature is of great importance. One of the very best methods of exercise for Miniatures is taking them for a walk -it satisfies their body and soul in one go! Gentle exercise this way builds muscle gradually and keeps the weight down (for both horse and handler!). If your Miniature is used to being driven this is also an excellent form of exercise. Lungeing and long-reining are other alternatives and if you choose either of these methods remember to give your horse equal work on each rein (i.e. in each direction) to build and condition the muscles equally and don’t forget too, to pay attention to straightness by not letting your horse bend its neck into the circle.


Trimming, Plaiting and Clippingcartoon clipping

Since the BMHS is a “horse” society, we do wish to present Miniatures in the show ring which look in stature like tiny versions of their larger counterparts albeit with manes and tails flowing ‘au naturelle’ and to this end they should be turned out neatly trimmed rather than being left woolly and looking like cute “Thelwell” ponies – however sweet they may be!

The techniques of trimming and clipping are quite an art and it takes some practise (and a kind helper) to really perfect it. The purpose of trimming and clipping is to enhance the good looks of your Miniature it should not, however, in any way alter its natural conformation or colour or be detrimental to its well-being.

Here are some trimming methods which are acceptable for the show ring although none are essential:-

A bridle space may be cut at your discretion. This shows off the crest of the neck through to the jaw line.

A single plait (as for Welsh ponies) may be put in to enhance the neck frame.

A running plait (see diagram) may be put in to give the impression of a bridle space.

If your horse has a romantic head, a thinner forelock will show it off better than a thick mass of hair.

A horse of fine build may look attractive with its mane slightly thinned to give a light flowing effect.

Tails should be long, thick and flowing. If you do trim the end be careful not to cut it too short.

It is essential, however, that hair to the horse’s heels and jaw line are trimmed short.

If you intend showing early in the season before your Miniature has shed its winter coat naturally, you may well need to body clip it. Rather than leaving it all to the last minute it is probably best for this job to be done at least one week before the show so that your Miniature has time to adjust to the feel of being naked (and to the extra rugs it will need to wear). The coat then has a chance to settle and the colour to begin reappearing. Make sure that your horse is thoroughly brushed clean prior to clipping for two reasons really, firstly to make an easier job for the clipper blades and secondly to encourage the natural oils in the coat to do their job and avoid being left with handfuls of scurf. Leave yourself plenty of time – it is surprising how long it takes to clip out a tiny horse because of the immense care that needs to be taken whilst working through all those little nooks and crannies! If in doubt definitely get an expert to do this job for you as it can be quite nerve wracking to begin with.

Final trimming and clipping of nose and chin whiskers (if you wish to trim these) can be left until nearer the show day when, depending on the weather, you may wish to bathe your horse too. There are a number of specialised horse shampoos and conditioners on the market which are very effective. It is always best to use warm water so your horse is not shocked by the water temperature and have plenty ready for thorough rinsing. Please remember when bathing your Miniature that they do not like to be cold and wet so make sure you have plenty of big towels and breathable rugs at hand to avoid your horse becoming poorly at the mercy of looking pretty!

Once your Miniature is clean and dry the really clever bit is to keep it that way until you reach the show ring. There are some very clever devices available for this purpose from lightweight rugs and neck covers to tail coverings and travelling boots – none of which are vital but are dependent on what extremes you wish to go to!

On the day, just prior to entering the show ring, you may wish to add some final touches such as hoof oil to the feet, a touch of baby oil to a dark muzzle and dock and chalk block to white legs.

Which ever products you choose always be aware of any adverse reactions your Miniature may have for example be very careful when using oil on a hot day, after an hour or so of standing in the show ring your horse may start to fry!


Correct Attire for your Miniature

Bridles -see diagram for three examples.

Bitting is not a requirement but please bear in mind that the headgear you choose must be capable of controlling your horse whilst in the company of others in the show ring.

If the Judge considers your Miniature to be dangerously out of control they will dismiss you from the show ring forthwith.

It is not just stallions that are capable of being unruly and having a bridle with a bit is not always the answer. There are plenty of Miniature enthusiasts at any show who would be pleased to discuss your problems with you – please don’t be afraid to ask! If, however, you do bit your horse it is essential that the bit is fitted correctly and is high enough in the horse’s mouth to be comfortable. The English tend to bit everything ‘willy-nilly’ but just consider this – the Americans bit NONE of their Miniature show horses – “halter” classes are just as the name implies and whilst some horses appear far better off being bitted there is no substitute to good training.


Dress Code for Handlers

Cartoon DressSmart rather than casual attire is the order of the day for all handlers and helpers entering the show ring.

Hat, Jacket and Gloves are recommended for all handlers be they men, women or children.

Footwear needs to be sensible for everyone. Strong shoes or boots with flat non-slip soles and covered toes are recommended as you need to be able to run quite happily in them (often in unexpected wet and muddy conditions!).

Showing Canes may be carried as an optional extra.

For LADIES – Trousers, Trouser Suits and Skirt Suits are all quite acceptable, in fact anything which allows you free movement and does not interfere with your horse. You may be as flamboyantly dressed as you wish although you do want the Judge to look at your horse! Jackets may be discarded at the discretion of the Judge and nowadays waistcoats appear to be acceptable.

For GENTLEMEN – Whilst a lady may “get away” with going hatless, it is expected that a gentleman wears a hat in the ring and usually of bowler, flat cap or Panama type. Jackets (or smart waistcoats) should also be worn with shirt and tie beneath.

For CHILDREN – Attire which is neat and tidy is important and riding wear of jodhpurs, jacket and jodhpur boots complete with hard hat is particularly recommended for smartness and safety.




There are EEC guidelines which have been drawn up which specify the type of transport to be used for your horse and these guidelines also explain how each journey should be logged (please ask the BMHS office for a copy). 

Safety, comfort and the general well-being of your Miniature should be of prime importance. Always leave plenty of time for your journey so you arrive in a hassle free state of mind’ There is nothing worse than having to rush to unload your horse in a hurry and make a dash for the show ring.


Showing Conduct

The show ring is managed by the Steward and it is their responsibility to ensure that the exhibits are all viewed in a way in which the Judge wishes them to be viewed. From the moment you enter the ring you should keep an eye on the Judge and Steward at all times as either may ask you to put your horse in a position so that it may be seen to best advantage for example once all the exhibits have been walked around the arena simultaneously (usually on the right rein or clock-wise direction) you will then be asked to wait in a queue whilst each Miniature is given the opportunity to show the Judge its trot in the gap between the start of the queue and the tail-end of the queue. 

Show Ring

Remember the sequence of events from previous classes you have watched as you may be pulled in and asked to give your individual show first! 

Do NOT enter the show ring late without asking the Judge (through the Steward) for permission to do so. Likewise if you need to leave the ring early for a genuine and unavoidable reason do not ask the Judge but direct your request through the Steward. 

Whilst it is acceptable to speak to the person standing next to you in the ring when the Judges attention is elsewhere, make sure you keep attentive to the Judge and Steward as to ignore either of them is the height of bad manners. 

You should do as the Steward tells you at all times but if you do not understand what is required of you – ask them – they are the salt of the earth, they stand around all day for no payment at all and they (usually) know what they are doing and are very kind. They only get grumpy when they think you are acting like an idiot because they may not realise that you are not sure of the correct procedure. 

Whilst your Miniature is being exhibited the Judge may ask you some questions for example the age of your horse. Always acknowledge the Judge by answering briefly and politely. Never start a conversation or volunteer information.



We all win sometimes, although mostly we lose. 

It is as important to be a good winner as it is to be a good loser -nobody likes to hear people going on and on about how much better their Miniature is than anyone else’s, even though you are quite obviously over the moon! If you wait a moment you will find there are plenty of people, some of them the ones you have beaten, who will say all that for you which is much nicer! When you lose -and this often happens – the Judge is not a) Blind b) Drunk c) Short-sighted or even entering the early stages of Alzheimer’s! They are choosing the horse they think is the best on the day, which is exactly what they have been asked to do. 

In the sad event that you have a legitimate complaint, you must observe the complaints procedure stated in the show rules for that day. Be warned though – very few complaints are legitimate. 

At a BMHS affiliated show you may also wish to write to the Society. 

 Of course, the competitive edge comes out in all of us when we are showing our horses but in the most part it should be a pleasurable experience for both you and your Miniature – so have fun and be very proud of your special little horse after all, we put ourselves through all this for the sake of them!