Show Preparation of a Young Clydesdale

In recent months with the Spring and Summer show season upon us, several queries from new exhibitors has arisen.



How should I present my young Clydesdale to the Judge? What do they expect?

From the start we must realise that the young foal we now have, will take up to 5 years to mature. We will see that foal slowly develop, apparently all legs in those early months, the active yearling, the teenage two and three-year-old and then the maturing four and five year old.

The presentation of our Clydesdale should be in line with how they are presented in their native Scotland. Herein lies the fundamental difference when compared with other Heavy Breeds such as the Shire, Percheron, etc. By following this convention the general public are able to differentiate certainly between our Scottish Clydesdale and an English Shire. Again it should be acknowledged and to their credit, that our Shire breeders in most cases adhere to a traditional presentation that distinguishes their Breed.



How then should I present my Clydesdale through their development stages?

As a Foal the animal is presented in their ‘natural state’. Well groomed, with a simple bow in their free-flowing tail. Remember, the Judge is assessing conformation and movement, often with a range of foals differing by several months in age, all under one year.

The Yearling should be similarly presented, free flowing tail etc. Remember the Judge will be looking for closeness at the trot and the more experienced show person will often thin out and shorten the tail to high-light the movement of the hock both at the walk and trot. Importantly, the tail should not be ‘bobbed’ (cut off straight at the end) as is the traditional presentation of the Shire.

The Two-Year-Old Colt Filly or Gelding is traditionally not mane roll plaited. Remember, it is the quality of the Clydesdale that they mature slowly. If your horse has had a growth spurt, then this may be a positive, indicating the future maturation of the animal. But remember, the judge is concerned with the quality of the animal not necessarily size at this age. At two years old, this is the last time you will exhibit with a flowing tail. As you progress into the next age division, your presentation is in line with their mature comrades.

The Three-Year-Old Colt Filly or Gelding is now presented with a mane roll plait, flights in the mane of the colt or gelding only, tail is plaited in a traditional three plait with the tail ‘docked ’or shaven half way, finished with a simple bow. Why plait the tail? Remember, this is a Show class. The working horse traditionally had their tail hair docked or plaited to avoid entanglement with reins or working gear. By plaiting the tail you are highlighting the conformation of the rear end of the horse and their movement and adhering to the tradition of the Breed.

At what age should a Colt wear a stallion roller? This is defined by the term ‘Stallion’. Thus it is not normally worn until Three Years of age, often only a simple roller with no top pad, however, some more mature horses may benefit from a roller with a side rein to assist safe handling of the horse.

From Four and older, our Clydesdale has now matured into the true Scottish animal, full of Breed character.



At what age should I shoe my horse?

Again this depends upon what your animal is used for. The maintenance of the foot from an early age is vitally important to the development of the horse. Correct trimming by a qualified heavy horse farrier is essential to any possible future success or longevity of your animal. It is not necessary to shoe foals under twelve months unless advised by your farrier. In the show ring most breeders will only shoe for their major shows. A good Judge will look beyond the fact whether they are shod or not, concentrating on the quality of the foot, width of frog etc. Remember ‘No foot, no Horse’.

Safety in the ring is paramount. Certainly our Royal Shows require all exhibits to be wearing a bit, but more often than not, females and younger, less mature animals are presented in a simple white halter. This decision should always be made with the safety of yourself, others and the horse at all times in mind.

For the exhibitor, your own presentation is important at a professional level. At many shows handlers still wear the traditional white dust coat, but if not, they are expected to present themselves cleanly attired, with hat , coat and tie, not as a ridden handler but a traditional heavy horse handler. The use of a Stallion cane is advisable to provide the horse with a clear line in the workout and in their correct stance in the line up of exhibits.

So get out there and enjoy the traditions of our great Clydesdale Horse. Maintain those qualities that have been passed down since the late 1800’s and understand why each of us in our respective Heavy Horse Breed classes are proud of the Breed Character highlighted each time you enter the ring.


Colin Brown
CCHS NSW President

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