In preparing for breed demos and exhibitions, it is helpful to do some
planning, organizing, and analyzing in preparation for the activity.
First, we'll want to determine "why", or the reason for the demo / exhibition.
In most cases, demos and exhibitions are done to market the horse; to show
an audience that the horse is something that they may want to consider
buying. It may not be necessarily appropriate to show the full extent of things that the horse can do (such as gait in race speed). It will be more important at this time, to meet the needs of the potential buying audience.
For example, drill teams are nice, but do they "sell" the horse to the
American public? Same scenario for speed and ice demos. Let's face it,
those activities can be interesting to watch, but may not allow the horse to
be seen as desireable for the pleasure market. History shows that they
don't "sell" horses.
There may be a handful of people who may be caught up in speed or be enticed
by a flashy show. More effective would be to get genuine interest of the
larger portion of the potential audience, the pleasure or trail riders.
"Spectators" enjoy a show, excitement, flash!
"Buyers" want to see something they can use, a functional, easy-to-ride horse.
Are you attracting spectators or buyers?
In presenting the Icelandic Horse, we want to present a horse that will
appeal to the general public and the largest horse-owning population, the
Icelandics have been known, in regard to demos and exhibitions, for parting ways
with their riders :-( When a well-known researcher with a doctorate wanted
to study the phenomenon of horses crashing into walls, her first thought was
to come to the Icelandic Horse community because of what she had previously
seen at demos and exhibitions. Not such a great reputation to have!
Use only horses who are as close to 100% bomproof or used to crowds,
noises, auditoriums, enclosed arenas, etc.
Use only horses who exhibit natural gait.
Use only horses who are soft, supple, and flexible, and plan on exercises to show the suppleness.
Use only confidant riders with centered, balanced seats.
Present one rider in traditional tack, and the rest of the riders in popular American tack.
Riding in a sidepull.
Include trail obstacles or a jump.
Ride versatility patterns.
Show the range of gaits, including trot, fox trot, running walk, saddle rack, and a slow rocking chair canter.
Show in-hand exercises a la PNH or other natural / good horsemanship methods.
And possibly a horse that does a couple of tricks, goes in a halter, or neckrope.
If only one horse in your area is able to be shown according to the above, use just the one horse in American tack. Better to show the market what they want! Make it a positive showing!
Things to Avoid:
Presenting a group only in traditional show clothes.
Presenting horses only in traditional tack.
Horses that need heavy contact to gait.
Horses that are pacey.
Horses that toss their heads and fight the bit.
Riders sitting on the back of the saddles.
Presenting too much speed.
Horses that need boots for protection or enhancement of gait.
Altho these things may not be obvious to most people, experienced horsemen can see these things immediately and they become a negative to the breed.
Be honest in the write-up to be used by the announcer. Be sure not to imply that all Icelandic Horses are gaited, or are all easy to ride, or are all of sound mind, or are all suitable as family horses, or that all of them can carry heavy people.
It may not be necessary for the announcer to mention spavin or summer eczema, but these things should be noted in any hand-outs or brochures.
The current buyer of Icelandic Horses is generally a new-to-horses, older female. Designing a demo or exhibition directed toward this buyer will be beneficial to the marketing of the breed. For instance, doing an "at liberty" demo would be helpful, showing how the horse stands at a mounting block on a loose rein, waits patiently while the rider gets into the saddle, remains like a rock for the cue to "walk on", goes with suppleness around cones, on a casual rein, steps up on a platform, will all attract the buyer in the American market.
The at-liberty and natural horsemanship work is most important at this time due to the current trends in horsemanship; and it will behoove the Icelandic Horse sellers and owners to capitalize on the expectations of the American public, as well as to keep pace with other breed marketing.
Natural horsemanship is not only useful in targeting the current buyer, but in gaining additional buyers, and broadening the target audience.
The Quarter Horse is being exported from the US and imported to Europe in large numbers, along with natural horsemanship!