Preparing for an APSL Inspection

Getting Ready for the Inspection

So, you have gotten your Lusitano registered in the APSL. The wait for the minimum age is complete. For stallions, the semen report is in. Now you wonder, what do you need to do to prepare?

First, congratulations! It is a significant accomplishment to get this far. It is time for the fun work to begin, because preparation is one key to success.

During the inspection, the Lusitano is graded on breed type, conformation and gaits. The details of the inspection can be found in the APSL studbook.

Link to APSL Studbook

Success Rewards the Prepared

Clearly, accentuating good conformation, breed type and athleticism is key to a great presentation. Another critical thing to remember is to show your respect to the judge and the breed.

In general, both mares and stallions will be measured, so be sure they aren’t afraid of the measuring stick. Train your horse to stand square and quiet, but not stretched out (parked). The horse should be able to lunge with a line and also free lunge. Stallions will need to be ridden. You may have a rider and/or handler present your horse if you wish.

So, what do you need to do to prepare your Lusitano for the inspection? Below are some tips to help you maximize your score.

General Presentation

The judge will assess your horse and will consider conformation, gaits and breed type. So, first and foremost is that you wish to present a clean, well-groomed Lusitano. Following the tradition of the Portuguese method of presentation is likely to maximize your score potential and is highly encouraged.

A clean, neat appearance is a must. It is allowable to clip excess ear hair. Make sure your horse’s fetlocks are clean, and if there is an excess of feathering or loose hair, you might choose to clip around the fetlocks. Having well-maintained hooves is also important.


Generally, you will always be correct in selecting attire (including appropriate boots or shoes) in keeping with an equestrian tradition. Clothing that would be appropriate for competing would always be appropriate, so following a tradition is wise. Traditional Portuguese riding attire, dressage competition attire, or western show attire would be equally suitable. For mare presentation there can be a bit more flexibility, so see below for more information.

What not to use:

Do not have boots, polo wraps or bell boots on your horse. Do not use any unsafe or inhumane tack. Do not drug your horse.

What not to wear:

Do not wear informal clothing such as tank tops, t-shirts, sandals and/or shorts. Do not wear clothing that could be viewed as casual or disrespectful, for example shirts with inappropriate language or topics.

Mare Presentation

In addition to considering the general presentation elements above, if you are presenting a mare for inspection, here are a few mare-specific thoughts.

Traditionally, the mare’s mane is roached including forelock and the tail is shaved at the tail head to approximately one inch below the vulva. Tails are also banged at the base of the hock for neat presentation.

The traditional clipping of manes and tails in Portugal protects mares from the hazards of living in the field. Portugal is a hot country, where burrs and ticks present significant health risks. Getting rid of the excess hair keeps the mares clean during birthing and reduces both the burr and tick load. In addition, the clean tail reduces the risk of injury to the stallion if live cover is being used for breeding, and makes foal delivery safer as well. Another advantage to this presentation is that a judge can easily view the back legs, head and neck shape, breed type of the mare, and it creates a uniform pattern for judging mares.

For some owners, particularly those that are using their mares for performance, the traditional presentation is not desirable. So, making modifications to allow for performance mares is acceptable. One way to do this is to braid the mane in button braids or a running braid. If you go this route, don’t forget to braid the forelock. Then, the tail should be braided in a French braid to mimic the shaved tail. Bang the tail at the desired length. Do not present your mare with a free flowing mane and/or forelock, as it is too difficult for the judge to see and score the neck & head shape.


Optimally, select attire including boots or leather shoes in keeping with an equestrian tradition. Clothing that would be appropriate for competing in-hand would always be appropriate. Traditional Portuguese riding attire, dressage competition attire, or western show attire would be equally suitable. When this is not possible, consider business casual with khakis or dress pants (which could include a jacket and tie, but certainly a collared shirt). Dress to show respect for the judge and the seriousness of the event.

Tack for the mare might include a leather show halter and a quality lead line without chain. A Portuguese halter has square buckles and sets a good tone, they are also more refined and low profile as to not interfere with the scoring of head shape and profile. There is latitude in the equipment used, as long as it is safe, humane, and does not impede the natural movement of the horse. You may be asked to free lunge your horse, so if desired, have a modest driving or lung whip handy.


You need to either have yourself or a handler be prepared to lunge and run out your horse. Your mare needs to be trained to lunge, and train her to run alongside of you as well. Mares with nursing foals can be presented and is not unusual but be sure you have help to handle the foal so you are able to pay attention to the judges instruction. The judge will want to see all three gaits at the lunge. The standard sport horse dressage pattern is a good training platform to prepare for the in-hand inspection.

Stallion Presentation

In addition to the General Presentation elements above, here are a few thoughts that may be helpful if you are presenting a stallion for inspection.

Under Saddle:

Stallions must be ridden in all three gaits and will need to show both leads in the canter. The stallion must be under control and well behaved. The quality of all three gaits will be assessed, so prepare your horse before the inspection to perform at his best for the inspection by having correct contact, engagement, and activity through the walk, as well as impulsion in the other gaits. The judge will be looking for both brilliance and possible defects in the gaits, so take care to bring out the best in your horse by displaying clean, correct movement. A lateralized walk, for example, would be cause for significant penalty.

Once you have ridden your horse for the judge, you will be asked to dismount, remove the saddle and show in the bridle only. Have someone on the ground to help with this and prepare your stallion in advance for the tack to be removed in the arena. The judge will want to walk around the stallion and must be safe while doing so. A stallion that misbehaves, kicks, etc. will not be tolerated.

For stallions, lunging is occasionally requested. Be prepared to lunge or free lunge your stallion, if asked. That means you will need to be able to lunge your horse in the boots that you rode in. The standard sport horse dressage pattern is a good training platform to prepare for the in-hand inspection.

Final Thoughts


APSL judges are subjected to a lot of training before they are licensed. They are professionals and must be treated as such. As an American or Canadian you are representing not only yourself, your horses, and your farm but also your country. So, please respect the judge and all the volunteers that have made your inspection possible. Remember to smile, be gracious and polite. There will be an assistant to help the judge, if you have questions or concerns, feel free to ask this person. Some judges have a language barrier or prefer to keep a social distance between themselves and the exhibitor. Others are more open to questions. Use your discretion.

Many horses don’t pass. It happens. If your horse does not pass or does not receive a good score, be respectful. If your horse doesn't get the score you had expected or doesn't pass, you can request a re-inspection at a later date. The details are in the studbook.

Helpful hints:
  • Use online videos of past inspections to get a feel for what to prepare for. You can find videos of inspections on the APSL YouTube Channel here.
  • Photos of past inspections are a great way to decide how to present your horse.
  • Read the studbook and understand the rules and regulations. The studbook can be found on the USLA and APSL websites.
  • Tack and attire should be clean, neat, and conservative.
  • Bring someone to take photos and videos.
  • Your horse should be presentation-ready and in the best condition possible.
  • Prepare your horse by using good training techniques.
  • Be prepared to run your horse or have a handler run your horse.
  • Find a mentor or friend, who has gone through the inspection process, that can help guide you through the training and process.
  • Communicate with USLA!

We look forward to welcoming the judge for our first Inspection as soon as possible.