Part 3 of Judge Mark Sheridan’s Series On Improving Your Horsemanship Class
Reprinted from the March issue of Show Horse Today
AQHA Professional Horseman, trainer and judge Mark Sheridan has teamed up with Show Horse Today to lend his knowledge about how to improve your horsemanship class. Mark has taught us about hats, proper attire, the beginning of your pattern and proper position in the first two articles of the series. In the following issues of Show Horse Today, Mark will continue answering “How do I give my horsemanship patterns the polished look that can win, and what are the first things that catch your eye as a judge?” In March, he shares with us the finer points of riding the pattern:
“Consistency is the key on maintaining good scores on your patterns. Most scores are based on a 0 to 100. As soon as your pattern commences, the judge will start to analyze where your range should be, 60′s, 70′s 80′s or higher or lower. Riding your pattern will raise or lower that score like a thermometer. There are obvious major penalties that can drop your score such as break of gait, wrong leads, riding the pattern incorrectly, kicking out, etc… One of the most common issues is just simple lack of communication between the horse and rider, including lightness in the bridle and hands, and response to the rider’s legs and spurs, among other issues. There is no substitution for an extremely well broke horse. It is easy for us to tell if you did your homework or not. It can sometimes take up to as long as a year to work together and gel with your horse. You should also notice that your patterns and communication with your horse is getting better with every ride or show, and not decline. If there is not at least a small amount of improvement going on with your horse, it is time to reevaluate things.
At the beginning of the show, make sure to get your patterns plenty of time ahead of your class. Sometimes you will be able to pick up the patterns the day ahead of time. Study your patterns and know them well. I usually have my riders practice the pattern once or twice at the most. Practicing the pattern over and over with your horse will only end up making them anticipate the pattern, and you will end up riding on the defensive side. Horses are smart, so practice parts of the pattern, not the entire pattern. It will all come together when you go in the arena. If your horse anticipates stopping or loping off at the cones, then ride them in the practice arena to fix that. Lope past the cones and stop at places where they are not supposed to in the pattern. Mix it up. Get your horse to trust you by the way you train and ride him.
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