Part 4 of Judge Mark Sheridan’s Series On Improving Your Horsemanship Class
Republished from April issue of Show Horse Today
Mark Sheridan, AQHA Professional Horseman and Judge, has been teamed up with Show Horse Today these past few months to bring to you horsemanship help! He answers the question “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?” by sharing tips on attire, position and patterns. In April’s issue, Mark talks about raising your score to take you and your horse to the next level:
“On the last installment we talked about riding your pattern correctly and symmetrical. Most of the articles in this series are to give helpful advice on what to do correctly to raise your score and help you with getting to the next level. However, I also want to make sure that I have plenty of ideas on what NOT to do! There are so many times when I am judging and want to just get up and help someone with their ride. That is the trainer and coach in me. Many times I will say to my self, “If they just didn’t do that particular thing in their pattern, it would have gone so much better.” There are also times where the level of competition is above average at many weekend shows. Riding a clean mistake free pattern can land you close to the top without having a prefect ride.
Every judge has pet peeves, likes and dislikes. I would say that my biggest issue is using the spur stop on a loose rein and only riding the horse with your legs. This includes riding the horse in the pattern or on the rail with the spur brake to adjust your speed, and having your horse canted too far with his hip to the inside. Usually when this happens, the horse will not move correctly in a three beat cadenced lope. Spur stopping your horse will also push your knees out and you will loose contact with the sides of your horse as well as creating unnecessary space between your leg and the barrel of the horse. An extremely loose set of reins will create additional lack of communication with the horse. One will also have to raise their hands way too far in able to reach the mouth of the horse when picking up on the reins. I understand that the western pleasure class has created some of this, however horsemanship is an entirely different event. Many exhibitors will also draw their horses down to the trashy slow lope which will make it easier for them to sit the saddle quieter. I understand the thought process in this concept, but I want to reward proper movement at all three gaits.
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