Part 5 of Mark Sheridan’s Series on Improving Your Horsemanship Scores
Republished from May issue of Show Horse Today
Last month, AQHA Professional Horseman and Judge Mark Sheridan shared some of his pet peeves with riding your horsemanship pattern. He has been answering 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?” teaming up with Show Horse Today to bring his tips to you! Beginning in January, he has been covering everything from show clothes to position to patterns, and this month will be talking more about one of the hardest parts of any pattern: Circles! This article can be a huge help to any and all pattern-doers, so be sure to read carefully!
“In the last few installments, we talked briefly about circles and riding them correctly and with symmetry. In this installment, I want to elaborate a bit more on being able to ride perfectly round circles. Almost every pattern today will consist of circles, multiple circles, circles in different directions, and also different speeds. With everything else close to even with the exhibitors in a tight class, there is always something that separates one from another. Usually, that is how correctly they ride their circles. If you are riding an oval, teardrop, triangle or lopsided circles, you can plan on that part of the scoring to go way down. Making up with the rest of the ride may not be enough to bring your score back up to where it was, or needs to be. This also includes riding your circle in the correct location in the arena. You might be able to get your round circles figured out, but they end up off to the right or left of center.
As a coach and trainer, I feel that circling is probably the biggest issue that people have problems with. They might be able to ride round circles at home due to the comfort and familiarity of their arena, but when they go to a different arena to compete, all the surroundings look different. It is very important to look at the arena just walking around on your horse and find waypoints for centering your circles, such as end gates, center markers, fence markings or beams on indoor arena walls. Take note on the size of the arena so that you will not be bouncing off the walls if the arena is very small. On the other hand, make sure not to ride your circle too big if you are in a huge arena. Look at the arena and get a game plan on where you are going to ride your circles. Where are they going to start, and where are they going to end. Always try to ride the pattern as close to possible of the description of the pattern provided.
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