Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan

April 26th, 2018 3:10 PM | No Comments

Part 6: Are You Fit for the Ride?

mark 3Are you ready to take your riding in horsemanship classes to the next level? Mark Sheridan continues to answer 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 using his skills as an AQHA Professional Horseman and Judge. Last month, Mark discussed how to make perfect circles. Now that your patterns are tuned, it’s time to tone! Get ready to feel the burn in your riding!

“We have covered quite a bit of ground on riding great horsemanship patterns over the last few articles on this topic. In this issue, I want to talk about things that you can do at home to improve your rides at the shows, as well as other things to keep in mind.A9R37jt90_1i07kue_8zc I feel that leg strength and lower body control are two of the key ingredients for a solid base when riding. It all starts at the bottom and works its way up, in the ability to have steady upper body control, as well as having total overall body position and control. One of the best ways to achieve this is to ride in an English saddle from time to time. Many horsemanship exhibitors show in the equitation classes as well. They know how much more difficult it is to ride in an English saddle and maintain proper lower leg control. For those who do this, they seem to master the Western saddle with greater ease. I would suggest owning or borrowing an English saddle to ride in at least once a week, if not more, to create stronger lower body control and improve your overall rid­ing, even if you never plan to show in Eng­lish events. I know of roping horse trainers who occasionally put their clients in an English saddle so they actually learn how to ride. Once back in the western saddle, they felt so much more in control, and their rid­ing abilities and balance improved almost overnight!

Another exercise that I recommend is to practice standing in your stirrups while at an extended trot. I suggest my riders start at the jog, standing up in the stirrups so that all the weight is on the ball of their foot, with their heels still down and toes pointed slightly out. From there, make sure that you maintain this position by gripping with lower upper leg and your upper calf on either side of your knee. From here, increase the jog to an extended trot and maintain this as long as possible. It is very important to keep your upper body vertical and not bend over to cheat when doing this drill. It is impor­tant to keep in mind that three main points be lined up while doing this exercise: the point of your shoulder, your hip, and your ankle must be kept in as straight a line as possible.

A9R1p81o1d_1i07kuk_8zcIf you have not done this before, you will want to start slowly and work your way up to where you can do this for a few minutes or more at a time. I have my students do this until it hurts, go past it for 30 seconds and then sit back down, and break to the walk and rest. Three or four sessions of this each day will improve your lower leg control and increase your overall balance to a much higher degree. Some of my clients jokingly call it torture, but I remind them, “no pain no gain.” Everyone needs to know how far they can push themselves, and if you can then sit straight down, slowly back into the saddle and still maintain the proper amount of weight in your stirrups, without sitting on the back of the cantle, then this exercise is working to your advantage!”

Next week I have some more additional tips that you can do at home to constantly improve your talents, as well as week more show ring tips that can help exhibitors raise their overall scores in the arena! Until then, keep practicing good habits. “

Keep checking back each for more advanced tips and tricks! Show season is kicking off, and you want to be riding your best for the blue.

mark 4About Mark

A University of Findlay graduate, Mark Sheridan holds a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Studies. Mark has over thirty years of experience producing winning all-around show horses. He has trained and coached multiple Quarter Horse Reserve World Champions in both English and Western divisions.

Mark has been an AQHA, AAAA ranked, and NSBA Category One ranked judge since 1993. He has judged the AQHA World Show four times, The AQHA Youth World Show twice, the All American Quar­ter Horse Congress four times, as well as the Australian, European, Canadian, Japan Championships, and NCAA and IHSA Collegiate Championships numerous times.

Mark is a Past President of the Arizona Quarter Horse Association, a member of the AQHA Professional Horseman’s Association, and was awarded Arizona’s Most Valuable Professional Horseman in 2008 and is recognized on the University of Findlay Wall of Fame. He is an author of articles for numerous Nationally Published Magazines, conducts clinics Nationally and Internationally, and has recently produced a three DVD series on achieving perfect lead changes which is available on his website

Leave a Reply