Ready for the Tip Off?

July 16th, 2018 4:20 PM | No Comments

Pros share their top showing and training tips

by Robyn Duplisea

Show Horse Today had the opportunity to speak with some of the very best judges, trainers and clinicians in our industry and ask for their top training and showing tips.   

I have realized while compiling these “mini lessons” and tips, that it doesn’t matter what discipline you ride in; a great horsemanship tip will help you with every horse and in any class.

We are happy to share these words of wisdom with you.

 Jon Barry is a NSBA Hall Of Fame Member, Multiple World & Congress Champion Trainer and AQHA Judge

Jon Barry

Jon Barry

On presentation, I suggest that Non Pro and Youth should practice looking up and ahead when showing.  You should ride and show your horse just as you drive on the highway; looking up, forward and ahead, being aware of what’s ahead so you are prepared to maneuver through any given situation.

When training, I suggest to be consistent in the program. Realize that things you work on and teach a horse on one day may not always have immediate results. Instead, things will show up a day or two later.  Consistency in a program will help you achieve results.

Jon Barry is a NSBA Hall Of Fame Member, Multiple World & Congress Champion Trainer and AQHA Judge


AQHA Judge and Professional Horseman, Kelly McDowall

Kelly McDowall

My Favorite tip came from my good friend Bob Roan when I was a young person trying to make my way in the horse training business. I had a lot of not very good horses, and only a few good ones. His advice was, “Don’t spend all of your time trying to make the bad horses into good ones, spend as much or more time making the good horses into great ones.”

An AQHA Judge and Professional Horseman, Kelly McDowall specializes in the All Around events. Kelly and his clients have won multiple AQHA and APHA World, Congress and NSBA Championships and Reserve Championships.  Visit McDowall Quarter Horses on their FaceBook page.

Bob Avila

Bob Avila

Bob Avila

If every time I go in the pen I ride my horse the hardest, then why is he going to want to go back in? I gallop my horses harder in the warm up pen before and after I show. If every time I went to work it was constant hard work and when I got home, I could put my feet up and have a martini – I’m not going to want to go back to work.
Now, I don’t know if I can make going in the show pen as relaxing for my horse as having a martini, but why not try?

Bob Avila is a NRCHA Hall Of Fame and NRCHA Million Dollar Rider. He has won multiple AQHA World Championships and World’s Greatest Horseman titles and is an industry leading clinician.  Learn more at

 David and Cheryl Busick

 David and Cheryl Busick Photo by Don Trout

David and Cheryl Busick Photo by Don Trout

 We have some tips on the topic of pattern preparation. Once you get your pattern, be sure to read any directions carefully.  Note how it will work in the show arena.  Think about executing the pattern as closely as possible to how it is drawn   Come up with a game plan that maximizes both your, and your horse’s, strong points.

Sometimes there is only a start cone. It will be up to you to find “markers”
along or outside the arena you can use to act as cones.  You’ll need these to be able to execute your pattern correctly.

Look at the pattern as a paragraph; with each, maneuver a sentence.   Everything should flow smoothly from one thing to the next as precisely as possible.  Being correct is more important than speed.

It’s best to ride your pattern a couple times before showing. Try to implement your plan to see how it works.  This is the time to readjust if necessary.   I like to hesitate between maneuvers to keep the horse from anticipating the pattern.   You can always practice specific maneuvers outside of the pattern.  Spend time visualizing yourself riding the perfect pattern.  “Before an important competition I like to use visualization as a tool. I picture myself having the perfect ride over and over.  In the beginning I usually end up seeing potential problems that may come up. Then I picture my strategy to minimize my horse’s weaknesses.   The power of positive thinking can be powerful!”

When it’s time to show be sure to be ready and confident. Look up and ahead. The first impression is so important!  Above all, have fun!

Cheryl and David Busick are top All Around trainers. Their horses and clients can always be found at the top of the class at the World, Congress and Novice Championship shows.  To learn more about their outstanding program please visit

Tim Kimura - Photo by Bree Hokana

Tim Kimura – Photo by Bree Hokana

Tim Kimura

In this modern age of large screen phones, I find more and more riders using them to read many of my trail patterns.  I believe there is no substitute for a real, hard copy version of my map when you’re trying to learn my courses. I always tell my students to have their pattern when they come to the trail pen, and not just one on their cell phone!

I teach memorizing a trail course in specific steps:
 1) Read the words carefully, first.
2) Read the captions again and look at the lines and words on the map to see if there are any discrepancies (i.e. lope vs. jog, RL vs. LL etc.)
 3) Highlight your patterns to bring color to your map, and use your hand and eyes as a motor skill in memorizing. This simulates drawing the line of trail of the course. I use pink for Lope, blue for Jog, yellow for Walk, orange for Backing, and green for Side Passing.
4) Walk the pattern and formulate a plan of attack. Sometimes obstacles are tweaked and not exactly laid out like the map shows, or an obstacle is omitted due to time constraints.
5) ALWAYS recite the pattern to somebody to make sure you know it exactly. Make sure you say it to somebody who has the pattern or knows the pattern.
6) Finally, have somebody tell you the pattern, so you can listen to the story of the course and visualize what you are hearing and watch a horse do your pattern and follow along while you visualize your plan.

You shouldn’t take the trail course for granted. If you ride on two different patterns, such as Novice Amateur and Amateur, you should highlight both your patterns and be sure you understand the differences in the two courses. In the end, it takes practice memorizing trail patterns, but after all there are a limited number of obstacles that can be used, but in different configurations, thus a lot of similarities in their layout. When you have a handle on memorizing courses you can be sure that your communication to your horse will improve and higher scores should be obtained.

Happy Trails to You. 

Man of Trail

Tim Kimura, aka “Man Of Trail” is the industry leading Trail course designer and a world-renowned clinician. Tim designs courses for all major shows and is a often found in the warm up pen giving last minute pointers. For more information on Tim’s clinics, DVD’s and courses, visit him on his FaceBook page.

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