Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan

May 22nd, 2018 2:38 PM | No Comments

mark 3Part 8: Riding That Perfect Pattern

Still looking for that edge in your horsemanship patterns? AQHA Horseman and Judge, Mark Sheridan has a few more tricks up his sleeve! We are getting down to the dirty details in this issue, talking about cones and backing. Use this series to iron out any mistakes that are holding you back, and 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?”

In this installment, I want to continue to give tips that seem to get in the way of riding that perfect pattern. Many of the horsemanship patterns today are using fewer cones in the patterns for marking out the designs. I have started using this practice, especially in the advanced classes, so that I can determine that a rider is able to see the pattern with the peripheral vision that I so often talk about.

“How do l give my horsemanship patterns the polished look that can win, and what are the first things that catch your eye as a judge?”

A9Rcxk74g_1qwcy2n_56wI think that cones are a necessary part of the pattern for novice, younger or less experienced riders, but many times I will design a pattern with one start cone and then let the riders decide where the pattern is to be ridden in relationship to the arena. I always make sure to be as accurate as possible in describing the pattern and then let the exhibitor show me the correct path. Many times, the first few riders will have the best opportunity to ride the pattern and set the standard. In most cases, the arena will be smoothed out and the first few riders will have to set the course. If they do so properly, the others will most likely follow in their hoof steps, so to speak. If the first few riders do not execute the pattern properly, it will be to the advantage of the following exhibitors to ride it properly. This is why it is so necessary to always pay attention to the competitors who ride before you, and those who work after you. Just because one rider rode the pattern correctly, does not mean that it has been ridden properly.
I talked briefly about stops and backs. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a great stop and back. In the vast majority of patterns that I see at shows, the stop and back is the final maneuver. This is where the thermometer rises and falls on the scorecard and can make or break the pattern. So many times the exhibitor will ride a great pattern, then have a below average stop and back. This is where the pencil is making the final scores and marking down on the sheet. It is hard to make up a good score on this maneuver because of the importance of a good stop and back. The only way to achieve this maneuver correctly is by practicing good habits every time that you ride. A9Rcpyda_1qwcy2e_56w

It is important to ride your horse into a proper stop and back every time you ride. If you allow your horse to have sloppy stops at home from time to time, he will do it at the horse show because that is what he has been allowed to do. In order to achieve a good stop, your horse must be straight. When I say this, I am referring to the body position of your horse for the last few strides going into the stop. If a horse is crooked before the stop, they will most likely stop and back crooked. The scenario that I see most often is when horses are over canted with a hip or hock to the inside of the lead leg. This helps them move better, but when they execute the stop with a hip to one side or the other, the rider will most likely have to make an adjustment to straighten out the horse before backing. If a horse stops with his hip to either side, and his hind feet are not in line with the front feet, they will almost always back crooked. Collection will fall apart when this happens as well. You will want to use the stop and back as the best way to raise your score above the others.

“Always ride your horse the same at home that you do at the shows.”

One final point that I would like to make is to always ride your horse the same at home that you do at the shows. It is so important to ride your horse with one hand and in the box that I have described earlier. This is the location above the withers and in front of the horn. It is an area about the size of a twelve inch square box. Communicate this location to your horse when you are riding the pattern at the shows, and on your daily rides. If you go outside the box, your hands will be out of position for proper execution of maneuvers. This will lead to improper face position and other issues. Your horse should neck rein from this position. Remember that judges are looking for the most fluid, smooth and correct pattern possible. Hands out of the box will only tend to make the performance look unfinished.

Photo by Don Trout

Photo by Don Trout

About Mark

Mark is a Past President of the Arizona Quarter Horse Association, a member of the AQHA, and APHA Professional Horseman’s Associations, 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, and has recently produced a three DVD series on achieving perfect lead changes that is available on his website. He is finishing his first book on Valuable Tips for the Horsemanship Class which will be out soon on his website.

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