Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan

June 11th, 2018 2:21 PM | No Comments

mark 3Part 9: Wrapping Things Up!

Here we are! Our final installment in AQHA Professional Horseman and Judge Mark Sheridan’s series “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?” He has taken you through it all so far -attire, patterns, circles, backing, and even some good homework to get you in better riding shape! Today, he wraps it up by divulging a few last tips and things that take your patterns that much further.

“This article will be the final installment in the series of riding correct competitive horsemanship patterns. I could probably write thirty or more installments, but it is time to wrap up this series and get going with additional interesting topics that I have in store. I’m sure I have left out some issues affecting most riders occasionally, but if you review the installments from time to time, I am sure it will help with the basic issues riders need to be aware of to improve their scores and success in the arena. All of the previous installments can be found on my website listed at the end of this article.

As I have mentioned in earlier installments, most of my ideas have come to me as a coach, trainer and judge. Over the last few weeks, I have judged some major shows across the United States and International Championship competitions. I see the same mistakes from a majority of the competitors. As your horsemanship skills improve, you will advance to tougher competition and more will be asked of you by the judges. It is time to step up and show off your skills. The patterns will become tougher to ride, as the judges will need to ramp up the difficulty in the patterns to match the competition. It is the only way that judges can separate the riders and find the true winners.A9R1kusbvm_1a1c2yd_4t8

I usually ask for numerous maneuvers in the advanced classes, such as counter canters, loping and trotting square corners and putting in a flying lead change or two in the patterns. Spins, turns, and rollbacks will also be found in the majority of the patterns. You must be prepared to be able to drop your stirrups and do an extended trot in both the pattern portion, as well as in the rail work. Given this, it will be important to work on all of these maneuvers on a daily basis.

“If you push yourself at home,

you will find success at the horse shows.”

Making these maneuvers happen with one hand while keeping your hand in the “box,” as I have described in earlier issues, will be the chaIlenge for most everyone.

While keeping everything under control, your gaze must be forward with your head kept still. Try to keep your eyes looking at a location up to fifty feet in front of you and keeping the peripheral vision working at all times. Looking down is obviously wrong, as is looking so high beyond the field of vision that you lose hand and eye contact with your horse. Developing feel as well as sight will become a skill to enhance your performance. Keeping your reins even and feeling your horse’s mouth to make sure that your reins are even, takes time to develop, but is easily recognized by judges. Turning or rotating your wrist to the left or right or moving outside the box with your hand will be the first thing to cause your reins to be uneven and drop your score, due to the fact that you will lose that even rein feel, and it will show up in your pattern.

A9R66elb7_1a1c2ya_4t8Another major factor to keep in mind is when a pattern asks for a 180 or 360 degree turn and then lope off on a correct lead, you might actually want to ask for less or more in your turn to get the proper body position for a really accurate lope off. For example, if the pattern calls for a left lead, stop, 360 turn to the right and right lead, you should actually turn a 350, or a bit less, to have the shoulder in the correct position slightly to the left for the right lead. These are the little things that will enhance your performance. If you are at the cone or start position and ready to lope off, make sure to untrack your horse for a step or two to make sure that the lead departure is smooth and has an effortless look to it.

I hope you have enjoyed installments one through nine, and I look forward to sharing some more thoughts and ideas in articles related to helping improve your skills with your horse. The next one will be a good one, and is related to anyone that owns, or rides or shows a horse at any breed or competitive level. It will be an article that is “Outside the Box!” To find the other installments and many other articles, visit my site at: www.marksheridanqh. com. Feel free to contact me via e-mail at Be safe and enjoy your horse!”

We certainly hope that this series has helped your horsemanship skills, and that you have seen some great improvements! Feel free to send us your input on our series, and share how it has helped your showing. A huge and Show Horse Today THANK YOU to Mark Sheridan for all of his help in this series. Keep an eye out in our next issue for more informative articles and tricks to help you.

mark 3About Mark

A University of Findlay graduate, Mark Sheridan holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Equestrian Studies. Mark has over forty years of experience producing winning all-around show horses. He has trained and coached multiple Quarter Horse World and Reserve World Champions in both English and Western divisions. Mark is also a certified APHA Clinician, and a NSBA Boot Camp Clinician. Mark also teaches at horse expos and clinics nationally as well as internationally, and has a passion for teaching and educating. 

Mark has been an AQHA, AAAA ranked, APHA, PHBA, ABHA, and NSBA Category One ranked judge since 1992. He has judged the AQHA World Show six times, the AQHA Youth World Show twice, the All American Quarter Horse Congress six times, judged the Masters at the Congress three times, the NSBA World Show, as well as the Australian, European, Canadian, New Zealand, and Japan Championships, as well as the NCAA and IHSA Collegiate Championships numerous times. He has also judged the Florida Gold Coast Circuit five times, and the Arizona Sun Circuit four times.

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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