Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan

March 26th, 2018 12:47 PM | 2 Comments

Part Two: The Best Way to Start Your Class Offmark 3

Welcome to the next installment of Mark Sheridan’s series on horsemanship! AQHA Professional Horseman, trainer and judge Mark Sheridan is joining Show Horse Today to lend his knowledge about horsemanship. The first article was featured in January Show Horse Today, where Mark talked about proper hats and attire. In this issue and the next 7 issues, Mark will continue answering “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?” Today, he talks about the very beginning of your pattern, and what is the best way to start your class off:

 ”I want to talk about the first steps up to the cone and the start of your pattern. The first major things that I look for other than what we discussed in earlier articles, is for proper adjustment of tack, equipment, and communication between horse and rider.

I want to see stirrups that are not too short, not too long. Too short of stirrups will put too much bend in the knee. Too long of a stirrup will have the toes down, lack of contact in the stirrup and to straight of a line with little bend in the knee. I see both of these situations in all the shows that I judge. Most of the time it is the latter with the longer stirrup and reaching for the stirrup and always trying to keep the leg way too far behind the hip of the rider.

Photo: Kurt Clark

Photo: Kurt Clark

I realize that the line must start at the shoulder, drop through the hip, and finish up through the ankle. However, many times I see the riders constantly pushing their legs back too far, which puts the ankle too far behind the line. This will only put the rider out of balance as they are riding on their crotch. Too short of a stirrup will tend to keep the legs ahead of the line. Proper stirrup adjustment will make it possible for the rider to apply pressure to the ball of the foot, with the heels down and slightly out so that the calf of the rider is close the barrel of the horse. This will make it able for the rider to maintain constant contact and communication with horse at all times.”

“An obvious observation is incorrect bridle adjustment as well as cinches not tightened up and tucked away. It is easy to tell how the pattern will ride on most occasions when there is communication between horse and rider before the pattern starts. If the horse is pushing on the bridle and the rider has that worried look in their face of lack of communication with their partner, it is very easy to see from our point of view.”

“Most good judges start to get a feel of the rider and the pattern from the time that they nod their head for them to start the pattern. It is very important to start a few feet back from the start cone, so that one can let their horse walk a step or two and untrack them from standing still. Flow is the most important part of the pattern. Do make sure that if the judges are looking up and if you see that one of the judges in a multi judged show nods for you to go, that you definitely go! Do not under any circumstances make the judge wave to you, or nod more than once for you to commence with your pattern.”

Photo: JLM Equine

Photo: JLM Equine Photography

“If there is a work order, listen for your order of go. Do not be goofing around and not paying attention to the announcer or ring steward. If they call your number and you are not up to the cone and ready to go, you will be dropped a sufficient amount of points. Pay attention and be ready to go, and make sure that you are not training or jerking on your horse’s mouth when you are in the ring, especially when we are looking. That applies as well as when you are finished with your pattern and waiting on the other end of the arena until the other patterns are finished. It is amazing what we can see from our vantage point, and always assume that we are always looking at you. And always pay attention to your ring steward and give them the utmost courtesy that they deserve. They work hard and are directed by the judges as what to do throughout the day. I often see exhibi­tors treat the ring stewards, and gate people with little respect. Trust me here on this, we usually hear about things like this throughout the day.”

“When you start your pattern, make sure that you always look up and forward. The only vision down should be between your horse’s ears. Ride with confidence and keep your focus forward. A look of confidence will go very far in convincing us that your pattern will be ridden correctly. “

We are looking forward to hearing Mark’s thoughts on horsemanship and judging, and hope that you have found his information just as helpful as we did. Look for the third later in the week, where Mark will delve into more pattern details and how to go for the blue!

mark 2About 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 3

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

2 Responses to “Preparing for Horsemanship with Mark Sheridan”

  1. Sometimes— especially for us Select ‘shippers, it is hard to determine if the judge is nodding for you to go, talking to the scribe, or scratching their ear! Giving a clear signal that they are ready is always very much appreciated!

  2. Flow is the most important part of the pattern. Do make sure that if the judges are looking up and if you see that one of the judges in a multi judged show nods for you to go, that you definitely go! Do not under any circumstances make the judge wave to you, or nod more than once for you to commence with your pattern.” – What should you do if one judge is waving you on and the other judges are looking down or are clearly not ready? It would be great if one judge would hold a flag or flower and have one person be responsible for indicating its ok to go. The situation is frustrating for both the judges and the exhibitors.

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