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Show Ring 101: Polished Horsemanship Part III

In this third installment of horsemanship tips, I want to talk about the first steps up to the cone and the start of your pattern. The first things that I look forIn this third installment of horsemanship tips, I want to talk about the first steps up to the cone and the start of your pattern. The first things that I look for

Story originally posted by: Mark Sheridanwww.marksheridanqh.com

How do I give my horsemanship patterns a polished look that can win? What are the first things that catch your eye as a judge?

In this third installment of horsemanship tips, I want to talk about the first steps up to the cone and the start of your pattern. The first 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. Some obvious issues are: incorrect bridle adjustment and cinches not tightened up and tucked away

Correct stirrup length is important: not too short, not too long. Too short will put too much bend in the knee. Too long will have the toes down, lack of contact in the stirrup and too 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 too long; and reaching for the stirrup and always trying to keep the leg way too far behind the hip of the rider.

The vertical profile line of the rider 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.

Too short of a stirrup will tend to keep the legs ahead of the vertical 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 enable the rider to maintain constant contact and communication with the horse.

It is easy to tell how the pattern will ride when there is communication between horse and rider before the pattern starts. If the horse is pushing on the bridle and the rider is lacking communication and has that worried look in their face, 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 moment they nod for them to start the pattern.

It is very important to start a few feet back from the start cone, so your horse can walk a step or two and un-track from standing still. Flow is the most important part of the pattern. Make sure if the judges are looking up and you see one judge in a multi-judged show nod for you to go — that you definitely go!
 

Do not make the judge wave to you or nod more than once for you to start your pattern. If there is a work order, listen for your order of go. Always pay 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.

Before or after you finish the pattern, be sure that you are not training or jerking on your horses mouth when you are in the ring. We can see from our vantage point, and always assume that we are looking at you. Always pay attention to your ring steward and give them the courtesy they deserve. They work hard and are directed by the judges throughout the day. I often see exhibitors treat the ring stewards and gate people with lack of respect. Trust me, we hear things throughout the day.
 

When you start your pattern, be sure to look up and forward. The only vision down should be between your horses 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.

Stay tuned for more installments with helpful information and insight for making all your rides the best!

Click here to read Part I and Part II

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Mark Sheridan has spent a lifetime producing winning show horses and judging at the championship level. He conducts clinics, has written numerous articles and produced a DVD series on Perfect Lead Changes. Learn more at www.marksheridanqh.com