Ride the Pattern – Showmanship

Conquer this showmanship pattern by breaking it into parts to learn it.


When I first saw this showmanship pattern from the 2014 Adequan Select World Championship Show, I thought it was an easy pattern.


But the more I looked, the more the tricky details popped out at me. Our wonderful customer Anne Wilson really worked hard and won the world championship in that class.


I believe any exhibitor can conquer this pattern. I have asked my Level 1 client Alyssa Neiberger to learn and demonstrate for the photos and the video you’ll be able to access in the digital version of the Journal.


For the next three months, I’m going to break down this pat- tern into small pieces so you can practice at home along with us. But before you do, I have some thoughts to share about practice.


  1. Most larger shows post their patterns online these days, so exhibitors can practice at home. But then when exhibitors get to the show, they might discover that the pattern isn’t laid out in the arena exactly the same way that they have been practicing. When my clients and I are practicing at home, we try to move the pattern around to different parts of the arena in different directions to alleviate any surprises once they get to the show.
  2. It’s possible to practice too much, especially if you have one of those wise, older horses that can figure out the pattern. If he figures it out, he’ll be turning before you’re even thinking turn. You’ll need to practice little pieces at a time and only run the pattern in sequence a couple of times.
  3. Everyone learns differently. If you need to set up cones in a barn alley and run the pattern on foot several times, do it. If you find it more helpful to talk through the pattern, do that.
  4. You can’t be embarrassed to do something that works for you.


This month, I’d like to challenge you to see what you can do with the first part of this tricky pattern.


Trot half of the way and walk half of the way.


When you start this pattern, before you begin your trot or do anything else, you need to locate some landmarks. You need to know where the center is – immediately in front of the judge – and you need to make sure your lines are going to connect for the whole pattern.


The smoothness and completeness of your pattern is what will make it special.


If you look at the pattern on the page, you can see it makes a giant X. If your lines aren’t connected, you won’t make a perfect X.


I want the end of this first line – the trotting, walking line – to end in the same plane as the final line. You’ll have to walk further than you think you need to so you can be sure of ending in the right spot.


At the starting cone, pick your end destination and trot toward it in a straight line.


The judge is in the center, so that’s where you break to a walk, but make sure to keep your face going the same direc- tion as your horse. First, if you turn to look at the judge, you have a strong chance of your horse bending its body away from you. Ideally, you want to keep your horse’s body as straight as possible. Second, the judge is close enough to notice your glance. Instead, keep your face forward and use your peripheral vision to find the center.


For practice at home, pick an object that can stand in for “the judge.” In the photos and the video, we’ve used a tall director’s chair, but you can use anything you have handy – a bucket, a halter hanging from a fence. Make that transition when your horse’s head is at the judge.


As you break to the walk, make the transition as smooth as possible.


Sometimes downward transitions can be more challenging than upward transitions. Ease your shoulders back just a little – you don’t want the horse to stop – and break to the walk yourself.


Continue walking forward in a straight line, projecting confidence in yourself and your horse. The judge will be able to tell.


Walk further than you think you need to – no, seriously, further than that. Again, you’ll use your peripheral vision to see when your horse’s hip is in line with the line that’s going to be right in front of the judge. Bring your horse to a smooth halt.


See you next month!





Confidence is the key in the middle part of this showmanship pattern.  This is Part 2 of a three-part series.



Last month, we talked about the first part of this showmanship pattern from the 2014 Adequan Select World Championship Show.


My Level 1 client Alyssa Neiberger learned this pattern to demonstrate it for you in these photos and in the video.


Let’s move on to the second part of this pattern, where making the lines match is still critical.


Preparing for the Corner


Now that we have stopped from the walk, it is time to execute the turn. It looks to be a little less than a 270-degree turn. During the turn, focus on keeping your horse’s body straight, keeping his topline level and making sure you stop straight on the next line.


Once you have completed the turn and stopped straight, pick up the walk. The stronger and more confident the walk, the better. However, try not to walk faster than your horse has the ability to, or else your horse might jog off early in an attempt to keep up.


Once the horse’s nose is to the halfway point of this line, ask for the trot. I love to see a strong confident trot, but keep in mind the left hand corner’s coming up and it’s somewhat tight. You do not want to be trotting so fast that your horse “fish tails” around the corner. You want a confident pace that allows you to make that corner with ease.


One thing people worry about is staying within the lines of the pattern. This fact is definitely on my mind. However, I think going a step or two past the start cone will create more space to execute a more flowing and balanced corner. Once you have made the corner, do not be afraid to step it up a notch in your trot and make it stronger.


Know where the middle of the pattern is so you can easily find the ¾ mark where you are going to ask for the walk. If your horse can break well from the trot to the walk, this is the place to show it off. If this is a weak point for you and your horse, be a bit more conservative. It is important that the horse have a flat-footed four beat walk in this transition. Once you know you have the walk for three full steps, then you can get a bit stronger in your pace.


When you stop from the walk, your goal is to have your horse’s hindquarters on the next walk line, allowing you to travel straight forward upon completing your pivot to assist in giving the overall appearance that all of your patterns lines have a connection.




Finish the pattern with strength in Part 3 of this three-part series.



Last month, we talked about the middle section of this showmanship pattern from the 2014 Adequan Select World Championship Show.


My Level 1 client Alyssa Neiberger learned this pattern to demonstrate it for you in these photos and the video.


We’re close to finishing up this pattern. Let’s learn how to make a good final impression on the judges.


The Big Turn


It’s time to complete the 2 3⁄4 turn. Last month, I discussed important things to focus on during the turn: keeping the horse’s body straight and the top line level.


We also need to discuss the approach and speed of this lengthy turn. If you start this turn at full speed, you will be running out of pace by the time you reach the end. I like my students to build pace to make the turn more fluid and attractive. I would suggest starting the turn, increasing your pace slightly at the 90-degree point.


The second increase should happen around the 270-degree point (three-quarters into the first turn), bringing you to your top speed at the 450-degree mark (one and a half turns in), which you need to maintain for the remainder of the spin. Finish with a strong and straight stop that will set you up for the next maneuver. If you feel unconfident with increasing your speed throughout the pivot, make your goal to maintain your energy throughout the entire spin.


When moving into the walk out of your turn, be cautious not to move too quickly and allow your horse to trot next to you. Instead, walk off, know you have the walk for three strides and then begin to build your pace. Keep your eyes straight ahead and focus on stepping one foot in front of the other. This is of even greater importance now because you will be traveling directly in front of the judges.


This walk line is going to feel like it takes you forever, but stay after it. I want you to connect this walk line to where you stopped your horse’s hip for the first pivot. Once you have stopped, complete the 180-degree turn and make sure to stop your horse straight and square before you start the next line.


The Most Important Part



What is the most important part of this next walk line?


Making sure that when you stop, your horse’s hip is even with the judge.


I have mentioned several times in this three-part series that a strong, confident walk is important, however now might be the time to slightly soften things up. A powerful walk at this point might hurt you if you cannot stop the momentum and land your horse’s hip on the judge. To make certain you stop in the correct spot, I encourage people to count their steps. Once your foot lands on the imaginary line right in front of the judge make that “Step 1” in your mind, then Step 2 and on that third step, think and say “Whoa.” This count works for most horses. If you have an extremely long horse, you might need to add an extra step into your count.


Once you have stopped, ask your horse to set up. With this maneuver complete, step back and present your horse.


The inspection is an extremely important element in the pattern. It is the only time all day you are up-close and per- sonal with the judges. Make it count! I suggest doing two important things.


One, pay attention to your horse while you are being inspected by keeping the horse’s head and neck straight as well as checking the horse’s feet to make sure they don’t move. What if they do move? Fix them. That is what show- ing your horse is all about.


Two, when you’re doing your cross-overs and presenting your animal, be confident and strong. I always say, “Tell the judge to pick you not someone else.”


Once you have been excused, it is time to back your horse. The pattern instructs exhibitors to back two horse-lengths, which can be anywhere from eight to 10 steps.


At this point in the pattern, you are standing right next to the judges, so straight is most important and the pace of your back is secondary.


I tell people to get the back started, know it is going well, then build your pace as you go before softening to the stop. The back needs to be correct but it also needs to be pretty.


The pattern gives you the option to walk or trot out. I say trot out with gusto! However if you have an animal that does not do well with applause or you are out of strength to trot again (this was a long pattern!) then walk out confidently. You need to do what is best for you and show your animal to the best of its ability that day. If you need to walk, then walk.


That’s it!


The American Quarter Horse Journal
by AQHA Professional Horsewoman Jenny Jordan Frid

with Larri Jo Starkey