Rituals to Help Prepare for Pattern Classes

Dispel your nerves and prepare to ace patterns, including showmanship, horsemanship and hunt seat equitation, with these tips.

If you’re going to be competing at a show in a pattern class, you know that you’ll need some serious preparation.

Patterns are generally posted well in advance, but laying down a winning run is not as simple as practicing the same pattern over and over before you show.

We’ve gathered advice from AQHA Professional Horsemen to help you develop rituals that can dispel your preshow anxiety and get your horse ready for his best performance.

Get Comfortable with Patterns

AQHA Professional Horseman Robin Frid’s clients run through the posted pattern in practice, but when they’re focusing on the whole pattern, they ride it without training throughout.

“At that point, you’ll run through the whole pattern at full speed,” Robin says. “If something goes wrong, you can school on it and correct it, and then start over – beginning to end without stopping. No pulling your horse out for a little correction and then continuing. This helps riders learn to deal with a little imperfection during the pattern, and not let a mistake from early on in the pattern bother you.”

But that’s not the only pattern they work. Robin’s clients practice patterns every day leading up to the show – but they won’t be the patterns they’ll actually be performing at the show.

“We work on patterns, constantly finding the right spots and seeing where the horse or rider are out of whack, so we can work on those parts,” Robin says.

Practice Like You Show

One key element AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lainie DeBoer recommends is practicing in your show tack and clothes. If you ride in all-around classes, make sure to work your horse at home in your full English tack and clothing – not just an English bridle and western saddle.

“You’re not really replicating what’s going to be in the show ring,” Lainie says. “If you only practice in practice gear, and never your show clothes, then sometimes when you get to the show, you’re a little uncomfortable because it’s not what you’re used to. That can add to your anxiety a little bit.”

Increase Your Confidence

Just as important as physically preparing, Holly works to build riders’ confidence in their abilities to manifest the maneuvers with their horse in the weeks before competition.

“I try not to get on their horse to ‘show them how it’s done,’ ” AQHA Professional Horsewoman Holly Hover says. “I try to inject into their confidence that they are a team, they can get that horse schooled, and they can get that horse through the maneuvers, because that’s what they’re going to need to do in the arena.”

Sometimes this comes from showing frequently before the major show, but sometimes that’s not an option, if there aren’t shows in your area. For Holly’s clients, this means intentionally working on confidence at home.

Don’t Overschool

At some point, the competitors practice the pattern with their horses, but not ad nauseum.

“I wouldn’t say practice (the pattern) with your horse too much, because you don’t want the horse outguessing you on the pattern,” Holly says. “But a familiarity with the posted pattern is certainly part of the preparation.”

Lainie’s clients run through the pattern a few times to make sure they know how it’ll be laid out, but again – not overdone.

“We usually only do the pattern a couple of times, because I really think if you do it too much, the horses start to anticipate, and the riders will get a little ahead of themselves – they tend not to stay in the moment,” Lainie says. “If there’s something in the pattern that needs to be addressed, we’ll take that part out and work on it on the rail or in a circle.”

Courtesy of American Quarter Horse Association