How to Ride a Trail Pattern with Kellie Hinely

This is the fourth and final installment of riding the trail with Kellie Hinely. You’ve been working on your walk and trot poles, mastered the gate and the Wheel of death, now it’s time to put it all together. So let’s get a checklist so you are ready to get it done.

How do you know if you and your horse are prepared? Kellie says that one of the most important things is to work on transitions. She says “You want to make sure that your horse can walk to lope, lope to jog, jog to halt. You want to practice doing those quickly and close together”. You will use those transitions throughout your course so you need them to be sharp.

Also, when you think about the show divisions you are competing in, make sure the obstacles you have set up to practice are slightly more challenging than what you will see when you are on course. AQHA’s website is a great resource to find past courses used in their show seasons. In addition, Kellie recommends watching YouTube videos of past world show winners. There’s a great group of videos narrated from the judge’s perspective. Next, it’s important that your horse is comfortable settling and standing at an obstacle and waiting for the next cue. Often in my lessons, I will halt in the middle of our back through or after the backup at the gate and stand. My horse Cowboy (AGRTELLEMHESACOWBOY) tends to take over during my trail class.

I think it’s because he obviously knows what he’s doing more than I do, he gets ahead of me though so I’ve been working really hard on being the driver not just the passenger. Kellie also says it’s really important to practice the slow stuff. Breathing and regrouping are important as you ride through the obstacles. Maybe the most important way to be ready to ride your show course is to know your show course. Nerves can sometimes attack you when you least expect it so Kellie says knowing your course is critical. Walking the course on foot before your ride is a great way to see the pattern and plan where you are going to go. It definitely helps break down the course and solidify the path to take that best suits your horse. I find the written course very intimidating. Check with the horse show office staff, they will tell you when the course will be open for walking.

Really the last bit of advice from Kellie is, leave enough time for warm-up and to watch a few horses before you. The warm-up ring is a great place to fine-tune obstacles before you go in. I like to do my practicing the day before and then do just a few obstacles before I go in otherwise I end up getting too nervous. However, I really like watching the horses go before me. Sometimes I will see something different or a slightly different path. It’s a great learning tool.

Whether you are going to the world or your local association show, I hope this series was helpful and you learned some cool stuff about riding the trail course. Thank you to Kellie Hinely for offering her expertise. Stay tuned for more trainer series articles.

By Pam Stein Moeck and Kellie Hinely