Mark Sheridan, On Horsemanship


This article is part of Mark Sheridan’s lesson series, on the basics of horsemanship.


This article will be the final installment in the series of riding correct competitive horsemanship patterns. I could probably write thirty or more installments, but it is time to wrap up this series and get going with additional interesting topics that I have in store. I am sure that I will be leaving out some issues that affect most riders from time to time, but if one will review the installments from time to time, I am sure that it will help with the basic issues that riders need to be aware of to improve their scores and success in the arena.  All of the previous installments can be found on my website listed below.

As I have mentioned in earlier installments, most of the ideas that I have written have come to me as a coach, trainer and judge. Over the last few weeks, I have judged some major shows across the United States and International Championship competitions. I seem to see the same mistakes from a majority of the competitors. As your horsemanship skills improve, you will advance to tougher competition and be asked more of from the judges. It is time to step up and show off your skills. The patterns will become tougher to ride, as the judges will need to ramp up the difficulty in the patterns to match the competition. It is the only way that judges can separate the riders and find the true winners.

I usually ask for numerous maneuvers in the advanced classes, such as counter canters, loping and trotting square corners and putting in a flying lead change or two in the patterns. Spins, turns, and rollbacks will also be found in the majority of the patterns.  You must be prepared to be able to drop your stirrups and do an extended trot in both the pattern portion, as well as in the rail work. With this being said, it will be important to work on all of these maneuvers on a daily basis. If you push yourself at home, you will find success at the horse shows. Making these maneuvers happen with one hand while keeping your hand in the “box”, as I have described in earlier issues will be the issue for most everyone.

While keeping everything under control, your sight must be forward with your head kept still. Try to keep your eyes looking at a location up to fifty feet in front of you and keeping the peripheral vision working at all times. Looking down is obviously wrong, but as is looking so high beyond the field of vision, that you loose hand and eye contact with your horse. Developing feel as well as sight will become a skill that will enhance your performance. Keeping your reins even and feeling your horse’s mouth to make sure that your reins are even take time to develop, but are easily recognized by judges. Turning or rotating your wrist to the left or right or moving outside the box with your hand will be the first thing to make your reins uneven and drop your score due to the fact that you will loose that even rein feel, and it will show up in your pattern.

Another major factor that one must keep in mind is that when a pattern asks for a 180 or 360 degree turn and then lope off on a correct lead, you must keep in mind that you might actually want to ask for less or more in your turn to get the proper body position for a really correct lope off. For example, if the pattern calls for a left lead, stop, 360 turn to the right and right lead, you should actually turn a 350 or a bit less to have the shoulder in the correct position slightly to the left for the right lead. These are the little things that will enhance your performance. If you are at the cone or start position and ready to lope off, make sure to untrack your horse for a step or two to make sure that the lead departure is smooth and has an effortless look to it.

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One of Mark\’s training videos on problem solving.


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