Thursday, 09 April 2009

Deciphering the Showmanship Pattern

So let's talk about patterns. There are thousands of combinations of patterns for a showmanship class. However, even the simplest looking pattern can be the hardest one to win. So how exactly do we decipher those patterns? Practice my dear Watson! Practice! I like to do multiple dry runs (without the horse) so I can make sure I have the pattern perfect (chin up, elbows in, squared shoulders, hands still, etc.). This not only will help to familiarize you with the pattern, but gives you several chances to correct things you may be doing wrong without the added frustration of concentrating on the horse as well. Get yourself some of those small orange practice cones that are light weight. I bought twelve of them on Ebay last year for $12 total... way cheaper than buying them out of a tack catalogue. But I digress and I'm getting ahead of myself.

You have to read the pattern extensively before you can begin to decipher it correctly. In every pattern there is a particular "part" the judge will be watching for. This particular "part" will be where the pattern can be won and lost. Especially at the World Show levels. The "part" will be different for every pattern, which is why it is so important to really analyze the maneuvers of the pattern and do a few dry runs. Showmanship is all about details, straight lines, and transitions. If you run a good pattern and pay attention to details, you can beat the overly fake exhibitors that we all see in the arena. You know the ones. They are the ones you look at and go "man, it looks like they really have their shit together." Just stick to the basics and you are as good as golden.

Another important aspect to think about is that patterns can be interpreted in different ways by different people. I find them to be very cut and dry. I look at a pattern in a very "literal" sense. When a pattern says to "stop" after a maneuver, it means stop. Not for one second or a half a second; but a good solid "stop." Now we'll get down to deciphering a real pattern.

You'll have to bear with me because this pattern did not scan very well. This is what I would call a relatively simple pattern; however there are a few places the judges will be watching to make sure you and your horse have your shit together. I always look at the diagram first; before reading the maneuvers. This way I can see what "jumps out" at me. In this pattern we have a circle to left. This is going to be the first major "part" the judges really hammer the exhibitors on. However, the part that is perhaps THE MOST important is where you come out of the circle to trot to the judge. Here is where that straight line is going to make you or break you. Other important aspects of this pattern are going to be your transitions at each cone and, of course, your attention to detail.

The pattern reads: 1). Trot from A to B. 2). Walk from B to C. 3). At C, trot a circle to the left. 4). Trot between B and C to the judge and stop. 5). Set up for inspection. 6). After inspection, back five steps. 7). Execute a 270 degree turn to the right and trot to exit.

Here is how I would run this pattern. I always start my pattern about two or three feet away from the cone and I will maintain the same distance from the cones during the entire pattern. In the case of this pattern, you need to start on the left hand side of the cones. I like to start my patterns with my horse's shoulder at the cone. However, as I progress through the pattern I make sure that my transitions occur when my horse's NOSE reaches the next cone. I have found that unless the pattern calls for it; if you wait until your horse's shoulder is at the cone you often do not leave enough time to pick up the required gate and your pattern will appear sloppy.

So, starting with my horse's shoulder at cone A, I will be standing on the left side of my horse since the judge is positioned to the right. Do not forget about your quarters... the judges will be looking for this. When acknowledged, I pick up the trot... immediately. There is no room for error. She must pick up the trot from the standstill. As soon as her nose reaches cone B we walk. I typically prepare her about a half a second before giving her my shoulder cue to walk. We walk from B to C. As soon as her nose gets to cone C we immediately pick up the trot and trot the circle to the left. Here is where the pattern gets tricky for some. Most World Show patterns, and any showmanship pattern for that matter is tight; meaning the cones are not spaced very far apart. While this circle to the left looks big on paper, it's not when you get out there. A lot of horses will pull slightly away from you while trotting the circle to the left; essentially widening the circle, causing your hand to move, and throwing off the straight line you are getting ready to set up. When I trot this circle, her throatlatch HAS TO BE AT MY SHOULDER. I tend to let her get just a hair closer to me when trotting a circle to the left because the circle is so narrow. If I were to maintain my space and "push" her away slightly, she would widen the circle and resist.

Now scroll back up and look at this pattern. I know its hard to see but this pattern gives you a clue. If you look to the far left of the circle, you will see an arrow. It looks like a bold blob on here though. Where this arrow is positioned is when and where you should be looking to your left to make sure you; a). are going to pass exactly between the cones and b). are setting yourself up to be in a perfectly straight line with the judge. If you start looking to the judge at this position your body will naturally close the circle perfectly and you will set yourself up for that perfectly straight line. Continue trotting to the judge and stop your horse about an arms length from the judge. If you stop too close you will cause the judge to take a step back. If you stop too far away the judge will have to step forward. Either way, points can be deducted. However, if you notice; the pattern says to specifically STOP. Here is where exhibitors start rushing. You can't just stop your horse and turn to him to set him up. You must complete the stop maneuver. This means stop. Stand there; facing the judge and count to 3 fairly quickly... as in 1..2..3. THEN turn to set up your horse.

If you have done your homework and your horse is trained, he will begin squaring up as soon as you turn towards him. If your horse stopped square, don't try to change it. Leave it alone. A horse stopping square is not penalized. However, what you don't want is a horse that is trying to square himself up when you are "stopped" and facing the judge. If he is moving his feet while you are stopped, your horse failed to "stop;" for this you can be penalized. It should take three seconds or LESS for your horse to square up. Right now Gertie is at about one second but we are working on improving this even further. Keep in mind, your set up does not have to be "halter type perfect." It is ok if the front or back feet are a little off. What the judges are looking for here is speed and as close to accurate as you can get without wasting time. As soon as the horse is square, look up at the judge and nod your head that you are ready for inspection. You better know your quadrants too. Something I have noticed a lot of judges doing this year is walking toward you when they begin inspecting your horse. Pay attention. If you lag behind and don't cross over quickly enough, you will be penalized.

When the judge has finished inspecting he will nod to you that you are excused. Nod back, turn and face your horse, and back five steps. No big booty back ups here. You have to back straight. When you have backed your five steps, count quickly to three; this will give you enough of a pause and a nice completion to your maneuver. Next, Position yourself with your toes pointing to your horse's opposite front foot and complete your 270 degree turn to the right. When completed, face straight ahead, count quickly to three, and trot to exit. Now when exiting, some exhibitors give the judge a nod and some don't. I always give a nod to let the judge know I have completed my pattern; whether they are watching or not. Remember, there are ring stewards and they watch too. Just because you think a judge isn't looking for a nod back doesn't mean he isn't expecting one. The steward may be giving him a signal or letting him know which exhibitors acknowledged him on the way out. Sometimes the judges aren't looking for a nod back, but I see it as better safe than sorry.

Let's look at this pattern. What I want you guys to do is look at it, read the instructions, and tell me where you think the crucial points of this pattern would be.
1). Trot from A to B
2). Walk from B to C.
3). At C, trot to the judge, stop.
4). Set up for inspection
5). After inspection, execute a 270 degree turn to the right.
6). Back five steps.
7). Execute a 90 degree turn to the right.
8). Trot to exit.


spazfilly said...

In the second pattern, I am guessing that one of the most crucial points is keeping that straight line straight amidst all those transitions. Some horses like to get crooked, especially during down transitions. So making sure your horse doesn't bulge out a shoulder or hip means her throatlatch has to be right by you, and you have to make very smooth, prompt transitions.

As in the first pattern, halting in front of the judge and doing a true stop before setting up will also be important. Then, you pray that your horse has a really nice pivot since you are doing it right in the judge's face. Backing up, it will be important that your horse is relaxed since the judge is seeing the back up from the side.

Anyway, I don't know how accurate that analysis is, but those are the things I would worry about.

Toni said...

In the second patter I would think it would be when you trot to the judge and stop. You have to leave enough room to make your pivot to the right and back up. Or it could be after you make your pivot and back up, make sure you pause to give your horse time to balance before you make the 90 degree pivot. I have never done showmanship but would like to so this is helpful.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I've been waiting for this. My daughter and I show showmanship and do pretty well at it, but the last couple years I have taken over trying to teach the 4-H horse group for my county. Uggghhh! I find it very difficult to explain to them the suble nuances they must practice to make things appear seamless and effortless.

But one question I have had about trot out patterns, that I bet you can answer for me...where do you give the judge the nod that you have completed your pattern?
In this instance, I would acknowledge the judge one last time after completing the final pivot and then I would trot out. I don't know if this is correct or if I have just been lucky with prior instances.

success in the pen said...

When you have a pattern that calls for a trot out, I usually give my final nod about 3 or 4 strides into the trot. If you were to do your final nod after your turn, before the trot out, you are signaling to the judge that you have completed the pattern; yet the pattern is not complete until you trot out.

As for the elements of the pattern that are important, spazfilly was correct when she said the straight line was going to be crucial. The straight line and nailing the transitions are crucial to this pattern. The second important aspect of this second pattern is coming out of the 270 degree turn. Most horses are capable of a good pivot. But where exhibitors mess up is stopping the pivot accurately with the horse's body straight so that when you go to back the horse's body is already in a straight line.

Who Knew? said...

This is so interesting!

Q: When you give your final nod (while trotting away) do you look over the horses body for where ever the judge may be or do you just nod your head incase the judge (or steward) happens to see it bobbing over the horses topline?
In the first scenario you're trotting away from the judge who may have walked between you and your horses body. Are you jogging on tip toes looking back and over your horses back at the judge?