Five Steps to Perfect the Serpentine April 28 2015 1 Comment

How to perfect a UPHA serpentine horse show pattern

With show season getting into full swing, there are qualifying classes at every show until finals time. This means you had better get your stock patterns up to par if you want to secure a qualifying First or Second place…

..and then you can deal with the stress, the joy, the early mornings and long days, and demanding levels of athleticism that come along long day, and incredible level of athleticism that come along with equitation finals.

Let’s start with a classic, learned early in a rider’s training - the rinse repeat style pattern that is the UPHA Serpentine - better known as the workout at the end of a UPHA Challenge Cup class!

Step 1: Find Your Points

Nothing is worse than having bad geometry when performing a serpentine. It literally ruins the WHOLE THING and will make it crazy challenging (harharhar) to get your serpentine back on track, if it’s possible at all.

SO, whether you are a veteran or a first timer, FIND. YOUR. POINTS.

This includes your serpentine edges and your diagonal change points.  If you are a froshie/maiden/newbie/n00b/whatever….someone that hasn’t done this before or often, your trainer will likely walk the pattern in the arena with you, point out good spots to use and help you identify little triggers to give you the best chance at success.

However, if you are a vet/a been there done that/an experienced equitation star, your trainer may no longer walk this pattern with you (unlikely, but possible).  If that’s the case, you have GOT to take the time to walk around the arena (if it is open before or after the show) or around the stands to identify those points. Every arena is different and some arenas have confusing, trick center points (we all know that the outgate in the arena at Midwest Charity is not the center of the turn…. ruuuuude). Don’t let false centerlines throw your pattern off!

How to do a UPHA serpentine horse show pattern


Step 2: Two-Step Your Way to a Beautiful Shape

After each loop and diagonal change, take two steps straight before you allow your horse to curve into the next serpentine loop. Nothing is more awkward than a serpentine that is not deep enough…it looks more like a sad little ripple in a pond than it does a serpentine, yuck. Taking two steps straight after your change will allow for more definition in your loops and keep your serpentine from looking like a yuck little ripple.

Step 3: Don’t Tuck Your Tail

We have talked about this issue before and it is a SERIOUS mistake for this pattern. With a total of three diagonal changes in quick succession, not only will all of your changes look awful and be super obvious, but you will probably actually throw yourself out of your horse's rhythm and slow your horse down too!  Which brings us do our next point...

Step 4: March, March, March!

For the love of all that is holy PLEASE push your horse forward through this pattern!  That does not mean run your horse off their feet. It means ride their back legs by clucking them up to the bridle and keeping them from losing momentum. There’s nothing worse than hearing the audience cluck FOR you because your horse has slowed so much that, by the last loop of your serpentine, it looks like you’re both wading through a swamp together.

Step 5: Finish Strong

By now you’ve made it past the serpentine loops and the diagonal changes so all you have to do is LEAVE! Well, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Just like in your serpentine, you have to push your horse forward. Plodding through your final trot down the straightaway is a surefire way to bore the crap out of the judge, and probably yourself a little bit.  However, this is the perfect opportunity for the judge to scrutinize what is fundamentally a brief “solo” rail work so don’t stiffen up, repeat step four in your head, maintain the luxuriously beautiful and meticulously practiced leg position that we are certain you have had the whole time, and ooze with confidence!  The pattern isn’t over until it’s over!

So get out there and compete in a UPHA Challenge Cup Class and get qualified for a final! You’ll find that with practice, you will be up to the challenge.