Breaking Down The Good Hands Figure-Eight May 05 2015 1 Comment

How to complete a Good Hands Figure-Eight pattern

Last week, we took an in-depth look at one of the Saddle Seat Equitation Triple Crown Finals’ qualifying class patterns. This week we’d like to highlight the qualifying class and Phase I pattern for the first jewel of the Triple Crown, The Good Hands Final. The thing that’s so wonderful about The Good Hands Final is that the qualifying class pattern (which is also the pattern for the first Phase of the finals) is surprisingly (and enjoyably) ambiguous.

There are specific instructions: Trot from the line-up (or into the ring, if it is during the finals themselves) on the correct diagonal to the center of a figure-eight. Canter a figure-eight. Trot to the judges stand, stop, and back three steps. Continue trotting to the line-up (or out of the ring).

What they don’t tell you is exactly HOW you have to accomplish those parts. It allows not only for the typical show of skill and athleticism, but also for some individuality! While this pattern is a less stringent one than you would expect from the average equitation class or finals, there are still only two options for how to complete the pattern.

Animation showing how to complete the figure-eight for the Good Hands final

This is the more fluid of the two options. There is less stopping, pivoting and “slow-moving parts” so if you have an equitation horse that is less finished or perhaps more on the game side, this is the best option for you!  In looking at the graphic, you can see that the only stopping is when you pivot onto the center of your figure-eight and when you stop to back your horse at the judges stand. SO!

  • Step 1: Trot down the rail on the correct diagonal marching the entire way through.  We can’t stress enough how important it is to push your horse up to the bridle at all times!  It is essential to maintain good carriage and a light feel in your hands. 
  • Step 2: At the halfway point of the rail, angle into the center of a figure-eight and continue to press your horse forward into your bridle all the way until you reach that point.  Nothing like a slow meander up to your center to really make your pattern appear weak and sheepish.
  • Step 3: Pivot onto the center of your figure-eight and begin by cantering a circle to the left.  Fun fact - any figure-eight, whether it is trotting or cantering, will always start to the left unless specified otherwise!  Turn your eyes and head toward your figure-eight center and allow your hips to direct your horse around the lovely, round, circle that you are no doubt creating.
  • Step 4: Canter your circle to the right and be SURE to keep it even.  If your circle to the left was larger than expected, your circle to the right must be equally as large, and (if you’re asking us) we choose to err on the side of  a larger circle, as making a circle equally as SMALL can be not only physically uncomfortable for you and your horse, but also visibly uncomfortable for the judges AND the audience.
  • Step 5: Trot, on the correct diagonal out to the rail and around the turn to the left till you are at about the halfway point (or near to the judges stand where-ever that is geographically located in the arena, usually about halfway) and stop.  Here is where you back three steps, a pattern request we have yet to discuss.  Often made mistakes: too much curb, dropping your hands, yanking too hard and too suddenly on your horse’s mouth.  When you ask your horse to back don’t change your body position or suddenly decide that your horse is 10X stronger in the bridle than they’ve ever been before.  In fact, just don’t over think it.  Ask your horse to back as gently as you would in the line-up of a pleasure class.
  • Step 6:  Finish strong and return to the line-up/exit the ring, once again, on the correct diagonal!
Second option for completing the good hands figure eight pattern

This option is for the rider that prefers a “cleaner” appearance to their pattern, has a more finished eq horse, or just really likes to pivot. This also means that you have to have the accuracy of hawk diving for its dinner because if any of your stops/points are off, you will skew your entire pattern.  SO!

  • Step 1: This is the same as Option 1
  • Step 2: Instead of angling into the center of a figure-eight here, continue into the center of the turn where you will stop, pivot 90 degrees to the left (toward the center of the arena) and begin walking into the center of your figure-eight and stop.
  • Step 3: Just like the Option 1, begin by cantering a circle to the left, only this time, your figure-eight is facing into the arena instead of facing out toward the stands.  The equal circle tips still apply!
  • Step 4: This is the same as Option 1 - especially that whole VISUALLY painful thing if your circles are TOO small!
  • Step 5: Your exit/finish here is a little more direct than in Option 1. Pivot onto a diagonal line toward about the halfway point of the rail and pick up your trot on the correct diagonal. You can either stop AT the halfway point for your back or literally at the judges stand.  There is some debate about this that is mainly solved by where the judges themselves decide to stand.  Either way, keep a clean transition by maintaining your horse’s carriage and keeping your weight low because you’re about to do that transition about 10X closer to the judges than usual.  Back your three steps utilizing the tips previously mentioned!
  • Step 6: This is the same in EVERY pattern, finish strong and trot on the correct diagonal back to the line-up/out of the ring.

So while this pattern has more options, it requires all the tips previously discussed to keep from making simple mistakes during the pattern. Now head out there and get yourself qualified for this year’s Good Hands Finals!

Which option do you prefer?  Tell us in the comments down below!