Seven Steps to a Perfect Pattern July 29 2016

You had the best equitation class of your life. The transitions were smooth, your horse never broke or missed a lead, and you had perfect ring position the entire time. But before you can head to the winner’s circle, you have to nail the pattern. In any competitive equitation class, a clean pattern can make or break a rider. Leaving the lineup for a solo can be scary, but with a little preparation and some expert advice, it’ll be a breeze. So here are seven tips to help you nail your pattern every time!

Practice on the ground or with a school horse

If you’re lucky enough to get your pattern ahead of time, then take the opportunity to practice! Whether it’s on the ground with your trainer or with a lesson horse, practicing will help you memorize it and feel more comfortable. While warming up, practice a few of the elements with your show horse so that you can feel more confident before heading into the arena.

Visualize your pattern

If you have the pattern beforehand or not, visualize yourself doing the pattern as the announcer is reading it off. Mark out spots in the ring where you will make you transitions and use this time to reinforce the pattern into your memory.


Get your horse focused

After standing in the lineup for a few minutes, it’s easy for your horse to get distracted or think they’re done for the day. Take some time before your number is called to bridle them up and get them focused again. Trot in small circles while you’re on deck to soften up your horses mouth, get them bending and reengaged with you.

Calm down

This is important for both rider and horse. If you have a greener horse, talk to them and pet them before leaving the lineup. Some younger horses get nervous when they have to leave behind their friends in the lineup, so make sure to comfort them through the process.

Remember to relax and take deep breaths. And trust that you can do it!

Take your time

Many nervous or novice riders tend to rush through patterns, but the key to a successful pattern is patience. Before moving on to the next element of your pattern, pause and wait for all four hooves to be on the ground. This shows the judges that you completed one element and are moving onto the next. It also gives you and your horse time to prepare for the next section of the pattern.

Miss a lead of diagonal? No big deal!

Even the best equitation riders will screw up sometimes, but it’s how you recover that matters. Calmly correct yourself as soon as you realize you messed up. Most judges will give you credit for recognizing a mistake and fixing it. No matter what happens though, end your pattern with a smile to show good sportsmanship.

Finishing touches.

After nailing your pattern, halt after completing it (unless told other wise) and subtly look at the judges to let them know that you’re done. This finishing touch shows that you know exactly what you’re doing and have thought through your pattern from beginning to end. And don’t forget to smile, because this is all about having fun!

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be a pattern pro in no time!

About the Author:  Anne Thurber is founder of and People's Choice Morgan Reserve equitation ride of the decade, 2001-2011.