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2015 Congress Judges Lynn & Chapman Break Down Congress Horsemanship Pattern

The patterns are out for the 2015 Congress and once again, GoHorseShow went straight to the judges for their opinions on how to break down the details of this year’s patterns. This perspective should give you an inside look to what can be expected from each pattern.  Find out what these judges will be looking for when they look up to start the next rider in Horsemanship, Showmanship and Equitation at this year’s show.

Both Stephanie Lynn and Kelly Boles Chapman are judging the 2015 Congress, however, please note that judges do not know ahead of time what classes they will be judging. However, we thought you would find it beneficial to hear from the professionals who have trained, coached and judged world-class events in the past.

Kelly Boles Chapman is from Bellevue, Michigan, and is an approved judge for the AQHA, APHA, ApHC, PHBA, NSBA, and WCHA. She has officiated world shows for each of these breeds, and other major events around the world. Her students have won at such prestigious events as the All-American Quarter Horse Congress and the APHA World Show. Below is her take on the 12-14, 15-18 Amateur and Amateur Select Horsemanship with additional comments from multi-carded judge and GoHorseShow contributor, Stephanie Lynn.

We would like to thank for allowing us to post the pattern in this article as well as provide a link to the pattern. You may view the pattern that is posted below or click here to download. GoHorseShow chose the pattern for the Youth Horsemanship 12-14, 15-18, Amateur and Amateur Select as they share the same pattern and we often find the other classes share similar maneuvers. You can click on the picture of the pattern to enlarge.

Kelly commented that, “This is an excellent pattern with several components that gives the rider the chance to really demonstrate their connection with their horse. This pattern only has one cone, which allows the rider to make a plan for the path that best shows the strengths of their horse. I’m looking for the rider who makes the most out of their horse’s strengths, and also knows their horse well enough to anticipate and prevent elements that may be a little more challenging for their horse’s level of ability. Ultimately, I want to reward the rider who shows the most “feel,” getting the most out of the horse they have.”

Both judges have given advice where Stephanie Lynn’s comments will be marked (SL) while Kelly Boles Chapman’s will be marked as (KBC).

Youth 12-14Be ready at A, with the cone on your left.
(SL) The Congress has excellent ring staff who will tell you exactly when you are to move ahead to the cone. Make sure you have good contact with your horse, with no drape in your reins. If you have to pick your hand up more than a couple inches when asking your horse to do something, then you need to shorten your reins. If the bottom of your boot doesn’t have contact with your stirrup, or you find your toes lower than your heels when in the stirrup, then you need to shorten your stirrups.

1. When the ring steward motions for you to begin, walk one horse length, or 4 strides.
(KBC) This is your chance to set the tone for proper cadence and impulsion, which means don’t “creep walk” forward – walk with purpose.

2. After four strides, stop and complete a 360 degree turn to the right.
(KBC) For a credit earning turn, I’m looking for a smooth maneuver that keeps the horse in alignment, ie, not turning their head first, then the shoulder, etc. Make sure you complete your 360 – riders often stop a couple steps short for a 350, or overturn for a 370 – either error makes for a challenging set up for the next maneuver.

(SL) I find that riders often try too hard to make an impression with fast turns. Never lose sight of the importance of being correct. An extremely fast turn that ends poorly or leaves the horse in an unbalanced position loses points. Riders must first be correct before they can hope to earn extra points for added degree of difficulty during any portion of the pattern.

Stephanie gives credit to riders who are able to move from a stop through the turn and into the next maneuver, the right lead, quickly and smoothly while maintaining correct positioning and without any resistance from the horse. “It should look easy and the rider who makes it look that way succeeds in earning the highest marks,” Stephanie added.

3. Lope on the right lead around the corner and to the center.
(KBC) Make sure you have a plan for how far you are going to lope in a straight line before you turn the corner – what you do here sets the stage for the second half of the pattern. If you don’t lope far enough ahead, you may not have the distance to allow for the jog/extended jog maneuver. If you lope too far, you risk losing the symmetry of the pattern. For this maneuver to be credit earning for me, you must be loping with correct cadence – if you are too slow, the flow of the pattern is very disruptive. Make your corner square and crisp, keeping your horse’s right shoulder from dropping, and their hip from veering to the outside.

(SL) The rider is responsible for the horse’s pace or cadence. Regardless of the type of horse a rider has, making sure that the horse is carrying a good three-beat gait is the rider’s job. Judges expect riders to do this while keeping their leg underneath their hip staying in the center of the saddle. Exaggerating the slowness here so that you can show an increase will not earn credit from me. I expect the horse to be loping with rhythm.

4. Continue to lope a circle with speed to the right.
(KBC) You’ll note that the circles are even in size and circumference – and note these are circles, not ovals. Have a plan on the size of circle you are going to ride. You must display a change in pace – and maintain your body position, not excessively chasing your horse forward with your hand.

(SL) I want to see the rider challenge the horse to go forward,” Stephanie indicated. “It will not be credit earning to barely increase the horse’s pace or to go from a non-rhythmic pace to a truly cadenced lope. The pattern is testing the rider’s connection with the horse and their ability to rate is a key element of this test. Those riders who are capable of changing and controlling their horse’s pace will earn the greatest credit providing they maintain proper positioning throughout the maneuver.

5. Perform a lead change (simple or flying) then collect lope for half of a circle.
(KBC) This element presents a high degree of difficulty, and is your chance to really show your skill as a rider. Coming from the circle with speed, execute your lead change in the center of the circles, then immediately collect for half of the circle to the left. To earn credit in this maneuver, your lead change needs to be accurate, not out of control, and the collected lope needs to not only show a change of pace, but also be of proper cadence and rhythm.

(SL) This is a tough part of the pattern and riders who can gather their horse through the lead change will earn the most credit. The collection should be the result of the rider’s aids coming together rather than one aid dominating over another. We often see a rider turn their toes out or down to collect or exaggerate an aid – any loss of position is a fault for me. This goes for a hand that gets too high because the reins are too long or toes that turn down when the rider uses their leg – usually the result of stirrups that are too long.

6. Increase speed for half of a circle.
(KBC) Again, execution of the maneuver at the exact point is your chance to show the level of communication you have with your horse. You must show an increase in speed.

(SL) Riders will have only a short distance to show off their ability to increase the horse’s pace before the next maneuver. Keeping this smooth yet showing a true increase will be difficult and credit earning. A rider who increases their pace quickly then maintains it for ½ of a circle will earn the most credit. Riders who use the entire half of the circle to increase their horse’s pace will not earn the same credit.

7. At the completion of the circle, transition immediately into the extended jog.
(KBC) How far you go before you stop should be dictated by the beginning of this line, or how far you loped immediately after the right turn and prior to beginning the right circle. Make sure that your extended jog is a definite lengthening of stride and pace from the jog. This transition, like all, should be smooth, with the horse in the bridle and maintaining a consistent topline.

(SL) Excessive head movement or pumping with your seat and upper body is offensive and unnecessary. This is also an area that we often hear how hard the exhibitor is working for the trot. Use caution with all of your aids and remember – too much is too much. You want to impress the judges with how easy riding and guiding your horse is. Any excessive aids reflect negatively on your ride.

8. Stop and perform a 270 degree turn to the left.
(KBC) The stop should be crisp, and the 270 degree turn should be accurate – aligning you for the next line in your pattern. A slight over or under turn puts you out of sync for the next maneuver.

(SL) I would add a caution here with your stop. You will most likely be extending the trot and stopping directly in front of the judge’s panel. Toes that are turned straight out and turn down during the stop will be very evident here. Remember that any loss of correct position is a fault – maintaining proper positioning throughout your pattern is first and foremost.

(SL) Don’t forfeit correctness for an attempt at speed or handiness. Degree of difficulty comes into play only if the maneuver is first correct. The stop should be correct – on the horse’s hindquarters, without resistance and to earn credit – with little visible aids from the rider. The turn should flow easily from the stop at the pace that shows the horse to his or her best ability and responsiveness.

9. Jog halfway then extend the jog.
(KBC) Make sure your path is a straight line, and accuracy is important: extend your jog halfway to where you plan to stop. You must demonstrate a change in pace of your jog, and do so by maintaining a strong seat, core, leg, and upper body.

(SL) To avoid excessive use of aids while showing your extended jog. This will not be a very long line – maintain control and stay on your plan. Ride all the way to your stop and show us you are having fun out there. Keep your expression pleasant.

10. Stop and back one horse length.
(KBC) Pattern is complete, exit at a jog. Stop when you are aligned with Cone A, so that your pattern is symmetrical. Back four steps without hesitation, demonstrating a collected, straight back up, then exit the pattern area at jog. While your pattern is complete, remember to still maintain your correct position and composure – this isn’t the time to school on your horse with a few bumps to his mouth, or relax your posture.

(SL) Your pattern will not be complete until the judges see you jog away. Failure to exit at the jog will result in a disqualification. Keep riding and showing until the very end. As for the back, I do not like to see riders run their horses backwards. For me it is not credit earning, especially here – this pattern asks riders to back just one horse length. Keep it simple and clean. A good back is one where the horse marches backwards without resistance from the rider’s collective aids.

(KBC) Once you exit the arena, relax, pet your horse, and wait for the callbacks. Most of all, be thankful for those that have given you the opportunity to be able to compete at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, and enjoy the ride!


About Stephanie Lynn: Professional Horseman Stephanie
 Lynn coached her first AQHA World Champion in 1988. She has since 
coached, trained and shown World, Congress and Honor Roll horses across
 disciplines. She is a judge for AQHA, NSBA and APHA and has judged World
 Championship shows for each association. Most recently, Stephanie is
 the author of The Good Rider Series and A Lifetime Affair:
 Lessons Learned Living My Passion. The Good Rider Series is a library of
resource material that is both practical and applicable in the barn and 
show ring for riders. Stephanie can always be reached through her