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Should Exhibitors Be Allowed to Show Multiple Horses in Pattern Classes?

GoHorseShow asked several exhibitors and trainers whether they believe amateurs and youth should be able to show more than one horse in individual pattern classes such as showmanship, equitation, and horsemanship. Recently, it has been a hot topic debated on social media and some have discussed submitting the rule change to AQHA.

In the argument for the change, some exhibitors use the increase in popularity of both trail and western riding in support of showing more horses in the pattern classes. Also, in classes like showmanship, exhibitors no longer stay in the arena to lineup, leading to the opinion of some competitors that they should be able to show more than one horse in this class.

However, others believe this change could lead to top exhibitors monopolizing these classes as well as judges focusing more on the horse’s ability than the exhibitor’s talent as a showman, thus losing the integrity and point to these classes in the first place.

We had a wide variety of opinions both for and against this idea, and we would like to know your opinion. Please vote in our poll at the bottom of the article and post your comments on our Facebook page or comments section.

Let’s find out what everyone else had to say!

bradjewett1Brad Jewett – I believe it would be a bad idea. I don’t think the pattern classes have a degree of difficulty of classes like the trail and western riding. In trail, the pole can be an equalizer very much like a cow in the cutting. Also, I think it would cut down the class sizes drastically by giving fewer people a chance to get points. It becomes more monopolizing by a handful of exhibitors and feeds the greed in our industry. I think it would allow those with more money and resources to push out the exhibitor that can do it but doesn’t have the means to do it over the top.

Lisa MazurkaLisa Mazurka – I am so glad this is being discussed. I feel that because showmanship is an individual class (like trail) and you go in alone with your horse, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to show more than one horse. I do feel that horsemanship is different though because how would you handle rail work if you were called back with both horses? Trail is one of the largest growing classes, and I think one of the reasons why is the fact that exhibitors can show all of their horses. Perhaps if we do the same for showmanship, this will only increase the numbers in this class also.


kelly birkenholtzKelly Birkenholtz – I do believe that we should be allowed to show multiple horses in the showmanship classes just like in trail and western riding. I have thought this since they discontinued having the exhibitors stay in the arena after the pattern had been executed quite a few years ago. I understand that the class is judged mainly on the exhibitor, but it also requires harmony between the horse and exhibitor, so the horses performance does effect the score. If we were allowed to show more than one horse, this would first off increase class sizes, which seems to be a main concern for AQHA the past few years. Secondly, it would allow people to be able to show their automatic showmanship machine but also start a green horse. As far as equitation and horsemanship, I could go either way on that. After showing APHA for a couple years, I love how the rail work is optional in these classes.

Jennifer ThompsonJennifer Thompson – Here is why I think there should be one horse/one rider in the showmanship, horsemanship, and equitation. I believe that the horse versus the rider are judged individually in each class. Trail, pleasure, western riding, etc., are judged solely on the horse. Equitation, horsemanship, and showmanship are based solely on the handler/rider. In the classes where the horses are judged, they are only allowed to be judged once in each class. The same should hold true for the handler. Currently, it’s based upon you, the rider. You get one run, and one try only. Perhaps otherwise, why don’t we just do reruns? There is another horse show on another weekend. As riders, we always pick our best livestock we have for a particular class anyway. Why make the win so important that we need to do it again. There are so many talented riders out there that have such a competitive edge, and want and need to do everything correctly every time. Every once in a while, it’s nice for someone who maybe doesn’t have as much talent, to sneak in there and win. I think we would ruin the “sport” of it if we let everyone go twice. As a judge, I don’t want to see the same person be first and second, which could happen. I believe we will start losing people in this industry if this is the case.

wm-8.mailanyone.netJakob Kelly Lee – As an exhibitor who is lucky enough to own two world champion showmanship horses who is now also starting a two year old in showmanship, I think would be a great idea for exhibitors such as myself to have the opportunity to show two horses in showmanship. Maybe AQHA can tailor their rules for exhibitors to show two horses; each horse would have to fall within a specific number of points. I know I can’t just walk in an amateur showmanship class and be competitive with my two year old, however this would give me the opportunity to show one of my finished horses to be competitive, while at the same time, have an opportunity to get my inexperienced young horse in the arena.

elizabethborderscombs_worldshow_reaction_smile_journalEB Combs – Everyone I talked to was in favor of more than one horse in showmanship. Simple as that, why not? Ultimately, because of the rail work element, none of us favored the option to show more than one horse in horsemanship or equitation. Kelly McDowall (my trainer) had specific insight on rail work – aside from his emphasis on tradition, he considers the rail as a way for judges to re-familiarize themselves with the competitors who might have been earlier in the draw that held similar scores to someone later in the draw. This is especially helpful at larger shows with a vast number in each class. He sees it as a valuable opportunity to determine final thoughts before making his placings. I value tradition, but if it isn’t useful, I’m tempted to forego it. But after hearing Kelly’s input from a judge’s perspective, I see an added purpose of rail work. I want the judges to have every opportunity to make as confident a decision as possible, and if that involves rail work and only one horse, I would hands down choose just that. Not to mention – I would hate for order of draw to determine the favor of the judges.

christa baldwinChrista Baldwin – I am not in favor of opening the pattern classes up to more than one horse per exhibitor. The showmanship is a style of showing that garners many points on how good the person exhibits the pattern and how well they have become a team. The confident showman with the grace and elegance as well as performing a great pattern could very well dominate many placings in just one class. In the horsemanship and equitation, I do not want to see us do away with the rail work, as it many times works as a tie breaker in steep classes. On the rail, judges can ask for more evaluation such as dropping stirrups, hand gallop, etc that maybe weren’t included in the original pattern. The rail works keeps from scaring off competitors and not having to ask for the kitchen sink to be included in all patterns.

wm-5.mailanyone.netBecky Peskin – I do not think that amateurs and youth should be able to show more than one horse in any pattern class. I believe that those classes are truly meant to be judged as a horse and rider combination. For the showmanship – perhaps it’s a little more of just a traditional thing for me. As a kid who grew up with home-trained horses, this was the one class where my sweat could pay off – even if it was with my $1200 horse because you don’t have to have the greatest mover, etc – you just have to be “at one” with your horse. I think there is something pure and beautiful about keeping it that way. In many other pattern classes, you can already show multiple horses, so let’s keep these more traditional and true to the horse/rider combination spirit they were created with. I just think that in these days we need to do all we can to not discourage the “middle class” to keep coming. In fact, I feel like we’ve seen that in a few classes – like the western riding. There are realistically only a handful of horses that are always going to be at the top of that class and now with less limitation on the number of horses/rider, I feel like we’ve lost other entrants.

meg depalmaMeg DePalma-Whelan – I think that allowing an exhibitor to show more than one horse in showmanship would be fun. If you are a great “showman” like many are; and have more than one that can contend, show them. Like we do in trail. Now, horsemanship and equitation because of the rail work, would be difficult. I’m not sure we could pull that off.


silver dollar 2015 larisa and CourtneyLarisa Affeldt – Honestly, for the showmanship, I can see how that would and could make sense – especially if someone has a seasoned showmanship horse and is also trying to teach a new project horse. It would be nice not to have to choose which horse to show since there isn’t a green showmanship. You could also say those same things about the horsemanship and equitation, but those two classes have one big difference – the rail work. I believe that the rail does and should be counted in the overall placing of a class, especially at the AQHA World Show. To allow the same person to show more than one horse in those two classes would be changing the fundamental way the class has always been judged. The rail work is a piece of the class that I personally believe is still a valid part of placing and judging the class.

wm-2.mailanyone.netChris Gray – Showmanship is a one and done pattern, just like the trail where exhibitors are welcome to show multiple horses. Unlike the horsemanship and equitation, there is no additional rail work required. I feel like the idea has a very valid position for proposal. All scored events with a 100%, one run, no rail work format, allow for exhibitors to show more than one horse – reining, ranch horse, western riding, barrels, poles, trail, fence classes. I would say I support the idea!

wm-1.mailanyone.netKaleena Katz Weakly – I like it for the showmanship. I was looking at it from the standpoint of having say two horses; one a pretty broke showmanship horse and the other being more unseasoned. The broke horse could very well be your all around horse. Then, you have your unseasoned horse who is only going to get broke and competitive and finished by showing it. I know showing is expensive and not everyone has two showmanship horses, but from someone’s standpoint who may have two, it would also be very expensive for them to have to take the green horse to a whole other set of shows to get it broke/finished/even qualified. It would be much more effective to take them to the same shows and get the experience with both – especially if you are paying for the help of a trainer. Also, when that green horse gets more finished, it would also be nice to see how the judges compare the two against each other.

lynneLynne Puthoff – I say no. I feel that yes, those people who can afford to have that next horse in the wings are going to be all for it. I feel that this would be very unfair to those that are really the back bone of the industry – the every day hard working, budgeting so they can show families. Those classes need to be kept one horse/one rider. I feel we have very much so gotten away from taking care of those people, most of them feel they can never compete on their dream level. I think this would be a set back.

wm-3.mailanyone.netRebecca Tiller Bunting – Let me preface that I took 27 years off from riding and showing. The evolution of each class is staggering – and I was surprised to find out that an exhibitor could show more than one horse in a class (trail and western riding). In my opinion, the opportunity to show more than one horse in a class should be determined by a “rail work” component that is inherent in the class. Historically, rail work was a scored component in the Trail class – that does not happen today. As a result, an exhibitor has the opportunity to show multiple horses in trail. Along the same lines, showmanship historically had a rail work component – we walked our horses in and stood in a line up waiting to do a pattern out of the line. The showmanship walk in was a scored component of the class. Obviously, an exhibitor could only show one horse. Just like trail, the showmanship class has evolved from a class having a rail work component to a pattern only class. As such, I believe that an exhibitor should have the opportunity to show multiple horses – just as in trail and western riding. This gives the exhibitor, especially the non-novice exhibitor, the opportunity to develop younger horses in showmanship. The indirect benefit of this change would be increased numbers in showmanship as well. Lastly, any class having a “rail work” component such as horsemanship and equitation should be limited to one horse class – obviously, you cannot ride two horses on the rail work portion.

wm-4.mailanyone.netMerry Sharp – I was told that the reason we are only allowed one horse in showmanship is because there are times when we are lined up at the end and the judge walks through presumably to break a tiebreaker. This no longer seems to be practiced. I definitely do think it would be great to be able to show more than one horse in a showmanship class. As far as horsemanship and equitation, the rail portion of that class is important thus making multiple horses entered impossible, similar to the restrictions in a hunter hack class. At times, I have had more than one horse that can do showmanship, and I would like to be able to participate with both of them. I’m definitely jealous when I see people in the western riding and trail with multiple goes. Personally, since I am still a novice and the only true test of my skill is in the show pen, the more goes I can do, the better I will get.

wm-7.mailanyone.netMelissa Shetler – This is an interesting topic. While I can see the exhibitors desire to show multiple horses in events like showmanship, horsemanship, and equitation; I feel that it takes away from the original intent of those classes. Unlike trail and western riding, those classes are based on the rider and their ability to show their skills in pattern classes. These events are based on the correctness of the rider regardless of the horse they are using. A rider should be able to exhibit their skills on any well trained horse. Another negative aspect of the idea is the time constraints. Many AQHA shows already run late into the night and allowing exhibitors to enter multiple horses in these classes would only add time on to an already tight schedule.


wm.mailanyone.netDawn Haas Myers – I would love to be able to show more than one horse in the showmanship, horsemanship, and equitation. I understand that those classes are intended to be judged on the rider (which has prevented multiple horses/rides). It would provide more entries in those classes. It would give riders a couple of chances to compete in some of their favorite classes. It would eliminate rail work in both horsemanship and equitation, which I think is a great thing. “Rail Work” is incredibly outdated…in the 30 plus years I’ve been showing, it has remained virtually unchanged. It provides very little help to the judges, with the exception of breaking ties. (this is what judges have told me) If showing multiple horses is not approved, I would at least love to see rail work eliminated!

wm-6.mailanyone.netBrittany Morgan – I think we should be able to show two horses in the showmanship. We never work off the rail in that class anymore, so I think of it more along the lines of the trail and western riding. Horsemanship and equitation should be kept to one horse because we have the rail work and in order to show more than one horse, they would have to take that away. I do feel the rail work is a big part of those classes. For people who are concerned that it would put one exhibitor at an advantage because they have more than one chance to show, we have been showing up to three horses in the trail and western riding for years now, and it has gone very smoothly.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Please leave comments and vote in our poll. Remember the deadline for any AQHA rule changes is December 31st.

Should Exhibitors Be Allowed to Show Multiple Horses in Pattern Classes?

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