Set yourself up for the win at your next horse show with these top tips for memorizing patterns. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

Making it Stick: Eight Ways to Memorize Patterns

Everyone has a learning style that works for them; some people are visual, some auditory and others might be kinesthetic.

While knowing your learning style would be helpful in cases like memorizing a pattern, the key takeaway is that there is more than one way to reach that goal.

Here are eight suggestions for memorizing those tough to learn patterns.

Say it out loud

As obscure as this might sound, saying the pattern out loud can be a great way to get a pattern in your head. “Much like studying, sometimes it’s easier when you hear the words spoken aloud rather than reading it,” says AQHA Professional Horseman Whitney Lagace of Whitney Ridge LLC located in Connecticut.

With her multiple World Show titles and Congress record-breaking scores, she would know, because “sometimes just seeing it on paper isn’t enough.”

Take a walk

The good ol’ tried and true method of learning a pattern is by walking it. “When I walk the pattern, I like to go over a plan as if I was showing with my horse. As I walk, I think about where I can push my horse and where I may have to help him out a bit. I look for marks in the pen to aim for, so that I can create the best path possible,” says Canadian Hannah Buijs, a current NCEA Rider for Fresno State, who has placed well at major shows including the AQHYA World Championship Show.

Buijs adds, “Even when you can’t walk the pattern in the show pen, setting up cones in the barn aisle is just as sufficient, and solidifies the pattern in your mind. Walking is a great way to deepen your memory of the pattern, and also develop a plan to ensure you and your horse will have the best pattern possible.”

Break it into sections

What happens when you’re in the middle of the pattern, and you go blank for a split second? Do you have time to recite the pattern starting at the first obstacle before you go off pattern?

This is the reasoning behind this next tip from top Canadian trainer and AQHA Professional Horseman, Kathryn Stanton, of Stanton Show Horses in Orillia, Canada. “Being able to pick up a pattern from any point on pattern is crucial to success in the show ring. When you finish your fan, and you can’t remember if you go left or right, you need to be able to think quick.”

Being able to recite the pattern beginning at any obstacle will only better your chances at success. So practicing this when learning the pattern is essential. Run through the pattern in your mind until you feel confident in where you’re going.

Word association and rhymes

Word association, rhymes and alliterations are all your friends when trying to remember patterns. “Whether it’s ‘left after the log’ or ‘keep right a smidge after the bridge,’ these can all be tools to use when trying to remember your path. “Maybe there is a red pole in the pattern, and there is a halt right after it, you can associate the red with stopping, just like a traffic light, the possibilities are endless,” says Lagace.

What’s next?

“One of the best habits to get into is always to be thinking ahead. Don’t get caught up thinking about how you could’ve improved something or how something didn’t go according to plan. These are things to do outside the ring,” says top amateur rider Sarah Black, of Orangeville, Canada, who has received multiple top ten finishes at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

By asking yourself ‘what’s next?’ when finishing an obstacle, you are building a habit of always looking ahead and planning your next step.

Use colors

For colors, this can work in two ways. First, you can remember your path by the color of the poles, jog red pole, lope green, halt after blue.

The second way you can use color is by using markers and drawing the lines you will ride on your printed pattern. So green could be the walk, yellow – jog, and orange – extended jog, this would help you visualize where you ride the pattern and at what gait. “Keep consistent with your colors throughout the year to avoid any confusion,” adds Sarah Black.

Get artistic

Another great way of getting the course to stick in your mind, especially if you like visuals, is to draw the pattern. All you need for this is a pen and paper. “By drawing out your path and where the poles or cones will be, you’ll quickly be able to remember how the pattern is designed and flows,” says Whitney Lagace.

Give yourself time

One of the most critical pieces of advice is to give yourself the time needed to memorize a pattern. “Keep an eye on when the patterns get posted for each show and get your copy as early as possible,” says Kathryn Stanton.

By getting the pattern early and giving yourself time to memorize the pattern, you are setting yourself up for success.


About the Author: Jason Kerkhof is a Canadian born Marketing and Communications professional that has been involved with the equestrian community for 20+ years. He started riding hunter/jumpers when he was six up until recently when he made the switch over to performance horses, with the main focus being on the pattern classes. He currently resides in Orillia, Canada with his fiancé and their five animals.

 

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