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Congress Judge Kelly Boles Chapman Breaks Down This Year’s Horsemanship Pattern


GoHorseShow would like to thank Congress Judge Kelly Boles Chapman for taking the time to break down the Congress Youth 12-14, 15-18, and Amateur Horsemanship pattern for us. A huge bonus is that Chapman is a judge at this year’s show. As an AQHA/APHA judge, she has had the privilege of judging World Shows and significant events all over the world.

We would also like to thank HorseShowPatterns.com for allowing us to post the pattern in the article. You may view the pattern that is displayed below or download it here. GoHorseShow chose this pattern because we thought it would be beneficial to breakdown one of the more challenging patterns as some of the less complicated patterns have many of the same maneuvers.

Horsemanship Pattern Breakdown as seen by Kelly Boles Chapman

The Western Horsemanship pattern (12-14, 15-18, Amateur, Amateur Select) at this year’s All American Quarter Horse Congress offers the exhibitors the opportunity to showcase the strengths and attributes of the rider’s partnership with their equine teammate.

Eight maneuvers are listed and include specific directions on how to exit the pattern. Four markers/cones will be placed in the arena, indicating a particular space where a portion of the maneuvers are to be executed.

Keep in mind that while all horses and riders display different strengths and perhaps slightly different styles, those that rise to the top of the class are those that show the strongest connection between the horse and rider. The top exhibitors in this class are the most correct in their body position, along with how they position their horse for each maneuver and those who exhibit the highest degree of difficulty…all while projecting a strong sense of confidence.

To that end, let’s break the pattern down:

Walk two horse lengths.

Be ready where indicated in the middle of the pattern, and look to the flagger to be waved on to start. Note where you are to begin about the cone placement. Walk straight ahead 6-8 steps, and show energy, focus, and pace in your approach.

Perform a 630 degree (I ¾) turn to the right.

Show confidence in your turn, stay connected to your horse, keeping him in the bridle, with a positive forward motion, and flow to the turn. This is one full turn and another ¾ turn…. Make sure you complete the maneuver, setting yourself up to trot straight ahead.

Extend the trot to the center of the pattern and stop.

The gate called for is an extended trot – so be sure you are in alignment with this pace. Your adrenaline will be high, so be cautious that your horse doesn’t interpret that as more and break into a lope. Be aware of your arc to the right and placement within the cones at the extended trot…right back to the center of the pattern.

Stop crisply

Demonstrate completion of the maneuver, and as you know, your horse—do you need to settle for a second or more before you go into your turn? The ability to read your horse at that very moment is an essential component of communication.

Perform a 360 degree turn to the left.

Again … show confidence in your turn, demonstrating connection while keeping your horse consistently in the bridle. Focus your momentum on forward motion through your turn. Complete this maneuver….an under or overturn will not set you up for accuracy for the next maneuver.

Lope a circle with speed.

Start your left lead circle with a plan of just what size circle you will complete. As the pattern states to lope with speed – make sure you have an increased pace. “With speed” is just that – not a gallop, but needs to be a definite increase in pace to earn credit in this maneuver.

Collect before changing leads, simple or flying.

As you head into the last quarter of your circle, collect your lope to a definite decrease in pace. The difference in speed must be noted to be credit-earning. Set your horse up for your lead change (simple or flying) at precisely the spot where you began this circle. A smooth change through a straight line will be credit-earning, particularly while maintaining a consistent pace and cadence.

Lope a square corner and continue to the marker.

You’ll be on the right lead as you approach the square corner. This maneuver provides the opportunity for you to demonstrate your precision in guiding your horse in a strong, straight, and accurate line into the square corner, and the line coming out of the corner. This is your chance to show your ability to guide your horse accurately with control of his shoulder and hip. Your pace should be consistent and show a forward flow. Note the location of the corner and the next line to the cones.

Stop and back – The pattern is complete — exit at a jog.

Stop squarely, and immediately go into your back, backing enough steps to demonstrate no resistance from your horse. While the pattern is complete at this point, make sure you exit at a jog, as that is precisely specified. Do not nod or look back; simply exit the arena at a jog.

Show confidence. Demonstrate energy. Stay connected to your horse through the entire pattern, engaging in your leg, your seat, and your hands. Show the judges that you have a definite plan of how to layout your pattern. Be correct…. These are the elements of a high score. Now is the time to show just how prepared you are.

Strategize and layout your path mentally in the arena in which you are going to show. Visualize where you will execute and complete each maneuver and just how much you will ask of your equine partner at each measure.

Finally, enjoy the ride. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in – and judge – at this event…take a moment to be thankful.

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