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We Ask The Industry: What Are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Maneuvers in Pattern Classes? 

For amateur or youth exhibitors, one of the joys of showing pattern classes such as showmanship, equitation, and horsemanship is being asked to perform many different types of maneuvers from show-to-show.

In addition, there has been a move in recent years towards larger, more complex patterns with few cones, and it is not uncommon for judges to ask competitors to perform challenging actions such as straight lines, square corners, extended trots and lopes, hand gallops, counter-canters, two-tracking, and several more.

For many, being asked to complete these maneuvers is certainly one of the draws of amateur competition. It tests the versatility of an exhibitor to be prepared for pretty much anything. However, while extended trots might be a favorite maneuver for some, others probably dread to find it in their showmanship pattern.

Find out what several top amateurs had to say about their favorite and least favorite maneuvers to perform in pattern classes. 

Thomas Clopp – My favorite class is showmanship. The element I love the most may sound odd, but it’s doing extended trots and slowing down to a normal trot. I can really haul it, so the differentiation is really noticeable. My least favorite, is for certain, backing until your hip is in line with the judge and turning in line. I usually get pretty lucky, but it always makes me nervous.



Kelley Mundrick Martin – When it comes to my favorite and least favorite maneuvers to perform in pattern classes, in equitation, I do love a good canter to the off diagonal such as a right lead to the left diagonal.  I also enjoy an extended trot (or lope) to a slow or walk transition in the horsemanship. However, with having such young horses most of the time, I would say that lead changes are usually my least favorite. Since I often have young horses that are not finished changing leads, this can prove quite challenging. 



Eric Mendrysa – I like a pattern that challenges the horse and exhibitor to take risks and has the ability to show off the horse. I love large, fast circles to a collected walk that shows control and pushes the element of speed. My favorite patterns are the type that allows a heartbeat throughout the pattern and seem to have flow from the very beginning to end. I’m not a fan of starting patterns with a back. I also tend to dislike the flow of a horsemanship pattern if a side pass is added to the pattern. I like to offer challenges, but they should allow you to showcase your skills and horse’s talents.

Madeline Graves – I love the pattern classes because they allow you to really showcase your partnership with your horse. My least favorite maneuvers would have to be the extended trot circles in showmanship. I have short legs and mild asthma but have a horse that can really showcase her trot, so I’m huffing and puffing by the time we’re at the setup. My favorite maneuvers are out of the equitation. I really enjoy the technical difficulty of the counter-canter to the posting trot.  It requires rhythm and focus and timing to make it all look effortless. I also really enjoy patterns that challenge your control with square turns and diagonal lines.

Abigail BuckwalterThere isn’t much I dislike about showing showmanship, but when I think about my least favorite maneuver, square corners to the right come to mind. I have never been very good at this particular maneuver, as it’s a lot of trotting to have to speed up to get your horse to make the corner. My favorite maneuvers have to be really crisp transitions such as breakdowns from the trot to the walk. I love it because you really can feel your horse meltdown to the walk beside you.


Jessie Godin – With the topic of maneuvers in pattern classes, I think it’s completely dependent on what your horse is good at; in the equitation, for me, the only thing I find a bit more challenging was the sitting trot with a very rough horse.

However, in my opinion, there isn’t anything that is off limits. I want tough maneuvers such as changes of speed, hand gallops, two-pointing, leg-yielding, etc. In addition, I like the patterns that are more forward-flowing. This is what I prepare for because I want the challenge. Whenever I get to show again, I will be starting a new horse; however, I still want tough patterns. I think taking it one portion at a time is doable, even with a greener horse. 

For the western, I love the speed changes. I find those exciting and a welcomed test of you and the horse. However, one thing I find more challenging is a turn into a backup.

Patrick (Kip) Riley – I really enjoy the pattern classes. I love it all…even the maneuvers I personally find to be a challenge. Of course, different horses have different talents, and favorite maneuvers change with each horse. In showmanship, I’ve had the pleasure of owning some really great backers.

For instance, Solo Invested probably has one of the greatest showmanship backs in the industry. That was really fun. I have a pretty good run, so I really enjoy extending the trot and square corners. However, trotting square corners can be tough, and not every horse is suited to that maneuver. I definitely have a showmanship nemesis, and that is finding a blind-sighted hip spot. It’s not one of those maneuvers I’m naturally good at, so it always demands a lot of practice.

As for horsemanship, I have a newfound appreciation for the gallop or lope with speed. That particular move requires so much trust between you and your horse. When you develop that trust, it’s just such a cool look, and you can really make those speed differentiations. I’ve had some great spinners, so I really like that maneuver as well.

Meggen Morrow Baynes – My least favorite maneuver to perform in a pattern is a simple lead change. They aren’t pretty and, in my opinion, are very hard to make “plus-able.” Unfortunately, my current horse doesn’t have a flying change yet, so we have to work very hard to make a simple lead change pretty.

My favorite maneuver is the hand gallop in the equitation or the extended lope in the horsemanship. I like to perform this maneuver, as well as watch other people do it. There are so many pieces to perfect the maneuver…from building speed, maintaining speed, and slowing down. Whether my least favorite or most favorite maneuver, you have to PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Thad O’Boyle – I appreciate a pattern in which you can show off the maneuvers. Too often, patterns are being set up too small – the larger patterns give you room to show off hand gallops, lead changes, and extension; the type of moves that separate good from the great horseman.

The same goes for showmanship, where many times, we are trying to shove the pattern into too small of an area, making it very hard to let you and your partner perform a pretty execution. I am always looking to plus all maneuvers but would appreciate the chance to put myself out there in an extended move. 

Kristinna Jerik – My favorite maneuvers would be the extended lope and extended trots in patterns. I feel that this really gets to show how well you can control your horse. Not to mention, it’s fun for me as well.

I am not sure about my least favorite because I love everything about a pattern class, but if I had to pick, I think it’s performing spins because I get dizzy. But even then, they are so much fun to do.


Tonya Stenger – I enjoy patterns that require interpretation of spacing and speed transitions, like trot to extended trot or trot to walk. I love a pattern that flows from one maneuver to the next and includes a nice long trot line since my horse has a longer stride. Also, patterns that include trotting square corners, long backs, and big pivots as they provide an opportunity to showcase your confidence and earn additional points. 

My least favorite pattern to perform is small, choppy patterns with basic maneuvers. The lack of natural flow makes it hard to execute a smooth pattern, and when the patterns are limiting, it isn’t easy to earn additional points – especially in a large class full of great exhibitors.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite maneuvers when performing a pattern class? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: A native of Northwest Pennsylvania, Kelli Hardy has been a lover of horses and all things AQHA for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Edinboro University with a BA in English literature and a minor in writing. She is currently a high school English teacher at Erie First Christian Academy in Erie, PA. In her spare time, she shows with the American Quarter Horse Association in amateur all-around events with her mare, The Pretty Committee.