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Last-Minute Tips: Showmanship – with Clint Ainsworth & Jenell Pogue

Many non-pros joke that they put a lot of work into preparing for their classes, and it all goes out the window the moment they step foot in the show pen. Preparation is one thing, but actually showing is a whole different beast.

We spoke with top trainers to get their advice on “last-minute” tips they give their clients before entering the show arena. In our first article, we learned some last-minute pointers before heading into the Pleasure pen with RJ King and Blair Townsend. In today’s installment, we are focusing on Showmanship with two of the best trainers in the industry, multiple World Champions Clint Ainsworth and Jenell Pogue.

Know the Pattern

Our experts agree that knowing the pattern is step one of getting through any showmanship class. 

Pogue says, “Everyone comes to the arena, particularly at top-level shows, prepared and knowing the pattern.” Therefore, her last-minute advice to her clients is never about the entire pattern, but a piece of it.

Pogue says she will always remind her clients about an element in the pattern if it is something unusual or unexpected. For example, if there is a strange trot sequence or the set-up is a-typical, she will make sure her client has that in mind right before entering the ring. 

If in your analysis of the pattern, you find a piece that you struggle to remember or that feels unnatural or out-of-the-ordinary, Pogue advises that you focus on that element of the pattern and how you intend to execute it before entering the arena.

Ainsworth has his clients repeat the basics of the pattern (i.e., stop at A, trot to B, set up at steward) to clear their minds right before they go into the arena. He wants his exhibitors to make sure they aren’t thinking too much at once because a busy mind often makes for a botched pattern.

Know Yourself and Your Horse

Part of last-minute preparations for a class should involve a reminder specific to the individual horse/exhibitor team.

If you have a green horse, focus on taking your time and being correct. Establishing good ring habits with your horse is critical to laying the foundation for future success. If you have a more experienced horse, focus on leading the horse, don’t let the horse lead you. Remember to watch out for your horse’s habits that may interfere with a clean pattern.

In the same way that it is important to know your horse’s tendencies in the ring, it is equally important to remember your own issues. For example, if you’re prone to certain sour faces, dropping/elevating your arms, staring at your horse, etc., it is important to remind yourself of those issues so that you can focus on avoiding them in your class. 

Keep Showing

If one thing is promised in the show world, it is that “stuff” happens. 

Horses, even high-level show horses, are not machines. They are animals with their own thoughts, plans, and expectations. 

Both of our experts always remind their clients to keep showing. Things will inevitably happen, but what we notice and what judges notice are two different things. If you don’t nail a maneuver or miss a cue and respond by giving up, then it’s over. 

Ainsworth has a saying, “Sometimes the train goes off the tracks, and you have to take a breath, and just steer back to the track.” 

The key is to look like you know what you’re doing and show it from entering the ring until you exit. Don’t allow a bad moment to become a bad entire pattern.

Set the Right Tone

While ring presentation is important in every class, it is especially essential in Showmanship.

Pogue says it is critical to lay down a “polished and precise” pattern. She says she likes to see her clients march up to the cone with purpose and know where they’re going. Set your horse up for clean, straight lines of travel and strong finishes. 

Ainsworth reminds his clients to “Stay in the moment, don’t get ahead of yourself, and take the time to give each maneuver its full respect.” 

Regardless of experience level, it is important to exude confidence. Some ways to exude confidence include: avoiding fidgeting at the cone at the start of the pattern, being ready to go when the ring steward tells you, not staring at your horse, and making sure your pattern is committed to memory.

Have Fun

Both our experts always remind their clients to have fun. So, enjoy your horse and pattern and focus on doing your individual best. 

Ainsworth believes that the right mentality is crucial to having a strong go. He wants his clients to “keep it simple in their heads” and avoid overthinking the pattern. 

“The brain can only hold three thoughts at once,” Ainsworth laughs. So he advises exhibitors to think about (1) the elements of the pattern, (2) finishing each element, and (3) having a great time. 

As long as you’ve done your part to prepare, all you can do in the ring is have fun. If you enter the arena with the mindset that you are there to do your best and enjoy your horse, the chances are high you will do just that.


CLICK HERE to read the first article in this series, ‘Last-Minute Tips: Western Pleasure – with RJ King & Blair Townsend’ and stay tuned for more classes coming soon.

About the Author: Megan Rechberg has been riding horses on and off since she was in sixth grade. She works as a full-time mom to son Jackson and daughter Sterling, part-time litigation attorney, and social media manager for up-and-coming APHA stallions.