3 Pieces of Advice on Preparing for World Show Patterns

3 Pieces of Advice on Preparing for World Show Patterns

Take advice from top AQHA Professional Horsemen as they share ways to prepare for World Show patterns.

11 tips for pattern preparation. Journal photo

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By Abigail Boatwright for The American Quarter Horse Journal

If you’re going to be competing in a pattern class, you know that you’ll need some serious preparation.

Patterns are generally posted well in advance, but laying down a winning run is not as simple as practicing the same pattern over and over before you show.

We’ve gathered advice from AQHA Professional Horsemen to help you develop rituals that can dispel your preshow anxiety and get your horse ready for his best performance.

Today, we’re sharing the last three tips.

This article originally appeared in the July 2019 edition of The American Quarter Horse Journal. 

9. Mentally lay the pattern.

Before you show, take some time to sit in the stands and look over the arena. Plot out where the pattern will go, says AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Gretchen Mathes.

“Have points and locations set in your mind so you can concentrate on riding, guiding and equitating,” Gretchen says. “This can include points on the wall, your relationship to the center of the arena, the number of strides to the next change in the pattern. There is so much going on when you are showing a horse – getting your pattern layout, those destinations very comfortable in your mind can help.”

Gretchen stresses that this work does not have to be done over and over again on horseback – it can be done on foot, and in your mind.

“Sometimes, we over-practice the pattern on the horse, and we end up leaving the great ride in the practice,” Gretchen says.

AQHA Professional Horseman Robin Frid’s riders walk the pattern on foot, then go to a different arena and hash them out. This includes talking through the pattern until they have it completely planned in their minds.

“We will work out where the lines are in relation to markers, but never truly show the horse the pattern,” Robin says. “I prefer the horse’s first time to do the show pattern at the show to be in the show pen, but we will do certain elements beforehand. I feel if you practice the pattern too much beforehand, you’ll lose some of the spontaneity that brings out a lot of brilliance in your horse.”


10. Don’t lose your head.

When the pressure’s on, it’s natural to get anxious. But your horse feels this change, and may react. That’s why AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lainie DeBoer advises riders to keep their mood and mindset the same at the show as it is at home.

“Whoever you are at home, practicing with your horse and trainer, try to be that person when you’re showing – even if it’s at the world show,” Lainie says. “When you change your personality because of the pressure of the event, your horse doesn’t understand that. So they’re dealing with a whole different rider, and they’ll get a little out of sorts because you’re not the person they know 99 perfect of the time.”

Focus on breathing as you go through maneuvers, staying calm and avoiding panicking as you ride in warmup and in your class. You also want to steer clear of watching a lot of other riders compete before you go.

“Whatever horse you have that day is what you have – don’t start comparing yourselves,” Lainie says. “We’re all built differently, our horses are different – and it’s unfair to yourself to compare.”


11. Avoid obsessing over negatives.

We all know our horse’s trouble spots, but when it comes to riding a pattern, Gretchen says, visualize it happening positively.

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Holly Hover says once you’re at the show, focus on the things you and your horse can do well, rather than worry over the maneuvers of which you’re not as proficient.

“If you have a couple of maneuvers you know you’re not in the excellent category, that’s OK – ride through them at your horse’s rate, and then be excellent where you can be excellent,” Holly says. “A smart horseman knows where to excel, and where to ease through to get a zero or a plus half instead of a penalty.”

Robin advises riders to stick to what their horse can do – don’t try to force a faster, flashier performance.

“Your goal is to maintain what you have created, and don’t try to make every single thing absolutely perfect,” Robin says. “You’ve got to deal with a little imperfection.”

Abigail Boatwright is a former AQHA Media employee. To comment, write to aqhajrnl@aqha.org This article originally appeared in the July 2019 edition of The American Quarter Horse Journal. 


GRETCHEN MATHES is an AQHA Professional Horsewoman who holds judges’ cards for AQHA, the National Reining Horse Association, the National Snaffle Bit Association and the World Conformation Horse Association. She has guided AQHA world and Congress champions, and has judged at the AQHA World Championship Show eight times. She has been training for 40 years in Harwinton, Connecticut.

HOLLY HOVER is an AQHA Professional Horsewoman from Cave Creek, Arizona, who is a carded judge for AQHA, NSBA, NRHA and the American Paint Horse Association. She has judged at the AQHA World Show. She was the 2017 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year.

ROBIN FRID, an AQHA Professional Horseman, trains from Argyle, Texas. With more than 25 years’ experience, Robin and his wife, AQHA Professional Horsewoman Jenny Jordan Frid, have coached youth, amateur and Select clients to win 55 world and reserve world championships, as well as 70 Congress championships and reserve titles.

LAINIE DEBOER was the 2015 AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year and holds an AQHA specialized judges card in over fences and English events. She is an AQHA director, and she judged the 2019 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.