October 1 - 5, 2014
Las Vegas

September 30 - October 5, 2014
Murfreesboro, Tennessee


October 3, 2013

Ride the Pattern Clinics

AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim offers some tips on the Novice trail course.

By Tara Matsler and Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim teaches the Ride the Pattern trail clinic at the 2013 Nutrena East Novice Championship Show

"Know the pattern, walk the pattern, school the pattern, visualize the pattern, ride the pattern," said AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim, using youth rider Kamiah McGrath of Murfreesboro to demonstrate the pattern. (Journal photo)

Having a plan is the road to success, AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim advised exhibitors October 2 at the Nutrena East Novice Championship Show in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

“You’re qualified to be here,” he said. “The rest is up to you.”

Ryan spoke with the judges and course designer Tim Kimura, he said, and the key to making it successfully through the trail course is to have a plan for the day and the course.

You’ll also need a Plan B, he said, in case Plan A doesn’t work out.

“Know the pattern, walk the pattern, school the pattern, visualize the pattern, ride the pattern,” Ryan said, using youth rider Kamiah McGrath of Murfreesboro to demonstrate the pattern.

The Ride the Pattern clinics are part of the Novice Championship experience.

More bullet points from Ryan’s talk:

  • Have a plan to get to the gate – the first element – cleanly. You can’t perform it cleanly if you don’t start it cleanly.
  • The slow maneuvers are where you get beat. Statistically, more points are lost in the slow maneuvers like back-throughs, turn boxes and the gate, but riders will school a lope circle 15 times and the back through only once.
  • As a general rule in back-throughs, once I get the horse’s body straight, I back four steps.
  • If you look at the pole, you will hit the pole.
  • The gaps between obstacles at Nutrena East Novice Championship are set at 30 feet.
  • Horses tend to drift in, so think about steering out softly on round obstacles, like the corner lope-over that’s the fifth element in the Novice Championship pattern.
  • When your body and mind get loose, so do your horse’s feet.
  • You’re not through riding the pattern until all four feet are across the walk poles. Keep riding until you’re done.

October 1 -- hunt seat equitation

On October 1, AQHA Professional Horseman Stephanie Lynn of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, led a Ride the Pattern clinic just ahead of the October 2 hunt seat equitation competition at the Nutrena East Novice Championship in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Stephanie, author of  "A Lifetime Affair" and the Good Rider series, had three main points she wanted exhibitors to focus on: Be ready, be confident and have fun.

Using amateur Katie Bowman of Eau Claire, Wisconsin,  and Chips Review as her demonstration models, Stephanie had a few more suggestions:

  • There are only two cones in the equitation pattern at the Novice Championships. Fewer cones mean exhibitors can show their horses to best advantage: A smaller horse can be shown in a smaller pattern, and a bigger horse can stretch out into a bigger pattern.
  • The rulebook says position is important, and the judges will be looking for overall effectiveness.
  • The judges are also looking for a horse that best exemplifies the hunter under saddle horse. They want true gaits, and a loose rein is a severe penalty.
  • An error that is the rider’s fault is scored more severely than one that is the horse’s fault.
  • Approach your cone on a straight line so you don’t have to adjust the horse.
  • When you’re practicing, the first time you try a pattern, it should be at the trot or even the walk to help establish your transition points. Your goal is not to count steps – four walk steps – but to create a pattern on the arena floor that looks exactly like the one on the pattern page.
  • This isn’t your last horse show. Every show is an opportunity to do better. 

September 30 -- equitation over fences

The horses are unloaded; the course is set. The 2013 Nutrena AQHA East Novice Championship Show kicks off October 1 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with equitation over fences as the first class.

For better insight as to what the judges would be looking for, exhibitors flocked to the Ride the Pattern clinic taught by AQHA Professional Horseman Anne Brzezicki at 4 p.m. Monday. Demonstrating the equitation over fences course that competitors will be riding the next morning were reigning amateur equitation over fences world champions Dionne Stigge and Knee Deep In Assets. Like Anne, Dionne also hails from Murfreesboro.

Not just an AQHA Professional Horseman, Anne is the director of equine laboratory classes at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where she started the equestrian team in 1977. She coached the National Hunt Seat Champion Team in 1972, and since has led many equestrian teams to regional and zone championships in both English and western disciplines.

This is what Anne had to say about the equitation over fences course at the 2013 AQHA Novice Championships, plus her insights for a winning ride.

  • This course is set up to invite horses and riders.
  • If you’re given three options for a fence, you are better off to take the easy option and do it well.
  • Don’t change anything until you need to: Keep constant rhythm and an even stride, and you’ll find any problems will work themselves out.
  • It’s easy to get back off your stride when you’re doing single fences; keep an, even forward stride as you’re riding to the fence.
  • A trot fence at the end of the course – like in this course – is very difficult.
  • If you can hold the trot to jump, your grade would be an “A.” If you canter half a stride, that would be a “B,” and cantering a full stride before the trot-fence would be a “C.”

More Ride the Pattern clinics are on tap at the Nutrena East Novice Championship. View the full schedule of clinics here.