Trail-Just the Beginning.
Trail can arguably be the hardest class among a show-bill. There are numerous obstacles that a horse and rider must overcome at distinct gates and balance. There needs to be a very strong sense of discipline and cadence throughout each pattern to make it seem as smooth as possible. In order to do so Liz Arnold wrote in her 2017 article “Out of the Box: Tips for Entering the Trail Arena” about what every competitor should know when trying their turn in the trail class. Liz spoke with other trail veterans and pointed out the fact that when beginning it can be beneficial to start off with a good trainer and a seasoned horse. One thing from having these is to help learning stride counts in between obstacles. When training a horse we talk about putting miles on them but when it comes to learning a new class broke horses have the turn to give us the miles we need to understand how it all plays out. To quote Beckie Peskin in Arnold’s article, “Trail forces you to slow down your brain and in one obstacle.”
Patience is another key factor to trail. There are so many things that can go wrong but yet others that can go right. It can be easy to get frustrated so it’s important to take things slow and concentrate on one thing at a time. In each obstacle you need to go into it with ease and without harsh or abrupt direction. The trail pattern will never be the same so you and your horse will always face new challenges which is another factor to look forward to. Getting to know your horse before heading into the showpen will give you a great advantage and help judge your next moves much easier. So after all is said and done, Liz Arnold does a good job of laying out examples from other amateurs and professionals about being patient, taking your time, and knowing your horse first or starting off with a seasoned horse when beginning in the trail class. Check out Arnold’s article in the link attached.
For my last blog I get to talk about my favorite class to compete in the show pen, showmanship. For this class the competitor remains on the ground and you lead your horse through a pattern using distinct maneuvers selected by a judge on a pattern sheet. Some of those maneuvers may include an inspection, pivots, trotting and walking segments, and backing. When getting into higher level classes there may be more maneuvers or they will become more complex. This is a class where you must be precise while showing off your horse to the best of your abilities through trust and a flowing way of travel.
Today I have teamed up with horseandrider.com to give you some inside scoops on “hitting your mark” in a showmanship pattern. The first statement Horse & Rider begins with “When a pattern calls for you to start at a marker [..] this is the proper position- with your horse’s nose at the cone” (horseandrider.com). This is the proper position because it’s you who needs to be set up at the cone. Your position with the horse should remain by the horse’s head so if you put your horse’s shoulders and feet at the cone then you are already in the pattern or passed the starting cone.
Next, spacing is your friend and it’s important to plan your course in the pattern before you begin. “This includes visualizing being a horse length away from cone B when you arrive” (horseandrider.com) if there is a pivot at cone B. This is a great example of spacing because you don’t want to be stepping around or over the cone when pivoting. If you continually space yourself correctly you will have perfect lines as well and make your pattern look like clockwork.
Lastly, in the Horse and Rider’s article the pattern calls for a pivot at cone B and then walking to the judge. When you perform this maneuver you will be required to stop passed the cone. What I mean by this is that you will want to stop with your horse’s hip at Cone B. This will allow you to go through the pivot and then be perfectly lined up with the judge. “This pattern’s challenge lies in your awareness of your horse’s hip being aligned with the judge while also being conscious of the cone” (horseandrider.com). To get your horse’s hip inline with cone B it is crucial to know the size of your horse and the timing it takes to get to a spot in the pattern. If I was in that situation I would always count to two because that’s how small my horse is.
Here are some of my other personal showmanship tips:
- To keep your hands in the proper position, pretend you’re carrying a pizza tray you don’t want to drop.
- Walk with a purpose. Show the judge you’re here for a reason. Do not rush but own your walk.
- When teaching the horse to set up, at home, square your horse every time you stop your horse. This could be when going out to the pasture, walking in the arena, etc. This will create muscle memory and sequence of events that become natural.
- Smile throughout your pattern. This is a serious sport but showing a relaxed smile can show the judge your confidence.