Super-Skills Showmanship

Master your showmanship pattern in the western ring with the aid of judge Shannon McCulloch-Verdier. From Horse & Rider magazine.
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Master your showmanship pattern in the western ring with the aid of judge Shannon McCulloch-Verdier. From Horse & Rider magazine.

Showmanship Pattern:

  1. Jog from A to B.
  2. At B, jog a circle to the right.
  3. Walk from B to a point aligned with the judge (C).
  4. Pivot 11/4 turn to the right.
  5. Walk to the judge, stop, and back eight steps.
  6. Walk forward eight steps, set up for inspection.

Challenge: Show off your showmanship skills by avoiding the pitfalls in this difficult pattern.

Showmanship Strategy: You'll need practice and a plan. Here's how I'd coach you if we were there together.

  • Be ready and attentive at A, standing on your horse's left, with the marker to your left. Plan your circle in your mind's eye, and trot straight to B before beginning it, so the marker is at the midpoint of the circle's left side.
  • Make the circle round by mentally dividing it into four quadrants and jogging to each invisible quadrant marker. Look to the judge in the first part, but then focus ahead, or you'll surely go off your path. At the three-quarters point, look for Marker B, and finish on your original path.
  • Break to a walk when your horse's nose reaches B. There should be no tension on the lead; he should respond to your body language.
  • Walk straight ahead until your horse's right hip is on a line with the judge. This will position him correctly for the pivot turn. With no marker, this is tricky. Lots of practice at home will help you gauge off-side alignment.
  • Look at the judge during the first and last quarters of your turn, but don't glance over your shoulder to maintain eye contact during the rest; pay attention to your horse so you can keep him turning properly. Also focus on him as you complete the turn to get a good closure.
  • The directions say "walk to the judge" but stop short of the arm's length distance that's customary. Here's why: The next maneuver is to back and walk forward again, and horses step shorter backing than going forward. If you go all the way to the judge in your first approach then back eight steps, you won't be able to fit eight forward steps into your second approach.
  • Set up promptly, then focus on the judge as he inspects your horse. You'll move across the front of your horse as the judge goes through the quarter system; when you do, check to be sure your horse is maintaining his position, and then look back to the judge. The style for the past few years has been to look at the horse's feet, then his head, and then back at the judge every time you move. But this style is being modified now, and a quick glance from feet to judge is all you need.

This article first appeared in the November, 1997 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.