Let’s pick up after the second maneuver’s lead change at the pattern’s center. Start a large circle to the right. If you missed your lead change, you’ll lose one point for each quarter circle that you’re on the wrong lead, so get the change as soon as possible—without trotting. If you break gait for a lead change, you’ll incur more penalties.
Maintain a controlled medium pace rather than the previous large circles’ fast pace, and turn down the pattern’s center at the top of the circle. (Tip: Before entering the ring, find a marker in the arena to signal where you should turn down the middle.) As you begin your run down the middle, maintain a controlled pace—I don’t want to see your horse toss his head up and run off with you.
Gradually build speed down the length of the arena, but don’t overestimate how well your horse can stop. If you pick up too much speed, he’ll blow his stop, and you’ll lose maneuver points. Don’t try to outrun your competitors.
Make sure you’re past the bottom end markers before initiating your stop. If your horse assumes a stopping position before he passes them, he’s “scotching” and incurs a 2-point penalty. For a nice stop, I like to see a horse with his back rounded, his head down, his hind legs well under him, and some slide (though, some horses stop nicely without sliding). His front end should also stay on the ground, so he’s not bouncing in the air to stop.
Roll back to the right directly from your stop. The stop and rollback should flow into one seamless movement, with no hesitation. Your horse should snap right back onto his own tracks. If he resists the rollback and freezes up, you’ll incur a 2-point penalty. A shorter hesitation will also lower your maneuver score. (Tip: Instead of trying to remember rolling back to the right or left in this pattern, think of rolling back toward the judge, who should be positioned on the left wall. But, make sure that’s where she is before you ride!)
Run back up the pattern’s middle, gradually building speed—not bursting into a dead run. Know your horse’s stopping ability, and don’t push him past his best pace. Stop at the top of the pattern, past the end markers, and roll back to the left (remember, roll back toward the judge here, too). Here, I’m watching for the good qualities I stated for the first stop and rollback.
Then, directly and fluidly from the rollback, run down the pattern and perform a sliding stop past the center markers. If your horse stops really deep, I’ll let him get back on his feet, but there should be no noticeable hesitation before backing.
Back him to the pattern’s center, or at least 10 feet, but try to make it back to the center. After backing, hesitate. Then, begin four spins to the right. As judge, I’ll be counting your spins aloud, so you’d better be counting them, too. Any fraction more or less than four complete spins incurs a penalty. Hesitate before starting your spins to the left, or you’ll score a zero on your entire pattern for not following the instructions.
For a good spin, your horse should plant one hind pivot foot, rather than swapping hind feet, which is bad form and may cause him to travel as he spins. Worse yet, is if he runs around with both front and hind feet. He can be straight from head to tail, or slightly arced in the direction of his spin. Establish your spins on a pivot foot before adding speed, and don’t push him beyond his ability or he’ll lose form. Hesitate in order to show completion of pattern.
Maryann Willoughby operates Willoughby-Henson Training Stable in Hugoton, Kansas, with her husband, daughter, and son-in-law. As a judge for the AQHA, APHA, ApHC, PHBA, PtHA, POA, NASMA, NSBA, NRHA, and NRCHA she judges more than 30 shows per year, and has presided at many national level shows including the APHA World Show and the ApHC World Show.