Sunday, January 9, 2011

Question on Western Horsemanship Patterns

I recently received an inquiry with several questions to it. I'll break these down into the specific questions.

".... noticed that the patterns are being run much faster than I am used to,nearly at reining speed, and one included a roll-back. ...."

Okay, the easiest answer first. Yes, roll-backs are an allowed maneuver for horsemanship patterns per AQHA rules. It is not a required maneuver, just an element that can be included.

As for the speed of a rider executing the pattern... of course you want continuity between elements. Unless the pattern specifically states that you halt or hesitate going from one maneuver to the next, you should always try to transition smoothly. Which brings us to the speed of the overall execution. The only way to do the pattern with fluidity is the same for a hunter medal or any other equitation class. The pace must be maintained throughout. Speed in a horsemanship pattern is most definitely going to 'up' the degree of difficulty. If you can maintain that increased speed throughout the entire pattern, you are going to show that you can handle the higher degree of difficulty and probably gain a point to two on the overall presentation. But if the speed is not maintained through all maneuvers, your pace will suffer and the mistakes that you may make because of that, will count you down.

So that said, how fast should you execute the pattern? At the top levels which are the various breed sanctioned shows like AQHA's World and even Congress shows, you should be 'up to speed' for the pattern and maneuvers. Will it win you points at your state breed association show circuits? Yes,it should, because those shows are also judged by judges who are governed to use the same rules as the highest level shows within that breed association. Will speed which shows an increased level of difficulty win you points at your local non sanctioned shows? If you execute the maneuvers well with precision, it should as well. Just remember that increased speed needs to be maintained throughout all of the maneuvers otherwise the pace will suffer a half point or so casualty on your score and may also contribute to further mistakes within each element of the pattern, also placing your score lower.

You should not rush through any maneuver no matter how well you and your horse can execute said maneuver because you may not be able to maintain that level of speed throughout.

For reference the exact wording from the AQHA rule book regarding speed in western horsemanship patterns falls under the performance section which is judged on a ten point scale....

"the exhibitor should perform the work accurately, precisely, smoothly, and with a reasonable amount of promptness. Increasing speed of the maneuvers performed increases the degree of difficulty; however, accuracy and precision should not be sacrificed for speed. Exhibitors that perform the pattern sluggishly and allow their horse to move without adequate impulsion, collection or cadence will be penalized. "

See, the rules do not specify a time limit or minimum time allowed but the most subjective part of this, in regards to judging a pattern is the amount of points a judge will penalize you. Speed will undoubtedly open up a can of mistakes if you cannot perform well but on the same token, speed will influence a higher score if you can maintain it and perform precisely all maneuvers.
There is more from this same readers' inquiry but since I've already written a novel here, I'll answer those in upcoming posts. Feel free to discuss or ask for further clarification in the comments. I'm open to hearing all of your opinions and even direct experience regarding this topic.

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I am just one judge with one judge's opinion. Almost all of the classes I judge are based on the rules of USEF & AQHA. Judging a horse show is very subjective to the interpretation of the rules. Please keep this in mind when commenting.