Ranch Horse Pleasure Questions Answered

Mozaun McKibben, AQHA professional horseman and multiple world champion, weighs in with his ranch horse pleasure advice.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

The trick to success in ranch horse pleasure is showing your horse where he is comfortable and where he shows best. That’s what AQHA Professional Horseman Mozaun McKibben has to say on the subject, and as a two-time ranch horse pleasure world champion, he knows what it takes to win in AQHA’s fastest-growing class. 

“The ranch horse pleasure class is about good movement, performing the maneuvers correctly and his willingness to perform,” says the Whitesboro, Texas, horseman.

“When you’re out there, use all of the arena you can in your pattern; don't miss out on an opportunity to show off your horse.”

Because ranch horse pleasure is a relatively new AQHA event, exhibitors and spectators asked a lot of questions at the Nutrena Ride the Pattern ranch horse pleasure clinic featured at the 2014 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show in August. Here are the tips Mozaun offered at the clinic, with rule clarifications coming from AQHA Senior Director of Judges Alex Ross:

Reins and Contact

  • Both romel or split reins are legal, so the decision should come down to your preference.
  • Contact with the horse's mouth is not required in ranch horse pleasure, but a draped rein will be penalized.

The Walk

  • A ranch pleasure horse should walk fast so it can get somewhere. Remember: This class is all about covering country. 
  • A +1 walk is where the horse is walking and striding out so fast the bridle reins are flopping. 
  • Mozaun gives a separate cue for an extended walk than he does for loping or trotting. For the extended walk, he bumps his legs alternately. 

The Trot

  • At a plus-worthy extended trot, the horse's neck should be level with its withers.
  • Judges have no preference between posting or standing (and holding the horn) at the extended trot.
  • Mozaun prefers to stand and hold the horn at the extended trot with his hand behind the horse’s ears. When Mozaun is standing, his horse is able to trot faster than he would be able to if Mozaun was posting. 

The Lope

  • For the extended lope, send your horse out like there's a cow getting out of the gate and you've got to catch it.

Transitions

  • Your transitions need to be performed in the general vicinity shown on the drawn pattern.

Lead Changes

  • Either a simple or flying lead change is accepted in ranch horse pleasure.

Walking Over Logs

  • When walking over logs, if he has enough momentum, Mozaun will sit down in the saddle. 
  • If the horse has to walk over logs from a standstill, Mozaun will stand up in the saddle instead. With the rider standing in the saddle, Mozaun says the horse will pick up his front and hind legs more to clear the logs.

Sidepass

  • When sidepassing a log, line up your butt in the saddle with the log.
  • For 2014, there is no penalty for ticks or hits while sidepassing over the log; the ticks are just reflected in the maneuver score. 

Stops

  • This isn't a sliding contest class; the horse should stop responsively, be soft in the mouth, engage his hindquarters and stop square.

The Back-Up

  • If your horse backs up soft but not fast, do not sacrifice a pleasant-looking maneuver by forcing your horse to be fast.

Pivots

  • After you stop, wait a second or two before you start your turn so the horse is not thinking "roll back."
  • A turn should be smooth and correct, rather than faster and choppier.
  • The more accurate the turn around, the more you will be rewarded, meaning the horse must keep its pivot foot mostly planted.
  • The same goes for pivoting on the incorrect foot. Pivoting on the outside hind foot is not ideal or correct, so it will not be awarded as much as a horse that pivots correctly.

@AQHAJournal first tweeted these tips from Mozaun McKibben live at the Ford Youth World’s Ride the Pattern ranch horse pleasure clinic, sponsored by Nutrena, in Oklahoma City.