10 Secrets to Memorizing Horse-Show Patterns

Exhibitors share their best-kept secrets for memorizing patterns for horsemanship, showmanship and trail.

For The American Quarter Horse Journal

Looking for free horse-show patterns to practice? Check out our Pinterest board, Horse Show Patterns. (Credit: Journal)

Everyone learns differently. For some exhibitors, visualizing a horse-show pattern is enough, while other competitors feel more comfortable performing the pattern horseback at least once before they perform it in the show pen.

Usually, horsemanship and hunt seat equitation patterns follow a three-component organization, says AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lynn Palm: There’s a beginning, middle and end separated by transitions. But you should learn the pattern, she says, using whatever method works best for you. (Lynn has some really great tips in this blog for sharpening your patterns.)

We asked @officialaqha fans on Instagram to share their tricks for memorizing horse-show patterns.  

Make up a song that rhymes to the words that you actually have to do. – @acolehorses

Draw It 
Use a dry-erase marker and whiteboard to draw the pattern from memory. – @taylorannwash

Picture yourself running through the pattern on your horse. – @emalee_glover

(The pattern is the) last thing I see at night and sometimes it just comes to me. – @lopin.qh.dreams

Visualize every step. – @_briannahogg96

Practice on Foot
Before my class, I lay out a bunch of bottles – fly spray, hoof polish, etc. – all about two feet apart, then walk, trot, canter, back, etc. through my pattern. – @leximccolloughhh

Do the pattern on foot in the stall aisle! Actually canter, trot, do lead changes, side pass, sliding stops, etc on foot. We even use little boards or step stools as bridges for trail patterns and pencils, pens or rulers for poles. – @laurenhorses8

I like to take a copy and tell my horse the pattern! Lol! After I'm done telling him, I do it in the aisle or stall with my "trot" and "canter" steps. – @dreams518

I do the pattern on foot a couple of times ... but never with my horse. I do the elements with my horse (pivot, flying change, etc.) but I never over-practice or practice the whole thing with my horse. A fresh, attentive horse is better than one who is tired and bored and thinks he knows best. Usually, I can memorize my pattern about 30 minutes or less before the class and I'm good to go. If it's fresh in my mind, I’m less likely to mess up or forget. – @dieselxdarlin

And One From a Pro
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve studied the pattern – you need to have it in your pocket. Even if you have a photographic memory, you should have the pattern with you, because there is nothing worse than developing a plan for the pattern then arriving at the arena and realizing the pattern isn’t what you envisioned. – AQHA Professional Horseman Tom McBeath (read the rest of Tom’s tip)

Looking for free horse-show patterns to practice? Check out our Pinterest board, Horse Show Patterns.