Region Two Championship: September 19

AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim provides showmanship tips at the 2014 Merial AQHA Region Two Championship.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim

AQHA Professional Horseman Ryan Cottingim is all about correcting a problem before it happens, and that's what he schooled exhibitors on at two Ride the Pattern clinics (showmanship and horsemanship) at the 2014 Merial AQHA Region Two Regional Championship in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Here are some of the tips he offered to the crowd at the showmanship clinic:

"Showmanship is all about keeping your horse's body straight," he said. "I make sure I take the time to work on problems when I'm schooling my horse before heading to the show pen."

Therefore, the techniques he worked on with exhibitors in the clinic all led back to keeping their horses' bodies straight.

Ryan explained that in the pattern events, you cannot expect to have the same horse in the show pen that you had in the warm-up pen.

"I school ahead of time for the problems that could happen in the show pen," he said.

He began with tracking.

"When I'm schooling a horse, I always track to the right," he said. "Horses in showmanship tend to get bent to the left. I want my horse to track to the right (clockwise) so he is closer to me."

He then moved on to the departure.

"When you initiate forward motion, take a big step forward and cluck to your horse," he said. "Then walk with a purpose."

Another part of keeping your horse's body straight is schooling the stop.

"When I school the stop, I push the horse's head and neck softly away so his shoulder, body, hip are close to me," he explained. "I say 'Whoa' to tell my horse to stop and to keep all four of his feet on the ground. Your horse should stop and be straight in his body."

Ryan added that some horses have a tendency to take an extra step or two before coming to a complete stop.

"If he doesn't stop when you stop -- if he carries you forward, back him up a step and then settle," Ryan suggested.

He added that he works a lot on settling because he doesn't want the horse to anticipate his moves.

"I want the horse to wait on me for forward motion or to settle," he told exhibitors. "As a judge, I don't want to see you stop and the horse immediately start moving his feet. That tells me that you aren't directing the horse. When you stop, I want to see all four of the horse's feet on the ground."

Moving on to the set-up, Ryan instructed exhibitors that they need a solid system for doing the set-up.

"The set-up needs to be efficient, correct and timely," he said. "It needs to be done in 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand. My system is to look at the back feet and start with the same back foot every time to adjust. Ideally, you need to make two moves and the horse should set because he can move diagonal feet at the same time."