How to Choose Equitation Patterns

Choosing what the perfect equitation pattern will be depends on a number of factors. There is the ability of the horse to consider. There are the requirements of a competition that must be considered. How you feel as the rider must also come into play. For that reason, each pattern has certain strengths that should be considered. By focusing on these strengths, the best patterns can be chosen.

Here are the steps to go through to make sure that you are choosing the correct equitation patterns and then remembering them when it comes time to perform.

#1. Collect the patterns from past events. 

You can also collect patterns from magazine articles online membership programs, and other resources. Then practice the various maneuvers that have been collected so that you can find points of weakness that may need to be addresses. Some horses are born for equitation, others can be coached into it, but a few don’t like the process at all. 

By looking for proficiencies, you’ll be able to choose equitation patterns that fit the strengths of you and your horse. You will also have the opportunity to identify specific training opportunities that can shore up some of the weaknesses that have been identified. 

#2. Break down the patterns into separate maneuvers. 

Once you’ve gotten a feel for a few of the maneuvers, you’ll want to select a specific pattern that you feel confident in performing and begin to break it down. Abbreviate each maneuver based on the first letter or the figure that it happens to make. Memorize your code so that you know what needs to be done. Color-coding pattern components may also be useful. 

Then practice each separate maneuver so the individual commands can become familiar to the horse. You’re again looking for places of weakness that may limit the effectiveness of specific equitation patterns.

#3. Visualize the patterns in your mind. 

The best equitation patterns tend to choose you instead of the other way around. Once you’re familiar with what your horse can do and are comfortable with several patterns, close your eyes and take a mental ride through each pattern. See the markers in your mind. Picture the transitions and lead changes as they happen. Move forward through your turnaround. Anticipate any problems that might come up when completing the pattern.

This will help you begin to develop a strategy to confront unnoticed weaknesses that may come up while performing a pattern. It is best to hope for the best, but to still plan for the worst-case scenario to happen.

#4. Walk through your pattern. 


It is also important to walk through your preferred equitation patterns on foot. You’ll be able to look at the specifics of each movement in the patterns and get a feel for what it will be like during a performance. Take notes so you can double-check any potential problem points that might happen while performing.

#5. Perform each pattern with the horse in its entirety. 

The goal here is to work through the patterns as you visualized them. This will help you be able to turn what you pictured into reality. Should something go wrong, it is okay to complete the pattern and then start it over to see if you can get it right. If not, then the equitation pattern you have chosen may not be the right one for you. 

As you are performing each pattern, it is also important to be timing your practice sessions. Set specific limits for yourself, with the goal to eventually reduce the time it takes to go through your patterns to just 15 minutes. When it comes time to compete, this process will help you be able to manage your time more effectively.

#6. Keep practicing. 

Each preparation and training session will help you be more effective when it comes time to compete. Some days may be frustrating, especially if you are choosing new patterns to work on. Keep going and you’ll be able to get you and your horse ready when competition day rolls around.

One of the best skills that you can keep practicing in any equitation pattern is your distance judgement. This will help you to know how far you’ll need to move your horse in a specific direction. Not only is distance important as a skill, but providing a judge with a positive experience will give you a better chance to improve your final score. 

#7. Get to the pattern early when it is posted for competition. 

When you see what pattern is posted, you’ll want to transpose that pattern into whatever color or abbreviation has worked for your training sessions. Then take the time to visualize the pattern in your mind. Make sure that you look for specific details in the pattern as well. 

If you receive instructions that say something like “Go back 4 steps,” that usually means the details of the pattern will be judged with strictness.

#8. Never change your memorization techniques. 

Whether you’re trying out a new pattern or you’re trying to get a pattern memorized for a show, it is important that you keep your memorization technique the same, no matter what. Always rehearse according to your personal routine. This will make you be more comfortable, which will make the horse more comfortable when it comes time to complete the pattern.

#9. Get familiar with your environment. 

This applies to work at home and the preparation that is required for a show. Get you and your horse into the arena before you’re called upon to perform. Introduce the horse to your practice area so that a sense of familiarity can be achieved. Always take the time to warm up whenever it is offered, especially if you’re at a show and are given access to the show pen.

By being familiar with your environment, you’ll be able to identify problem areas in any equitation pattern. Specific environment facts, such as footing or ground quality, can also be evaluated. This is the best way to desensitize you and your horse to potential distractions that could throw off a pattern.

#10. Take time away before a performance. 

Try to set aside 5 minutes before you are needed to perform. When you are able to keep a calm mind, you’ll be able to remember the equitation patterns with better clarity. This added calmness will also give the horse an added level of confidence as you go through each part of the pattern.

This is because showmanship requires thinking ahead. You need to know where you’ll need to start. You’ll need to know how to make sure you can follow the specific lines that are mandated by the pattern. Your horse must be attuned to your movements and be able to react to the slightest shift in your body language so you can get the pattern right. 

Taking time away helps your mind be ready for this challenge. Get yourself right and you’ve got a better chance at completing the pattern. 

#11. Remember that mistakes are going to happen. 

Whether you’ve practiced an equitation pattern 10 times or 1,000 times, there is always a chance that a mistake can happen. The horse might pick up a scent it doesn’t like and become unusually stubborn. You might not feel well and miss a cue that your horse gave you. There will be times, both in practice and in competition, that you’ll blow the pattern. 

The best thing you can do should this happen is to forget about it. Shake the dirt off and move forward. If you attempt to school your horse for missing a pattern, the trust between you and the horse can be negatively affected by the experience. This can make it difficult for future patterns to be completed successfully.

#12. Even if you’re successful, move on to the next class. 

The process of choosing equitation patterns is never really over. Whenever you’ve performed a pattern in a show, it’s time to move onto the next pattern. Eliminate the previous pattern from your mind, no matter what the results might have been. This will allow you to continue focusing on the patterns that can enhance your strengths and shore up whatever weaknesses have been discovered.

#13. Set your horse up for inspection as soon as possible. 

Practice keeping your movements to a minimum. Always maintain proper spacing. Keep your attire and profile according to the guidelines that you’ve been given. A horse can perform perfectly, but a traditionalist may still penalize you if you’re perceived to be an “equitation rebel.”

Knowing how to choose equitation patterns depends on what you feel that you and your horse need to work on. An educated guess at what the posted pattern will be during your next show will also influence the choice. Then follow these steps to make sure you’re working on your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can have the best chance at completing your pattern perfectly.

And if you don’t, you’ll be ready to reset and do it all again the next time.