Tips for Reining - Courtesy of AQHA Judge Bob Johnson

The reining classes at our AQHA shows keeps growing.  In my opinion the scoring system has made contestants realize that they can compete with anybody.  When they ride out of the arena, the judge, the contestant, and the spectators all can have all can have a similar score which allows them to see maneuvers that can be improved upon or eliminate penalties.
As a judge, I want the contestant to show me that his horse is willingly guided.  It is fun to watch a reined horse run the circles with a drape in their reins.  A good mover that shows a big difference in size and speed in the circles is easy to give a plus maneuver score.

Also, a horse that can round his back when running to a stop will impress all judges.  If that horse’s back is up, his neck will be down making not just the picture look good but it makes it easier for all horses to have a big stop.

A plus maneuver for a spin isn’t always about speed.  Just because a horse spins fast will not yield a plus score.  A horse that plants his pivot foot and stays in frame will look willful and not scared.

One negative thing that I don’t like to see is the rider pecking at their horse in the circles or rundowns.  Part of the maneuver score on rundowns is a round the end, and so many contestants are trying to collect their horse for the stop.  I look at every part of each maneuver to make sure it looks willful.

A distracting element that a lot of people do is the snatch their head back and forth during the spin.  It takes my attention away from the horse you should be watching, to the rider’s head contortions.

In conclusion a judge wants to see a horse perform each maneuver and make it look easy.  After your horse is broke, trust him and it will look willful and it will be fun.

Tips for Horsemanship - Courtesy of AQHA Judge Dr. Doyle Meadows  

AQHA judge, Dr. Doyle Meadows has judged shows in the US, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. He has been active with children and horses for 30 years and managed the Tennessee State 4-H Show for 20 years.

Execute precisely.
I think the horsemanship class is one of the best classes offered at AQHA shows. Being an oldtimer”, I remember when the classes (particularly for youth) were developed and scoring systems evaluated. As I view the class, the single most important part of the class is as follows: Did the youth/amateur execute the required performance maneuvers written in the pattern? If all maneuvers were completed then it is up to the judge to evaluate how well each maneuver was done. First things first – complete the pattern THEN how well was the pattern ridden.

Be speedy.
Today I want more speed and less hesitation to demonstrate a higher degree of difficulty. Speed should never be a substitute for functional correctness but can be used to judge the overall correctness and completeness of the pattern. I think all judges want an attractive rider that
blends in a union with the horse.

Place emphasis on the ride.
I think too much emphasis is placed on the attire and not enough emphasis placed on whether or not the rider can stop, 360 turn and lope off on the correct lead. It is not a beauty contest,
it is a performance event. I use the rail to break ties unless an exhibitor has a major problem on the rail.

Tips for Showmanship - Courtesy of AQHA Judge Charlene Carter

From Italy to Japan, Charlene Carter has traveled the globe, judging horse and
rider teams for the best skills and picture-perfect performances. Check out her top
three tips for making your next showmanship pattern the best one yet.
1.  When I give a clinic on showmanship, the first thing that I ask the student is if they have read and understand the rules on showmanship that is listed in the AQHA rule book!  It is vital that you know these rules.  They are the core for the scoring that the judges use to arrive at the score that you and your horse receive.  Continue to check online for the new score sheets for this class, they will give you a more detailed understanding of the things that will be credit earning and the things that will be considered minor, major or severe faults.  These score sheets will become mandatory for all judges to post for the exhibitors to view in 2012!  Therefore, most judges will now be using these score sheets, in order to be prepared for the 2012 show season. I actually give my personal clients written and verbal test on the rules for the classes that they choose to show, as well as having them score goes. It will enlighten your overall knowledge of the class.
2.  The judge's first impression of you and your horse is critical.  Judges will unconsciously put you in one of three categories, the top, middle or bottom.  When the judge first looks at you, he/she must see a perfectly groomed horse and exhibitor.  One of my pet peeves are to be judging on a Sunday and it looks like the horse was clipped on Thursday.  Be sure that your bridle path, nose and etc. is freshly clipped for a class that is later in a circuit.  As far as the exhibitor is concerned, pay attention to the small details.  In the showmanship class you have close contact with the judge, unlike some of the other events; therefore, you need your horse perfectly groomed and your clothes and hat should be clean, fitted and neat.  I personally dislike to see showmanship exhibitors with dirty hands or nail polish that is half on and half off.  Those are the details that show the judges that you are a serious contender.
3.  You must be prepared to perform all of the various maneuvers.  It doesn't matter if you have a trainer or not, you must personally practice with your horse if you want your patterns to have a fluid and continuous flow.  Your timing will only develop with a lot of one on one practice with your own horse.  One tip that will help with flow and overall layout, is being sure that you keep your horse's spine completely straight from the dock of his tail to the top of his poll.  This will put polish on your lines, spins and backups!  Your horse's head and neck must stay centered over his front legs.  Be sure to watch for this during your inspection!  Also, if you will keep your horse's top line level throughout your layout, it will present an eye appeal to the judges.  If you like, you can lift the head some during the inspection, but it should remain level during your lines, spins and backups.
Good luck and remember that perfect practice makes perfect!!!  You are the one and only one that in the end can truly make yourself a continuous winner!