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World Show judge offers 20 tips for exhibitor excellence

When it comes to horse showing, knowledge is power, no matter what level of competition. To help prepare exhibitors for their World Show classes, APHA Judge Kendra Weis led the Ride the Pattern seminar to give riders’ a judge’s look at showmanship, horsemanship and equitation patterns. Whether you’re showing at the APHA World Show or with your local regional club, take Kendra’s tips to help perfect your pattern classes.


  • Walk-Trot showmanship might be walk only, but you still need accuracy, precision and communication.
  • Kendra finds quarter turns to be more difficult than 180s or 270s—be sure you’re precise in your turns!
  • Remember: you’re being judged the moment you walk in the pen—and judges might glance over to you setting up before your run even begins—make your first impression count!
  • Transitioning into the trot without hesitation is credit earning in showmanship!
  • Start your turn, then add pace for extra credit.
  • Always be sure that you’re correct FIRST. Then, add pace.
  • When setting up, be sure your horse is straight from withers to hip.
  • World Show patterns are complicated—you can’t go over them enough! To avoid over-schooling your horse (judges can tell when you have), ask to borrow your friend’s fresh horse for additional runs.

Catch more showmanship tips with The Game Plan.

Along with offering advice as trainer Dale Sullens rode each pattern, Kendra emphasized rulebook knowledge. As part of her responsibility as a judge, Kendra says she reviews the rules for every class she’s judging in a day.


  • During 180-degree turns, use your eyes to find a straight exit out.
  • Part of horsemanship is showing proper movement of your horse, Kendra says; don’t be afraid to go over!
  • Judges like to see exhibitors challenge maneuvers. Correctness with quality and difficulty turns average into plus.
  • Take patterns one maneuver at a time, but make sure you’re correct.
  • Communication with your horse—and keeping him between your reins and legs—is of utmost importance.
  • To be credit earning in a flying lead change, get your horse straight first.


  • In equitation, loose reins and too long stirrups are a no-no. Kendra calls this class “pre jumping,” and you can’t jump with loose reins!
  • These World Show patterns are spread out—let your equitation horse go forward and show us what you’ve got!
  • When turning on the forehand, don’t throw your leg back and don’t look down. Stay polished!
  • Don’t look down to your diagonal. It’s better to sit an extra step and be sure than to look down or get it wrong.
  • No matter how your pattern ends, make sure you’re straight and polished. Kendra says your final impression is just as important as your first!
  • Kendra says preference in neck position depends on the judge’s background. No matter the headset, though, a soft connection from the bit to the hand is best.

To catch more tips on horsemanship and equitation, check out The Game Plan video series. 

For even more insights from both top judges and trainers, read the full Game Plan series in your 2014 Paint Horse Journals. Or, get the series on your laptop, phone or tablet by purchasing the e-book at the APHA General Store


[Reprinting all or part of this news release is permitted, so long as credit is given to the Paint Horse Journal and a link provided back to apha.com.] 

 About APHA

The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded in 1962. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.