By Cameron Crenwelge · Texas A&M Equestrian
“What. Is. This?” That was the first thought that ran through my mind as I stared down at the jumble of lines and maneuvers on the piece of paper my coach had given me. I took a deep breath, sat down, and began to decipher the mess that seemed to glare back at me. In an attempt to take it all in, I began to analyze the lines, only to find that it was impossible to determine where one line ended and another began. As a result, I turned my attention to the directions below the graphic. Enter without stirrups. Great, this pattern was getting more and more terrifying by the second, and I still had no idea which side of the cone I was supposed to be on.
What lay before me was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I was at a loss to understand how collegiate riders were expected to perform at a level of difficulty that I hadn’t even seen during my years of AQHA Horsemanship competition. What I didn’t realize was that I would be seeing a new set of these squiggled lines every week for the duration of the school year and that I would grow to love the complexity and unique challenges that each pattern presented, in time…
When showing on the AQHA circuit, the longest pattern (with the exception of the Youth World Show) probably takes around two minutes to complete. I soon came to realize that collegiate patterns usually take four to five minutes, from start to finish. That’s almost twice as long. Also, dropping stirrups while on pattern came as a shock to me; because, in years past, the only opportunity I’d been given to show without stirrups while on pattern was at the Youth World. Even so, I’d never seen a pattern that was to be completed entirely without stirrups. Yes, half of the time, judges do ask Horsemanship competitors to drop their stirrups during rail work; but I can say, with confidence, that dropping your stirrups on the rail and dropping your stirrups in the middle of a complex pattern with one obscurely placed cone are two very different beasts.Click here to read the complete article