Jason Martin: How to Win in the Western Riding at the Big Shows
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At the 2010 AQHA World Show, Martin set an all-time Western Riding high score with a whopping 239 aboard Vital Signs Are Good. Jason Martin and Charlie Cole have much more to teach about Western Riding. Watch for their first-ever instructional video to be released this fall available only on GoHorseShow.com! Photo © KC Montgomery

In the final segment of our Winning Strategy series, Team SmartPak rider, Jason Martin of Highpoint Performance Horses discusses some tips of how to improve your western riding at the major shows. Martin has won the World and Congress over 30 times in this class alone and is largely considered to be the master showman of western riding. He has shown two of the greatest western riders of all time--Harley D Zip and Vital Signs Are Good. At the 2010 AQHA World Show, Martin set an all-time Western Riding high score with a whopping 239 aboard Theresa Moran's mare, Vital Signs Are Good.

Martin sat down with GoHorseShow and discusses some important issues and common mistakes that people make when preparing for this class.

Don't Over Practice - Jason says that many exhibitors practice too much, and they leave their best lead changes and rides in the warm up pen. "It is like over spinning too much in the warm up pen before showing in the reining. You shouldn't change your routine, and the rider needs to be confident in their horse and their abilities to not over work their horse to the point the horse is tired, and stressed out."

Lope Transition, the Log and Stop and Back - Jason explains that you should put as much emphasis on the log, stop and back, and lope transition maneuvers as the lead change. "It is worth as much as the lead change. If you try and get a plus half maneuver from each judge, and there are three judges--that will add a point and a half to the overall score. It is important to practice on getting a pretty lope transition and try to finesse these maneuvers that are largely ignored. You will be a step ahead by trying to add extra points to your score."

Show in the Trail - Jason emphasizes that many trainers show in the western riding but they never practice the log. They have gorgeous lead changes but they can't ever get over the log. "I would recommend everyone to show in the Trail to get used to loping and maneuvering over the logs. Work on your timing and feel confident about the log as much as you do your lead changes. Some people end up in full panic mode over this one maneuver." Martin says that he practices logs everyday when the horses are ridden. Even our two year-olds and young horses go over logs everyday, so, it is a normal thing for them to do and doesn't seem like anything difficult or challenging later on in their training.

Practice Parts of the Pattern - "I don't practice the whole pattern, but we always have a line set up, and I practice it every time I ride a horse," Jason explains. "There was a time when we used to be afraid of practicing the pattern because we were thinking that it would cause a horse to cheat and anticipate--but the lead change is like a gait--you don't stop practicing the jog. So, I think it is important to practice parts of the pattern. We have more patterns now so it is less likely for horses to get sour since we are constantly changing the patterns."

Don't Give Last Second Advice - Jason believes it is important to not tell someone at the last minute, "Don't do this or do that--right before they go into the arena. It causes people to over think. If they aren't ready, then they just aren't going to be--telling them things right before they go in just gets people flustered and concentrating on minute details instead of their overall ride."

Bring Out Rider's Confidence - Jason recalls a time when Ali Papendick and Harley were having trouble at the Youth World. "Harley doesn't like traffic, and he and Ali were just not getting along. I told her just to stop and reminded her that Harley already knows his job. I brought out her confidence in her abilities and didn't beat her down and talk about anything negative. We went and worked on something else and did not emphasize or feed into the trouble she was having. It is always important to go with the positive. I was never taught in a negative way, and it is the trainer's job to have your rider going down the alley into the arena with confidence. I have seen many times where other trainers are nervous and they bring out the negative and anxieties of their clients which leads them to going into the arena with a lack of confidence."

Make Clients Self-Sufficient - Jason has a good track record with clients who may have had the reputation of being "high maintenance." Jason explains, "When they come to our program, I tell them that if they want us to walk every course, to baby sit them in every class, and tell them what to do--then this program is not for them. I want to teach them enough that they are able to show without us being there. I want to be an extra set of eyes when they feel like they need some extra fine tuning but confident enough in their abilities that they can be successful without us being there all the time."

Video Yourself - Jason mentions that both he and Charlie Cole video their horses at home and their goes at the horse shows in order to improve their rides. "There is a junior western rider that I have right now that I can't tell if the changes look good. I think they feel awful and then I come out of the arena and someone tells me that I had an awesome ride. I don't feel what they are telling me, so I have watched videos of me on this horse to get a better idea of what the horse looks like during the class. I would be constantly fighting with this horse if I only went by what I felt."

Jason adds, "Also, by watching your rides, you will be able to see whether you need a faster pace for you to be able to get a plus one lead change. Some average movers can become above average movers if they are pushed up a notch and possibly can get credit earning scores on their maneuvers. You need to determine what pace is best for you and your horse in order to set yourself up for success and a high score in the western riding.

Jason Martin and Charlie Cole have much more to teach about Western Riding.  Watch for their first-ever instructional video to be released this fall available only on GoHorseShow.com!

Photo © The American Quarter Horse Journal, K.C. Montgomery.

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