1) Make sure you’re on the correct side of the cone(s).
While it seems simple, it would surprise you how many people start or proceed on the wrong side of the cone. Being on the wrong side of the cone marks you as off pattern and can put you at the bottom or give you a zero score, regardless of how nicely the rest of your pattern was ridden.
2) Don’t watch the exhibitor ahead of you.
Sometimes it can be tempting to watch to see how they ride the pattern, but you can’t trust that they have ridden it correctly. Especially with the addition of nerves before you enter the ring, make sure you have the pattern memorized and visualized yourself.
3) Ride correct geometry and plan.
It’s easy to start a circle correctly but ending it as a proper circle is harder than it seems. Keeping your eyes up will encourage you to look and plan your ride ahead of time.
4) Have enough rein to ride precisely.
Unlike western pleasure, you don’t get credited for having a drape of rein. In fact, it is a standard and expected that you will have a shorter rein. This can help you ride more accurately.
5) Prompt transitions aren’t credited unless they’re done well.
You might want to try that pivot with some speed, but a sloppy and fast pivot is not going to be credited more than the rider that takes their time turning with precision but at a slower pace.Just the same, checking your horse for an abrupt transition down from the lope to the jog won’t be rewarded.