We started with this format:
The first day the kids came to camp they painted a small wooden framed chalkboard and a small wooden box with their names and in whatever colors they declared as their own farm colors. I found these both very reasonably priced at A.C. Moore and have also seen them at Michaels.
I premade a large board with six columns all in a different color.
In each column I posted five patterns. The easiest patterns were in the green column. They were mostly walking patterns with some steering elements and stops. The pink column patterns were a little harder with some jog or trot parts, but still very doable for beginners. Each column had more advanced patterns right up to the blue column patterns which were challenging. These patterns can be short or long jump courses, horsemanship patterns, trail obstacles, little dressage tests, etc. A good source for some of these, if you are pressed for time, is Horseshowpatterns.com. Part of the practice was committing these to memory every day. That skill was really sharpened by the end of a summer session.
Each morning a camper chose which pattern they would attempt at the end of their daily lesson. They would copy a pattern on their own small chalkboard and put it in a box at the gate of the arena before they went to get their horse ready. Once they chose and completed a pattern they signed their name on the board next to that pattern to help them keep track of which ones they had attempted.
During each lesson, they would ride the pattern they had chosen. If they completed it, they would earn a “bead”, the color of the pattern column they chose from. At lunch, we would have a little bead ceremony where everyone was awarded the beads they earned. They would put these beads in the little boxes they made on day one. We had brown beads that were “attempt” beads and we cheered just as loudly for those. On their last day of camp, we gave the riders leather cord necklaces with a horseshoe charm on it and they arranged their beads on each side of the charm.
It was interesting to watch some kids choose patterns that were way beyond their ability and other choose patterns that were way under their ability. By the end of a camp session, they all had adjusted their choices perfectly.
The problem I saw with this system was the coveted blue and red beads were beyond reach for beginner riders who were working just as hard, so I changed the award system. Using the model of the Reining Scoring system, I made a score sheet with space to copy the pattern. We’ve included this example of our score sheet. Now the riders copy their pattern onto their score sheet and place it on their instructor’s clipboard. They are scored on each of the parts of their pattern. They learn abbreviations for each part of the pattern and beyond drawing it, they break the pattern down into separately scored maneuvers and label each score box with the abbreviation for that maneuver. See attached score sheets.
The beads are now awarded according to a rider’s score on their pattern as follows:
They start with a score of 70.
Each maneuver or piece of the pattern is scored:
0 – done correctly.
+1/2 – done really well
+1 – Excellent
+1 ½ – Extraordinary (doesn’t happen often!!)
-1/2 – poor
-1 – Very poor
-1 ½ – complete disaster.
The scores are than added and subtracted from 70 and the beads are awarded accordingly.
69.5 – 70.5 – Blue Bead
68 – 69 – Red Bead
66.5 – 67.5 – Yellow Bead
65 – 66 – White Bead
64.5 And below – Green Bead
71 -71.5 – SILVER Bead
72 and above- GOLD Bead
This system is perfect for showing kids where they need work and where they have strengths. Feel free to use any score system you are familiar with. We talk about our own set of rules for mandatory penalties. For example, if they touch the saddle horn it is a 1 point penalty, break of gait is 2 point penalty, losing a stirrup is a ½ point penalty, etc. These penalty points have their own box on the score sheet. The score sheets are added to their camp notebooks every day after the Bead Ceremony.