What kind of Patter are you?

I made kind of a weird observation while watching the Upperville live feed a few weeks ago, and have continued to build on this observation since. While just about everyone patted their horses after their rounds (which made my heart happy, because #alwayspatyourpony) the particular style of patting seemed to always fall into a few certain categories. Some discreet, some aggressive, some flamboyant. So what were the main styles I noticed?


The Rubber

These people are the most subtle, generally just reaching slightly forward with one hand and rubbing the horse’s neck or withers discreetly with their knuckles or a few fingers. It was quick, it was quiet, it was to-the-point, and it didn’t require taking a hand off the reins. Usually because taking a hand off the reins might result in imminent death of the rider and/or some spectators.

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❤ this. Pc @smellywarmblood

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The PitterPatter

One step up from The Rubber, the PitterPatter takes one hand off the reins and reach out for a nice soft little *patpat* or *rubrub*. Still quiet, still soft and sweet, but with a little less “I fear for my life right now” to it. These are the perfect people to use the Instagram Superzoom filter on. Much purple fuzz, many sparkles.

The Crossover

Along the same lines as your PitterPatter, the Crossover takes it one (crooked) step farther and reaches one hand across to pat or rub the opposite side of the neck. Sometimes they do one side first, and then the other, other times they just go straight across. This is my own particular style of patting although I can’t tell you why the heck I have to pat the left side of the neck with my right hand. There is no rhyme or reason. I think I just like being crooked.

The Monkey

The Monkey is the rider who leans forward (sometimes abandoning ship and dropping both reins, other times not) to give a hearty, usually two-handed rub or pat. Typically the pats are accompanied by such phrases as “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” or “YOU’RE THE BEST BOY” and an ear-to-ear grin. Extreme cases of The Monkey can turn into The Hugger, taken just one step further with a full-on embrace of the neck.

The Smacker

Ok I’m gonna be sexist for a minute and say that this is most common with professional male riders who have just won some money, but you know what I’m talking about. They give one or two BIG SMACKS on the neck, usually followed by some kind of spectacular fist-pump or (my preference) a finger pointed down at the horse in credit. This one is generally more of a celebratory style, reserved for special occasions.


There are some variations on all of these of course, but… these are the main ones I’ve noticed. So what kind of patter are you?

31 thoughts on “What kind of Patter are you?

  1. I, hilariously, had to go back and look at video of what I do when I give pats… I give them a lot, but apparently, they vary! After a really good Dressage effort when schooling, I become a Monkey, but I accent my monkey-ness with scratches up and down the neck (May LOVES this). In actual Dressage competition, I am a PitterPatter. BUT AFTER A GREAT XC ROUND, I am a bit of a smacker, monkey, hugger combination. 😉


  2. I am the monkey only because it is usually after Remus has saved my ass from certain death while out jumping HA! I seem to be enthusiastic at patting no matter what the animal (Dogs too). 🙂

    The rubber one makes me laugh about not letting go of the reins 🙂

    Great description of all the kinds of pats! Now I will be watching to assign titles to all patters!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whenever I see video of my rounds I’m always a little ashamed at how short and skimpy my pats are, especially in the 45 seconds between the first round and the jump-off. I think I go into some sort of time warp, where it feels like I’m patting away while time’s a-waistin’ and. I’ve gotta get us back through those timers and around the short course ASAP. The video always proves me wrong by showing that I had plenty of time to be more appreciative of the fact that Zack just heaved me safely over 12-14 substantial obstacles YET AGAIN — and is about to do it one more time at top speed. So yeah, I’m a skimpy patter. The first step is admitting it, I guess. I try to make up for it by stuffing the pockets of my britches with Stud Muffins and mints so that he can have a celebratory gorge as soon as he steps out of the ring. Thanks again for all you do, buddy!


  4. I was watching a class with a friend once at a show once, and we were laughing as round after round these guys would finish then give their horses the biggest WHOMP-WHOMP “pats” on the neck. We couldn’t figure out if that’s a clear message to the horse “Good boy!” or if they’re left a bit confused because “Pats = good boy, but Smacks = not good boy??”

    My personal preference is a crossover rub.


  5. So apparently I do all of these. My most common one is probably The Rubber/PitterPatter, because there is often a good chance my horse will dart off with me. Although I regularly do The Crossover, because who doesn’t like to be crooked? After my 2 all time best rounds at a show with Charmer, I alternated between The Smacker and The Monkey/Hugger. There is something about having a fantastic round with your horse that makes those options appeal more than they do on just a normal day I think. No matter what form of patting I use though, my horse get a heck of a lot of pats during *every* ride.


  6. I am a monkey smacker, especially after nailing a course. I try not to be too aggressive but when I’m excited it’s toss the reins and smack away! When I’m done with the ride though, I give them their head and a few quick pitterpats further up the neck. Teaching that signal has helped significantly on a few amped TBs who realized it meant chill time and they could actually walk instead of jig.


  7. Ahahaha this is great. Especially the last one. Glad I’m not the only one that noticed that. I do actually cringe when I see those BIG SMACKS on the neck and even I think like “ow, ow, ow” in rhythm to their smacking haha.

    I am a lot of those haha. I don’t cross over the neck, but if we’re doing something hard, and I want my horse to keep working but get a tactile reward then I’m a rubber. Usually with the inside rein tho I seem to pat more with my right hand than my left. My left hand just awkwardly does things. After pony has been SO GOOD I’m a monkey, but I rub my fingers up and down her neck because it’s like scratches and scratches are Amber’s jam. I’m also a pitter-patter. That one and rubbing I do most often. But you will also hear me constantly (and probably annoyingly to most people) talk to my horse. But….whatever works, right? lol


  8. I do a little of everything except smack. My old dressage trainer was a big fan of the single finger scritch on the neck/withers as an immediate reward when they offer a correct response. So I do that a lot when schooling along with verbal praise. Hugs are definitely for after cross country, lol


  9. Depends what ring I’m in. Equitation ring, it’s probably the little rub with my hands on the reins, cause they’ll penalize you for taking your hands off. Or they can. I’m not sure they DO. Hunters get the second one. And the jumper ring is a big one handed pat-rub hybrid. I don’t do the hard slap. I sometimes wonder if the horse knows that’s a reward of if they think they’re getting smacked for no good reason?


  10. My old trainer used to give smacks on the face when she dismounted and took off the bridle. Always made me cringe.

    I’m definitely a rubber though. I always pet the way I would want to be petted. 😂


  11. I cringe when I see smackers. The horses usually don’t looked too pumped either..
    I am a bit of everything except the smacker.


  12. My preference is the scratchy monkey. It’s my favorite thing after she’s been super good. Scratch up and down on both sides of her neck.

    Funny story, one of my friends is a smacker. The one time she rode my mare, Arwen was super good and my friend did the smack Pat. Arwen ended up spooking on her 😂😂


  13. Ok, I fall into all categories: a scratch at the base of the withers with one or two fingers and a breathed out “good boy” in the middle of an EOH ride; a rub on the edge of his mane with one hand (same side though) when he’s done something correct that he usually does correct; stroking of the neck and a couple of small pats to help ease tension, along with a soft “it’s okay buddy” or “you are overthinking this”; solid, firm patting on the right side of the neck (almost always), along with “good boy” or “great effort”; and finally the both hands on either side of the neck, with solid patting while raving about how good he just was (usually at the end of a dressage test or very complicated dressage movement.
    So yeah, we cover all the bases.


  14. After the rare moments I’m so thrilled I do a monkey pat, immediately afterward I think “wow I’m lucky to be alive”. It’s like taking my hands off the steering wheel at 75 mph on the interstate. Actually it’s not … horse is a sweetie and he’s good with a loose rein plus he knows he deserves lots of praise … it just feels like that might be what I just did. LOL


  15. I can be so many of them depending on the situation. I’ll rub in a lesson (especially on the flat) to give a quick good boy without trying to lose focus.

    I can be a monkey or full on neck hugger at the end of a dressage test or hard lesson 😂


  16. I’m a quick withers rubber 90% of the time. If my horse has done something particularly saintly, I may become more of a monkey patter. And then Lucy comes along and I’m a full blown Hugger. Forward hugs, backwards hugs, hanging off neck hugs, hugs around face, hugs around legs… I’m all over her like a drunk frat boy on a Friday night.


  17. Pitterpatter and a monkey, when baby horse does extra great things, haha. I tagged you in an Insta video :-).


  18. I am most often a wither skritcher, in the manner of the rubber. Mostly that’s because I like to praise mid movement without throwing away my contact. That also means I do the cross over often, holding the reins in one hand. After gallops or particularly good dressage tests or schools, I become the monkey. ❤️



    While warming up and throughout our lessons I’m definitely a withers scratcher, but Frankie knows when he’s made it through the timers because I officially abdicate all semblance of steering and start telling everyone near the ring how great he is. Sorry not sorry.


  20. I’m usually tame, but if we’ve been struggling through something and they do it well suddenly or if a big effort was delivered I become full on monkey hugger. Griffin appreciates this, Stan puts up with it, and Q flips me the bird and asks me to GTFO.


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