Horses, like people, have strengths and weaknesses. To utilize your horse's strengths in the show pen, a lot has to happen. To put it simply, you have to "know your horse." I don't mean whether or not he likes his skid boots or head stall, or if the music or bleachers bother him. Those things shouldn't really be noticed by your horse or even by you. In a perfect world, you would walk into the show pen, your horse's head would be down, and he'd be focused. Your head would be up, and you'd be focused. You would perform the perfect pattern with perfect maneuvers, and the perfect 82 would be announced right behind your name.
When I say "know your horse", I mean learn his weaknesses. It is as important to under-show your horse's weaknesses as it is to show his strengths. You have to "know" both. That knowledge is learned at home, as well as in the show pen. If you can't get a nice backup, you need to know that.
Let's consider the backup maneuver, by itself, and look at it. If you have to back up at least ten feet in a run-in pattern, and you run all the way to the 3rd cone, you need to have a decent backup. If you don't have one, by the time you back to the middle, the judge may be irritated (at least, I think he would be). That's one thing to think about when planning your pattern. Continuing with the same thought of a weak backup, if this maneuver is at the end of a pattern, you could run as far as you want and perform a big slide stop. Then, only back as far as necessary to complete the pattern and keep the focus of the maneuver about your horse's strength in the stop.
Let's look at another maneuver - circles. This is a great place to add points to your score, but you have to "know your horse". Does your horse have a strong speed transition? If you can't get a very good small slow circle you have to make adjustments. There are different ways to show this maneuver. A safe way is to not run the large fast very fast and hope that the transition that you do get will be enough. Or, you could go nuts and run like the wind. The rule book says "large fast, small slow" - NOT how fast or how slow. If you run fast enough anything smaller and even a little slower should fit in that standard. You have to "know your horse". If your horse could become scared in the circles, how will he handle what comes next? However, if circling is your horse's strength, then you want to show that off. You have to "know your horse" and how he will perform for you through each maneuver.
A lot goes in to showing a reining horse. The more you "know your horse", the better your opportunities for showing off his strengths and showing less or adjusting through his weaknesses. When you watch it done, well, it seems easy. Once you've tried it, it's not so easy. However, with a little pre-planning and getting to know your horse's strengths and weaknesses, you will have more confidence when running a pattern.