Q: How do I get my western pleasure horse to slow his lope without four-beating?
Work him in a steady rhythm while riding both straight lines as well as circles and turns. Pay attention to the alignment of his spine from poll to tail. The contour of his body needs to reflect the shape of the path he’s following to ensure he’s traveling in a balanced frame with his hind legs stepping evenly and on the same track as his forelegs.
Further develop his hind end strength and flexibility with lateral work. Begin at the walk, moving on to the extended jog when you’re both confident.
Your goal is to ask him to step his inside hind leg forward and toward the middle of his belly by taking a half-step sideways as he moves forward. Cue him by removing your outside leg and sliding it up toward the cinch while applying pulses of pressure with your inside calf in the middle of his ribcage.
Time your leg cue with the step of his inside hind leg. Start with one or two steps at a time, gradually building up to several forward/sideways steps.
The next step is to work on the lope itself. Start by riding a large- to medium-sized circle, keeping a bend in your horse’s body. Support with the outside rein and wiggle your fingers on the inside rein to flex his head slightly at the poll.
At the same time, nudge him with your inside leg behind the cinch to encourage a deep and energetic step from his inside hind leg. If you feel the four-beat, sit deep in the saddle and push him forward with your legs into soft rein contact. Add straighter and slower to your routine as his lope improves.
DALE RUDIN is a CHA-certified riding instructor and clinician with a mindful and balanced approach to horsemanship and riding. www.un-naturalhorsemanship.com
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!