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Slowing the Lope

Q: How do I get my western pleasure horse to slow his lope without four-beating?



A: Repair your horse’s lope over the span of two to four weeks, beginning with the extended jog and long-trot. They are excellent tools because they increase range of motion, enhance suppleness, and build stamina.

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!

Dale Rudin

Dale Rudin is a CHA certified riding instructor, trainer, clinician, and contributor to Young Rider, Horse Illustrated, and HorseIllustrated.com. She is the creator of Unnatural Horsemanship—a mindful approach to the horse-human relationship, and a founding member of Force-Free Tennessee, an animal advocacy organization that fosters humane low-stress training and handling of all animals. Rudin sees horsemanship as an opportunity for a mutually beneficial collaboration between our two species. To achieve positive results on the ground and under saddle, Rudin makes the horse’s welfare her first priority. She emphasizes the important of comfort, calmness, confidence, balance, and clear compassionate communication. She works with all breeds of horses in every discipline using positive reinforcement, clicker training, and the principles of classical dressage. Dale offers training, lessons, workshops, and clinics on her farm in Santa Fe, Tenn.

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