Balance Comes First in Pleasure
Have you sacrificed balance for slower speed in your pleasure horse's lope?
Troy Compton explains why balance should come first.
By Sue M. Copeland
When your horse moves in a balanced, collected frame, he's propelling
himself forward from his hindquarters rather than dragging himself
along with his front end. Not only will this lengthen his stride, but
it'll increase his maneuverability and present a more natural, pleasing
picture, in keeping with recent AQHA western pleasure judging
My rule of thumb is that you know your horse is loping correctly when
it feels as though he could change leads at any time. I'll discuss
three different levels of the lope, from a downhill, man-made looking
lope to a true, balanced lope.
1. If your horse's head is behind the vertical and her weight is
shifted to the forehand, she looks as though she's loping downhill. As
a result, she'll appear as though she's laboring and uncomfortable. She
may have an intimidated expression or pinned ears. Rather than having
her feet land softly, with the same stride length between her front
legs and hind ones, she'll move unevenly and her feet will hit the
ground hard. She'll feel rough and choppy from the saddle. And, this
short, choppy stride is counter to the long-strided, slow-legged
movement that comes with true collection.
2. Try easing your restraint on your horse's front-end and add a bit of
impulsion. You'll help her balance and she'll move more naturally --
and she'll be happier. Her weight will shift back onto her hindquarters
a bit more, and she'll be better able to use her shoulders. With a bit
more collection, you'll improve her balance and athleticism.
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3. Now, maintain the impulsion you've developed by bringing your
horse's face perpendicular to the ground. You'll balance her body and
improve her stride. Her hip will look bigger and longer (evidence she's
using it to balance her weight and power her stride.) This rearward
shift will round her back, and she'll be able to elevate her shoulders.
This freedom in her shoulders will create a longer stride.
End result? A happy, relaxed horse that presents a natural, pleasing picture!
This article first appeared in the February 1999 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.