Do you feel like you’re oﬀ to the races every time you ask for a lope? While many horses will stay relaxed right from the start, some, especially those who are a litt le scared, or horses that have been held back all their lives, will want to take oﬀ like bullets! A horse like this is no fun to ride and can become dangerous if he’s not controlled. Here are some tips and exercises to try if you want to rate your horse back a litt le at the lope. By “rating” we mean being able to control the speed.
If you’re riding a young colt, you can be sure that he’s going to want to rip up a little when he first comes out of the stall. So go ahead and let him, just not with you on his back! Work him in the round pen or on a longe line first. Let him get his “ya-yas” out and then climb on for your ride. If none of those options are available you might work him at a good strong trot to begin with until you feel him start to slow a little on his own. When you come out of the trot, do a slow jog for a while and just get him in a relaxed mode, then pick up your lope. Once he’s burned off his extra energy, and then has done some slow work at the jog, he’ll be a lot happier at a reasonable lope. He might even start looking for the stop, and that’s always a big help.
One critical thing to remember is that if you’re tense, your horse will be tense, and a tense horse is usually a hot one. If you just can’t bring yourself to lope on a loose rein, go back to the round pen and just spend time loping there until you and your horse start to develop a little confidence in each other.
Let Him Rip!
I’ve found that the best approach is to simply take the chargey horse and over-collect him until he’s really tired. If you ask politely for him to slow down and you just get a busy signal – make it a big deal for him. If he’s got all that energy, ask him for more! You can over-collect him by working his face and driving him up more with your leg until he starts to round up his back in response to your spur. When he does, keep going until his neck relaxes too. Once you start to feel him give, slow down your hands and start to relax the spur, and then let him slow down and drop his neck. Keep letting off gradually until you finally let him stop. Then ask him to back a circle or two, and then go do something else for a while. It might take a few times, but he’ll eventually understand that he’s going to have to work really hard at the lope, and he might just start conserving his energy on his own.
More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaﬄ e Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit the Web site: www.lesvogt.com. You can also read previous More with Les columns at: news.horsetrader.com.