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DEAR DANA: I have a 3-year-old WP prospect who was started last fall. He is very solid at the jog, but I’ve hit a road block with his lope. He remains collected and in frame, but he is too fast for the show ring. Could you recommend any exercises that I can use to teach him to come down to “show speed”?
–Molly McElrath of Mercer, PA

DEAR MOLLY: I will do my best to help you with your horse without seeing him or a video of him, but I can tell you that I have had many good western pleasure horses that took a while to slow down. I have one mare that I think of in particular, she is a beautiful mover and has a bigger stride. She has a bit of go to her also, but her quality of movement was worth the time it took. She took months and months until she wanted to slow down.

I also want to say that there are some horses that never want to go as slow as they need to and if you force them to slow down before they are ready, or beyond their own natural talent, they end up moving horribly. If I feel that’s the case, I try to find another event for that horse. Not all horses are suited to be western pleasure horses, and that’s okay. They might make a great western rider!

I do want to encourage you , however, and tell you to take your time to slow him down. We want to keep our western pleasure horses moving as pure and good as we can. One thing to remember about a slow lope is that in order to go slow, beautifully, he needs to be collected and reach up behind, and have lift. If he is already collected, you could do some exercises to encourage his lift, such as stop him, roll him back onto his hindquarters, and lop back off. If he starts off with lift a little slower, then you know he needs to learn to hold his lift. When he speeds up, just stop him, don’t scare him or punish him, just stop, back, roll back, and lope off until he gives you more lift and self carriage.

The other thing you can do is to make sure he’s reaching up behind. I have a series of exercises I do to encourage this. You can push his hindquarters around off of his front end and really establish communication between his reach behind and your leg cue. You can also two track him and get a lot of results by making your horse stay on the correct arc. Good luck to you, don’t give up!


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