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Dear Dana: How do I stop my horse’s ‘four-beating’ without passing everyone?

By DANA HOKANA / Horsetrader columnist - October 14th, 2009 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: How can I fix my western pleasure horse’s habit of four-beating or “troping” without passing everything in the pen?
— Kathy Grisham of Glendora, Calif

DEAR KATHY: That is a very good question! In my opinion, movement and quality of movement is huge! I always prioritize movement before speed. However, I know that you want your horse loping good and staying slow.

The causes of a horse “four-beating” can be complicated and varied. I have a lot of exercises I do on a daily basis to maintain my horses’ movement. I believe that western pleasure, if done correctly, is an athletic event — and I need to encourage my horse to reach and step and to stay balanced and off of his front end.

Four of the common causes to a horse starting to four-beat are:

  1. They lose the natural body position of the arc. A horse is made to lope on a slight arc, not under arced or over arced. The correct arc for a right lead for example, is the left rear foot needs to fall in the middle of the two front feet, and the head and neck tipped slightly to the right so that the rider can see the outside corner of the right eye. The left arc is opposite of this. My program has a lot of exercises designed to “Maintain the arc”.
  2. The horse quits reaching up or stepping up behind. I often “medium-trot” my horses every ride, collected and in hand, to encourage them to reach and keep their step. Older hoses often shorten up their stride and they need to be driven or pushed to keep that natural reach they had as a younger horse.
  3. The horse dumps his body weight onto his front end. Keep your horse balanced, using their hindquarters. That will keep that natural lift in the shoulders needed to perform a beautiful, flowing lope. If my horse feels heavy in my hand or when I stop him, he is probably on his front end. I will stop and rollback my horses often to get them off of their front end.
  4. The horse may be unsound or sore in some area. You would need to have a veterinarian check your horse to rule out any unsoundness. We study and evaluate our horses often to check for any unsoundness. Also, I recommend that you vary your workout with some loping that is driven up and collected as well as slow, show-speed rail work. Remember, good movement needs to be maintained. Take the pointers I’ve given you and diagnose which areas you feel your horse needs the most help in and work on those areas.

Good luck, and I hope this helps you!


P.S. My training DVD, “Maximizing Your Western Pleasure Horse Vol. 1 and Vol. 3” looks into this topic!

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