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Dear Dana: How can I get my horse to transition nicely into the lope?

By DANA HOKANA / Horsetrader columnist - December 3rd, 2009 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: How can I get my horse to lift the shoulder and transition into the lope without getting cranky and over bridled?
—Caroline Campbell, San Miguel, Calif.

DEAR CAROLINE: It sounds to me that your horse has resistance to your leg. I cannot be positive without seeing your horse, but usually if the horse is cranky, it is because of an anger toward your leg. When a horse shows an attitude or has resistance, there is usually a root problem behind it that needs to be dealt with.

There are several components involved in the lope off transition in order to make a smooth, pretty transition. The most common area of resistance is to our leg cue. In a correct lope off, we are asking our horse to move his hindquarters over off of our leg into position to be on the correct arc of the lead that we are loping off into. Our horse also has to have his weight distributed onto his hindquarters and reach up with his inside hind leg and balance on the outside hind leg. It takes strength and collection to perform this without any movement in the head and neck.

I layer a foundation with my horse and practice the individual maneuvers until it becomes easy and effortless. Teaching my horse the correct way to perform this transition is two-fold. He has to position his body correctly and perform the maneuver, but he also has to accept my cues. It sounds like he has an issue with the acceptance part of the cue. In order to develop acceptance, I will pay a lot of attention to my horses reaction to my cues. When I see signs of resistance — such as crankiness, excessively using his tail, or jumping off of my leg — I will stop and repeat the cue until I feel that he is accepting of my cues.

This is very important in order to accomplish smooth, effortless transitions. I recommend that you pay attention to the details, and when you see a bad reaction, stop and repeat it until you build acceptance. I also recommend that you do a lot of exercises asking your horse to move over off of your leg – such as pushing the hindquarters around the front end, two-tracking or leg yielding, and side passing.

Work on these until he seems to accept being moved and pushed around off your leg. Good luck to you!


P.S. – In my DVD video series, “Maximizing Your Western Pleasure Horse Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 — Secrets to a Truly Willing Horse”, there’s more!

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