Borrow a Trainer: The Extended Lope

Borrow a Trainer: The Extended Lope

Horse-training tips for teaching your horse an extended lope.
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When a horse performs correctly at an extended lope, he maintains the same rhythm but with a longer stride. The horse is not running with his body flat, like you see in a racehorse or some reining horses, but he lifts his back, steps under himself with his hind legs for impulsion and lifts his front legs, shoulders, neck and head.

When you want to slow down, again there’s no change in rhythm, just a compression of the horse’s stride. The horse should gather himself – rounding his body more, engaging more behind and lifting the back and forehand – before transitioning right back down to the lope without losing any smoothness.

As he speeds up to extend, the frame of his body is still round, but a little longer. As he slows down, the roundness increases and his body gets more compact. To both extend and slow down correctly, the horse needs to collect, balancing his body with his weight on his hind end. When done with finesse, the horse will be relaxed, moving smoothly and fluidly, through the extension and the reduction of speed.

It’s really an advanced maneuver, especially when it is done well. A horse must be advanced in his training and have the body development to be able to truly extend and not lose his balance.

For any horse to collect, it takes time to develop the muscles and joint strength needed. It does take a little longer to develop an uphill balance in most Quarter Horses because they are built more level, like Thoroughbreds. But that’s also where the power in the Quarter Horse hind end works to his advantage. He has the strength in his hindquarters to really engage his hind legs for an uphill balance. He also has a quality, docile temperament and a mind to learn willingly.

Why should you train this maneuver? You need it for any advanced riding: to go up and down hills on trails; approach a jump; turn back a cow; run large, fast reining circles; extend a canter in dressage; lope over logs in trail; or turn around a barrel. Performing all those well begins with learning the basics of this maneuver for a horsemanship, equitation, western pleasure or hunter under saddle class.

Why do judges ask for an extension of the lope? It’s to test a horse’s self-carriage and the rider’s skill in riding a more difficult speed.

Because it’s an advanced maneuver, it’s a long-term goal. If you work to gradually develop a horse’s balance at different speeds in all his gaits and through transitions, you will train him to respond to your cues and build up his strength to be able to extend easily. Any shortcuts will result in problems.

Look for next month's training update to find out how to get an extended lope from your horse.

Lynn Salvatori Palm, long associated with AQHA Superhorse Rugged Lark, has more than 30 AQHA world championships and reserve world championships and four Superhorse wins in her list of accomplishments. She is also a respected AQHA judge and was recognized as the 2007 Professional’s Choice Professional Horsewoman of the Year by her fellow AQHA Professional Horsemen. With her husband, European Riding Master Cyril Pittion-Rossillon, Palm owns and operates Palm Partnership Training out of Fox Grove Farm in Ocala, Florida, and Royal Palm Ranch in Bessemer, Michigan. They offer classes for beginning to advanced riders from both locations.