Western Pleasure Calisthenics: Part III

Mix up your horse’s calisthenics for maximum results.

This is the third in a four-part series. Click on the link to view Part I or Part II.

Departures and Transitions

In this exercise, I mix up my departures and transitions to determine what I need to work on. Sometimes I go from a lope down to a trot. Then trot to walk. Lope to walk. Walk to lope. I vary it all up to make sure the horse is obedient to my requests.

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If the horse doesn’t do a transition correctly, I stop him, back him up and then ask again. If he does it right the next time, then I leave him alone.

At every transition, I want the shoulders up at the neck level.

In the lope departure, if the horse is broke, I leave my hand very steady. If it’s a greener horse that needs a little bit of help with lifting his shoulders, head and neck, I move my hand slightly forward and raise my wrist a bit. This is the cue that I teach my horses. When I move my hand slightly forward and bring my wrist up, this is a cue for elevation of the horse’s whole front end.

Loping Squares

In this exercise, I am basically loping a square. I lope in a straight line, stop, push the shoulder around to make the turn and then lope off again.

When I cue the horse to lope, my body is in a normal riding position with a relaxed leg. But when I go to make the turn, because I am moving the shoulders, my legs come forward, with my outside leg of the square a little more forward than the inside leg.

After I move the shoulders over, I might ask the horse in this particular exercise to lope off a little more through the shoulders and with my leg a bit more forward.

Also, I sometimes throw in turns on the hindquarter or forehand, depending on what I think the horse needs and the placement of his body.

What I am working on with this exercise is the straightness of the horse and keeping the horse from getting over canted. I want to prevent that.

Stay tuned next week for Part IV of the series.

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