Western Pleasure Calisthenics: Part IV

Learn how to back your horse up and effectively plan and execute his workout schedule.

This is the last of the four-part series. Need to review Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3?

Backing Up

At the end of the exercise session, I always do a backup.

I don’t bring the horse to the middle, because I don’t want him to think of being at a horse show. But I also don’t do it right on the rail either.

For the backup, I close both spurs, keep the horse straight and then release to stop him.

AQHA Professional Horseman Brent Graef offers some valuable barn-aisle exercises in AQHA's FREE report, "Rainy Day Rewards." Download yours today and use on wet, chilly days instead of staying indoors.

If he didn’t do it right, I will ask him to do it again. If he did it correctly, then I will get off of him, pat him and loosen his cinch for immediate relief. This tells him he did a good job, and we’re finished for the day.

Workout Schedule

When exercising my older, more experienced horses, I keep it pretty mixed up.

I might work on long trotting and loping squares one day and departures and transitions the next. There are even days that I might come out and just walk and stand the entire session.

I don’t want to go out every day and do the same exact thing. I will do that on a younger horse because they need to learn the rhythm, but on an older horse, I vary it up a lot.

If you take a horse out there and just run him through every day, he gets savvy to that. So there are days when I am going to surprise my horse and just take him out and walk him and let him stand and look in the pasture.

For my older horses, I will ride them two or three days a week with activity of some sort on all the other days. Those activities would include turnout or being put on the hot walker.

When it comes to preparing for shows, I want to make sure that the horse is ready to go to the horse show and be shown without straining himself. I try to make sure that athletically the horse is ready for what’s coming up. Exercise-wise, that would mean some long trotting again and doing what I call my checkups: Are you doing your transitions correctly? Are you basically moving the way I want you to move? Just kind of conditioning coupled with my turnout program.

Now if I’m getting ready for the All American Quarter Horse Congress or the AQHA World Championship Show, I’m going to be pickier about everything. At that point, my horse’s mental readiness and my requirements are going to definitely increase. I might ride two or three times a day or whatever is needed at the time to make sure that everything is in perfect working order.

If I’m going to a smaller show, I won’t be quite as critical.

Even in cold, wet weather, you can still get some quality training time in. Download AQHA's FREE report, "Rainy Day Rewards," and take AQHA Professional Horseman Brent Graef's exercise tips to the barn.