Western Dressage Exercise: Lope Spirals with Transition

Western Dressage Exercise Lope Canter WorkAt some point, every rider has struggled to achieve smooth and balanced transitions in and out of lope. In order to execute a seamless lope depart, the horse needs to lower his pelvis which requires him to bear more weight on his hind limbs while also engaging his deep abdominal muscles to stabilize his body during this balance shift between gaits. This allows movement to travel through his spine unrestricted. Failing this, a horse will push his weight forward into his chest and onto his front legs, the consequence of which is a rushing and messy depart or, depending on each horse’s nature and confirmation, a sluggish one. The following exercise helps improve transitions to and from lope by activating the horse’s hind legs between transitions.

Physiologically, upward transitions to lope significantly loosen the horse’s lumbar spine. As the horse steps from walk or jog into the lope, he re-organizes his spine to accommodate the wave-like motion of lope. Also, the hinge point for his hind limbs shifts from the hip to the lumbar-sacral joint. This mobilization alleviates restriction in this area so prone to tightness amongst riding horses. This explains why the quality of jog is often so much improved after a bout of lope. The horse is better able to use his back to absorb and flow with movement generated from the hind limbs.

Lope Spirals with Transition

  1. Begin in a working lope on a large circle.
  2. After establishing a steady rhythm, spiral in to make a small circle…
  3. …then spiral back out to your large circle.
  4. Now, spiral in to the small circle again. And this time once you get to the small circle, transition down to a walk.
  5. Take 5-8 walk steps and then pick up the lope again. Now ride out to the large circle.
  6. Repeat the entire sequence.

Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2014

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