Western Dressage Exercise – Counter Bend to Lope Transitions

When developing the lope, one of the foundational skills to accomplish after achieving balance in the working lope is smooth simple lead changes. Being able to change leads through a few strides of jog or walk without losing balance is a precursor for flying changes. Moreover, it is a good test of your horse’s development of engagement in the lope. These transitions also improve the lope itself by getting the horse to organize his body more than just cruising around the arena without uphill engagement. For many horses and riders, though, the simple change of lead highlights gaps in the training or insufficient balance when adjusting strides. Most commonly, horses will tend to rush forward in the trot as the rider is preparing to ask for the new lead. Alternatively, he might raise his neck, becoming rigid in his body. Another common occurrence is the horse losing straightness and careening sideways.

As riders begin to practice changing leads through the jog or walk, I have them practice the following exercise to help coordinate their leg cues and also be more effective at preparing the horse for a balanced lead change/departure. This exercise helps prevent the horse from rushing forward when picking up a new lope lead on a straight line or falling on the forehand. It also assists the rider in controlling the horses outside shoulder which very often tends to drift off the correct line of travel.

Counter Bend to Lope Transitions

  1. Begin in a working jog on a 20 meter circle to the right at A to develop rhythm and frame.
  2. Then, after passing A, develop a counter bend around the first quarter of another 20-meter circle…
  3. … and then maintain this left bend and cross the diagonal towards M.
  4. At X, transition up to the left lead lope.
  5. Continue on your diagonal line to M.
  6. Practice several times in both directions. And THEN ride a regular simple change of lead through jog. You should find it a lot smoother and maneuverable.

Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2013

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