Western Dressage Exercise – False Straightaway

For most horses, the goal of slowing down the lope is most easily accomplished by riding circles. Circles help shift the weight to the horse’s hindquarters because they draw the horse’s hind leg under his body and towards the midline, lowering his hip and in turn flexing all of his hind leg joints. The lope then becomes more “gathered,” each stride traveling with more uphill balance and a slower and more deliberate tempo. Obviously, though, riders do not want to get stuck only riding around a circle. When most horses leave the circle for a straight line this uphill balance often changes, resulting in a lope that gains speed as though it is accelerating on to a freeway on-ramp.

Western Dressage Exercise - False StraightawaysEspecially in the beginnings of developing collection, a horse will fall forward on his forehand when leaving the circle and quicken his steps. This happens because his hind legs trail out behind him, thereby thrusting his body forward more hurriedly across the ground, rather than up into the air with lofty strides. Our task is to help the horse organize his body on straight lines as well as he does on circles. I have found the quickest and simplest way to do this is to modify your straight lines so they are neither too long nor predictable. This ensures the horse transfers his balance from curved line to straight to curved without the time or distance to fall apart. It requires some creative use of the arena on the rider’s part, which is necessary for developing an effective seat in the lope in any case. The following are some patterns I ride with young horses in order to improve their lopes.

  1. Begin in a working lope, right lead, near B.
  2. Proceed through the corner between F and A and then immediately after A, turn on a mini diagonal line towards the rail between K and E.
  3. Ride a 15 or 20 meter circle at E to rebalance as needed.
  4. Then shave off the corner between H and C by riding another mini diagonal line, arriving at the rail at C.
  5. Continue around the arena in this fashion.


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

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