Western Dressage Exercise – Lope Lightness

The ability to lope with rhythmic and relaxed footfalls is indeed one of the primary goals for this gait. Of equal importance, however, is the balance and looseness to maintain a slow lofty lope while also maintaining utmost softness in the horse’s neck. Too often, I see horses that are loping around with stiff braced up necks, the result of learning to balance themselves by restricting the musculature that controls the oscillations throughout the their spines. The neck muscling, even when arched in a frame for dressage, should show relaxation and  allow the natural movement of the horse’s head/neck forward and backwards with each stride, the same as in the walk. Horses that lope around with their necks held in static, fixed postures in the canter are doing a disservice to the rest of their spinal joints and consequently the lumbar-sacral region which dictates the movement of their hind limb.

To help riders improve the balance and posture of their horse’s lopes, I use the following exercise which alternates between a light rein contact and no contact to guide the horse to better movement but without so much “help” from the rider that he gets rigid.

Lope Lightness

  1. Begin in a collected lope, right lead. Ride a 20-meter circle at E.
  2. As you cross over the center line on each side of your circle, push your hand(s) forward to put slack in the reins.
  3. Ride for 3 strides with slack in the reins.
  4. Then, develop your contact again with a soft feel of your horse’s mouth.

When you release the contact, you test your horse’s ability to carry himself fully for a moment. Be sure to keep your own hips and seat moving at the same speed when releasing the reins, otherwise some horse’s interpret your release as an invitation to quicken their tempo. Your horse should maintain the exact same tempo, poll flexion and neck posture as you release the reins and then gently take them back.

He should come neither behind nor above the bit. If he struggles with this, try releasing just one rein at a time.

WDAA Blog Western Dressage Exercise

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



3 Responses to “Western Dressage Exercise – Lope Lightness

  • I hope to practice it tomorrow!

  • Sara Breyman
    5 years ago

    I really enjoy these tips and exercises for the western dressage horses! Thank you for doing this. 🙂

    • jec ballou
      5 years ago

      You are welcome. I am so glad you are finding them useful!