Western Dressage Exercise – Lope Paperclip

This week’s exercise is a good shake-up to the usual routine of circles and straight lines we often get stuck in. It is an exercise that I like to call a double whammy because it improves the horse’s performance as well as the rider’s aids and effectiveness.  Quite simply, if the rider is out of balance or weak with her aids, the pattern will not work. Also, if the horse’s lope is suffering from lack of impulsion, roundness, or uphill balance this exercise will be a challenge. But it is a good challenge, I should add, because it will lead to a more balanced lope, one where the horse is squarely under the rider’s seat instead of rushing out the front or bulging to one side. I have seen this exercise brighten up many horses’ lopes. By that, I mean I have seen it create more clearly defined steps and a slower cadence from lopes that were otherwise not very lovely to begin with.

For the sake of accurate riding it helps to have access to an arena with a fence or wall around the perimeter. These visible, solid corners give riders the target and boundaries needed to execute this pattern without morphing it into an entirely different shape, which often happens when riders have too much open space to work in. When that happens, the figure is not serving its gymnastic purpose. In the absence of a fence, though, you can set up corners for yourself with ground poles, cones, or even a dusting of flour on the sand.

Before we begin, I want to quickly review the rider’s position while in the lope.  Especially when riding figures that involve any sort of turning and bending while loping¸ the rider must keep her outside leg behind her inside leg. It should remain slightly further back in order to guide the horse’s outside hind leg– which is the propulsive leg and driving force—straight under the horse’s body, to act as a guardrail preventing the haunches from swinging outward.

Lope Paperclip

  1. Begin in a working lope tracking right. At A, ride a 15-meter circle to establish your rhythm.
  2. Then ride a horse’s length past K and turn across the arena diagonally. You will be aiming for the corner between C and M. Aim to arrive at the rail just past C.
  3. Turn right to ride through the corner between C and M.
  4. Then at M, turn back across the diagonal to return to K. Aim for the corner between A and K.
  5. Your figure should look like a paperclip. Please note that you DO NOT change your lead on this exercise; it is NOT a direction change. You are simply loping from corner to corner, making a tight bend (while maintaining your lead) at each corner.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2012

One Response to “Western Dressage Exercise – Lope Paperclip

  • Laura Swain
    6 years ago

    Great exercise! Love how it starts to teach a little collection in those corners. A nice variation for those that are ready to begin schooling longitudinal flexibility is to ask your horse to lengthen across the arena and collect as you approach the short side at A or C.