Slow down, dangit !
Finally I have fixed my mare's lope . No longer does she tilt or feel awkward but I have now been presented with a new challenge: Finding the "SLOW DOWN" button .
She's capable of a slow lope because we've done it . But it's only after we've been doing a lot of work that she does it ! I don't expect her to win a pleasure class but I'd like to not be the one who's horse is running and circles while everyone's horse is on the rail, nice and slow .
So how do I slow her down ?
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Lope, lope and lope some more. When she's ready to quit, lope some more. When your ready to quit, lope some more. The longer you can get her to lope consistent, and do it for a few days to a week, she'll start out loping slower and continue at a slower lope.
It takes muscle to carry a slower pace.
I have to disagree with running her down. At a show, that just makes you look bad as a rider, and it'll leave her tired, which isn't impressive to look at in a class, and she has no way of recongnizing what it is you want, as there's no release, so she won't learn a thing.
I'd suggest a lot of rating. Push her up, slow her down, push her back up, then down again. She should go the pace you set for her. Make sure she's moving correctly through her hind end. Without hind impulsion, the lope is nothing.
When she achieves a slower pace, after a couple of strides praise her, let her stand for a second, and give her a break. She needs to realize that going slower is what you want. That will come with releasing and rewarding at the correct times. Over time, as the muscle builds, she'll be able to carry a cadenced lope around the arena for several minutes without fault.
I'm telling you now, give yourself a good year to get to that point. Set a year as your goal for a killer lope, and go from there.
There are others around here who can explain this better, so I'll leave that to them.
From experience riding my old horse (I have an english background) keeping on a circle helped him slow down, rather then going around the outside of the arena.
Do you have any video of her?
Not only does it take muscle for the horse, but slow loping takes muscle on the rider's part to really be able to lock down and give a very small amount of energy to the horse.
I find that using the rail for turnbacks slows them down nicely. Ask her to lope about 6' off the rail. When she speeds up, turn her into the rail to reverse direction. She will likely stop and that's ok, just ask her to lope again and move off the rail again. Again ask her to turn to the rail to reverse direction. Because it's "the other eye" she may stop again. Keep doing the turnbacks each time she speeds up. When she will hold a slower lope for half a dozen strides, allow her to walk as it is quite tiring. You will start to notice the lope is not only slower but much nicer to ride because with each turnback she is getting her hindquarters under her. You may wish to do this at the trot first
Is the horse stalled? How much time does it get turned out? How big is the turnout? How often do you lope?
The idea behind my answer is to take the excitement out of loping. Most horses that are stalled or rarely worked have pent up energy. When you have them lope, they get excited and can stretch out. It can give them sort of an adrenaline rush. Loping them for a longer time takes the fun and excitement out of it for them. It will also help build up their stamina.
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Also wanted to add ^^ Having the horse lope for a while wasn't to be done at the show. At shows you are there to perform not train. Training is done at home/barn.
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I find that a slower lope will come more quickly if you warm-up properly and work on the core exercises at the trot and jog. You may also want to experiment with transition exercises. What I usually like to do is get my horse nice and supple at the trot, have him bending and using his core at a faster pace. We'll do a lot of leg-yields, figure eights, counter bends, and side passing at the fast trot. Once I feel like he is bringing himself up and reaching underneath, I will slow the pace to a jog. I will refine my leg-yields at the jog, and I will work on my transitions from the fast trot to the jog and then back. Once I have the slow jog in place, I will ask for a rounded departure into the lope. If I do not get a good departure with a low head, I will immediately back up and ask again. When they get their butt under themselves when they depart, they will be more inclined to go slower. And since the transitions from the fast to the slow at the trot have been refined, the horse should be in tuned to your body language. If the horse is too fast, I will circle, pushing the horse off the inside. I will also leg-yield the horse at the lope for short intervals, depending on how much muscle they have. If I get two slow strides, I will stop and take a break. The next time I may get four good strides, then ten, and so on until the horse builds muscle and recalls muscle memory. All the time I am working the reins with pressure and release, making sure every release is on a long drape.
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