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claireauriga 08-31-2008 01:52 PM

Why is the lope like it is?
I'm completely ignorant about western riding, as I'm a Brit whose only education has come from places like this. But I've been wondering about the lope gait.

In general, most things we look for in shows or conformation or other horsey attributes have their roots in health, comfort and practicality. For example, in conformation, while a pretty head is largely an aesthetic choice, good legs are those that are likely to stay sound and a sloping shoulder gives a more comfortable trot.

While I know it requires good athletic ability to perform well, I can't get it out of my head that the lope looks like a hobble to me! Horses moving with heads so low, slowly with such an odd (to me) motion - it looks so different to the canter I'm told to aim for in my riding lessons!

But the two are born out of totally different circumstances and needs. I know that western riding is born out of cowboys and so on; what was practical and comfortable for the riding they did in their lives. What I'm wondering is what factors led to the lope's currently approved traits. What properties does the lope (or the original ancestor of the lope before it was adjusted by judges and show-organisers) have to make it desirable? Having only ever ridden horses in what America calls english riding (but we just call riding ;)), I've no idea what a lope feels like or what its uses are.

Thank you ^^

Cat 08-31-2008 02:34 PM

The proper foot fall of the lope and canter are identical and are from the same gait. However, the originally intent of the lope was a easy-going ground-covering gait to travel distances without tiring the cowboy. However, the show world has taken it to the extreme and the current slow lope is truely a show-driven fad.

Harlee rides horses 08-31-2008 04:10 PM

The reason the lope (in my assumption) is so slow is that in western pleasure your horse is to be somewhat submissive, or completely under control by its rider. So, by going slower you achieve that... The reason the head is carried that way is because when a horse is asked to lope and go slow their head usually goes down and then they submit to the bit. Although, over years have passed riders/trainers make it a fad to go super slow and heads super low, thus, some people actually hobble their horses to achieve the perfect western pleasure slowness.

But thats all my own guesses.

horsey*kisses 08-31-2008 04:30 PM

have you ever ridden western? just a question not an insult
when i ride my horse and i get him into a comfortable easy lope his head goes down so his back and his neck are level and he is smooth like a rocking chair almost this lope is easy to control looks nice (if its done properly the show judges have blown it all out of proportion) when the cowboys used their horses for cattle herding it was easier for the horse to cut the cows if their head was lower the ground so they could move their legs quickley and separate the cows efficently. If you have ever watched cutting the horses heads are low to the ground as they move.
SO the horses having their heads down during a lesiurly lope was desirable then it got into peoples mind the lower the head the more points so thats why in the shows the horses look like they are smelling the dirt the whole time.
Also (this isnt usually used in western pleasure but its somethign to do with the reason the heads are low) when western riding the horses have something called a tie-down it prevents them from throwing their head up, its not a hurting device and not all horses use it, it keeps the horses head at a certain level
so say you are running barrels with a horse with no tie-down the horse goes around a barrel and throws his head up causing his legs to not be able to move as much as you would like resulting in a knocked over barrel or a dangerous turn in which both horse and rider could get hurt, now put a tie-down on that same horse and he keeps his head low abling him to reach farther with his legs resulting in an effective and safe turn,
i personally dont like western pleasure that is a joke (no offense to anyone who does it) and i agree with you the horses look like the have no spirit no originality it all looks the same
i hope that made sense to you i tend to jump around when i talk lol

claireauriga 08-31-2008 05:28 PM

Nope! We don't really have western riding in the UK. All the western sports were unknown to me and some of them still mystify me :)

I did suspect that the exaggerated lope I've seen clips of is 'artificial', so to speak - picked by the judges and distorted from its original purpose. That's why I asked why that sort of gait was originally favoured :)

A tie-down is similar to a standing martingale, right? I understand that using the neck properly rounds the back and lets the horse move more freely and powerfully, but I think I see a difference between the engaged or low neck of a collected english or western horse and those that look as though they've dropped a contact lens.

So basically, the origins of the lope were a canter that was easier for the rider to sit, covered ground a lot and the horse could maintain for a long time? Because I know that the trot is the horse's natural long-distance gait and they can't really canter or gallop for very long periods of time.

Thanks for explaining it to me :)

farmpony84 08-31-2008 06:36 PM

if you ever get a chance to ride a western pleasure horse (a true western pleasure) you ought to jump on it... it really is a neat ride. I was english for so many years, I just wanted to try something different... and I fell in love.....

horsey*kisses 08-31-2008 08:05 PM


Originally Posted by claireauriga
A tie-down is similar to a standing martingale, right?

So basically, the origins of the lope were a canter that was easier for the rider to sit, covered ground a lot and the horse could maintain for a long time? Because I know that the trot is the horse's natural long-distance gait and they can't really canter or gallop for very long periods of time.

Thanks for explaining it to me :) not sure what a standing martingale is...ill look it up though,

yes technically, on the long trails it was easier for the cowboys to sit a slow canter than to bump along on a trot, so they trained thier horses to get into a slow canter comfortable for both them and the rider and they were still able to stay with the cattle and cut quickley if needed

you're welcome! lol

claireauriga 09-01-2008 05:40 AM

This is a standing martingale - it ties from the noseband or bit down to the chest. Those horses I ride that use a martingale either have a running martingale (rings over the reins so the horse isn't constantly being pulled down, only if it lifts its head too high and so on) or an elastic standing martingale, which is stretchy and fits over the poll, runs through the rings of the bit and then goes down to the chest, giving them a gentler aid but still providing the same service. I just get the urge to twang the martingale like a rubber band xD

I find riding the canter pretty tiring, but I am a beginner - still, I guess the lope is much easier? And if I do get the chance to ride western (if I ever visit America?) then I'll give it a go!

horsey*kisses 09-01-2008 10:29 AM

oh thats

as you ride longer you will come to like the canter or lope i actually enjoy it more than trotting i dont really trot my horse very often only a few times around then i switch to loping and work on his leads hes not too great at those lol
anyway, good luck with your riding! and definatly if you ever get the chance try riding western its really different and challening from english but its loads of fun

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