Loping circles issue
I've been working on maneuvering at the lope (me and my boy are rusty - especially me since I'm still learning) and I've been noticing that he doesn't (with me anyway) like to turn at the lope. We did large circles today and whenever we got to the turning part of the circle (close to the arena fence) he'd slow to a trot and act like he couldn't turn at the lope or maybe he was thinking the arena wasn't wide enough(?). It's a decent size arena but it isn't extremely wide I don't think, I don't know how big it is exactly. Anyway, I've been warming him up and making sure he does bend and everything, so I don't think it's a warm up issue, but I'm not 100% certain. I had someone ride him in the past (more experienced) and he did circles fine. But we don't have an instructor here and I can't afford a lesson from an outside person or in general. Any tips?
I would guess you're having one of two problems. Either you are using too much rein and affecting the bit; where you try to pull his head around with a neck rein and it ends up pulling back on the bit. Or, he's got your number and figured out a way to slow down whenever he wants to.
First thing I would do is make sure you're not shifting the bit when you ask for the turn and then the next time he slows down, either give him the boot or a pop on the butt with a bridle rein and get him loping again. Every time he goes to stop, whop him again until he does a few circles without wanting to stop. After that, stop him (never stop him where he wants to stop and never stop him in the same place twice) and either switch directions or stop working circles and go do something else for a while.
Let me first say that for a rider to be skilled and for a horse to be 'broke' or 'trained', the ability to lope circles in the open away from any fences must be accomplished. You just can't have a 'broke' horse without that horse being willing to lope a round circle, either direction, ANYWHERE, with no fences of any kind.
Circles are not real easy to learn how to do correctly. What I tell people that help me ride horses is "If they were easy to do, everyone could do them." Fact it, very few people can teach a green horse to lope good circles.
First you have to understand what it takes to get a horse to make a circle. You have to know how to teach a horse to 'follow his nose'. You have to know how to 'keep a horse between the reins and between the rider's legs'. Sounds easy, but it is not.
1) You have to have shoulder control. To get a horse to 'follow its nose', you have to be able to control its shoulders. A horse does not HAVE to follow its nose. It DOES HAVE to follow its shoulders.
2) You have to learn how to PUSH a horse into that circle rather than just trying to PULL him into it. It requires a horse moving off of the rider's outside leg to push him into that circle.
3) You have to quit pulling once the horse's head is pointed the right direction. If you continue pulling, the horse will just 'rubber neck' or 'over-bend' and keep on going the wrong way or will just stop. If a horse's nose is farther to the inside than to the point where you can just barely see the corner of his inside eye, THE RIDER IS PULLING TOO MUCH AND PUSHING TOO LITTLE! If the horse's head is pointed the right direction, the inside rein should be loose and the outside rein may need to be tightened to prevent over-bending.
Then, it is the rider's outside leg that has to put enough pressure on the horse to tell him to 'follow his nose.'
4) If you cannot put pressure on the outside of a horse's ribs and have him move into the circle desired, then you need to teach the horse to move off of leg pressure first.
5) The opposite is also true. If the horse drops a shoulder and leans into a circle (usually on the far side away from the gate) forcing the rider to hold the horse out with an outside rein, the rider needs to use inside leg instead of outside rein. The rider needs to PUSH the horse's body out where it belongs -- never pull on the outside rein to get the horse to stay on the outside of the circle.
Both sides of the circle require that a horse not only follow its nose but also stays between the rider's legs. Again, it means more PUSH than PULL.
It has been my experience that riders that have difficulty loping circles just have not learned to use their legs effectively. Teaching leg yielding exercises and riding out in the open (away from any arena fences) will build these skills. It is real easy for both horses and riders to learn to depend on arena fences and walls. Both soon get 'lost' without them.
Hope you find this relevant.
Cherie, I wasn't using the fence as a guideline. I was doing a large circle and went to the other side of the arena. I don't pull and try to use my legs more when loping. I am always very aware of how I use my reins. Are there any tips that ya'll can tell me to help with loping?
Just do a lot of it.
You have to use enough inside rein to give direction to your horse. Only you can tell him where you want to go. He is not a mind reader.
Use enough inside rein to point his head the way you want him to go. Then use enough leg to make him go there. Direct his nose and then make him follow it. It takes loping hundreds of circles to get it down pat.
Like I always say: "If it was easy, everyone could do it". Just keep doing it. Some day, you will wonder what was so hard about it.
Yes Cherie! That was good! Exactly what I TRY to do do with my BROKE horse!:lol:
If you know that he is always going to slow down at one point, start driving him before you get there! Stay on top of him, you can always feel when their about to do something, and get on him before he has a chance to do what he wants. Make sure your using lots of body language, look where your going and get that outside leg on him before he is able to slow down/not turn. The best way to achieve a nice bending turn is to put your inside leg on right at the cinch and shift the weight of your outside leg just ever so slightly back, so that he knows you want him to bend around your inside leg.
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