Training for W Pleasure/Ranch Riding
I'm thinking of making Western Pleasure a gateway sport into the showing world for me and my horse. Since I really don't like everything in the WP circles and since my horse is NOT bred for WP nor a QH/Paint, I'm not going to pretend I'm in it to win every show. I'd be more into Ranch Riding and its style, but that's not an option for us.
What I want and what I am looking for is clean, regular gaits with a lower headset and relaxed movement. A horse that will keep its (slowish) speed and simply be a pleasure to ride.
The question quite simply is: how to go about getting to that point?
My horse is barely ridden. So I'm starting from zero. What's the first thing to do? Get her go forward in a straight and relaxed manner? Then what? Long and low? Circles?
I know it's a huge field, but getting a WP trainer is not an option.
If you happen to know a great WP focused training book that's easy to get hold of, that'd be great too.
A list is fine, if you don't feel like expanding. Any help appreciated.
I don't know. maybe a person well versed in WP could come up with a list, but my first thought is that , well, it depends. What step you take in training a horse depends on where the horse is at that time. So, whether or not that horse needs more work on having more impulsion, or more work on softening at the poll or more work and lateral things, all depends on the horse at that time. That's why I really think you have to work with someone who's done it before and can see how to work the indidividual horse.
If you are looking to do the ranch horse western events, you could look at videos done by B.F. Yeates, who founded the Stock Horse of Texas.
Be prepared that based on your ability and your horse, you will most likely still need to find a trainer to at least haul in to.
A good foundation is what you need to start any discipline. The horse should walk, trot, canter when you ask for it. Stop and back when you ask for it. The horse should learn to circle and pick up his inside shoulder to stay balanced. The horse should move off your leg. You should be able to control the shoulder, ribcage, and hindquarters of the horse with your leg. The horse should be soft and supple through the face. All of these make for a good foundation to take a horse in any direction you want. Once you've put many, many miles on your horse, then you can start the process of slowing them, collecting them, and finessing your movements with advanced maneuvers and techniques.
Don't think too far ahead. Each piece of training builds on another piece. If you skip to the "picture" of what WP is, then you will be missing a lot of steps and will have a horse that is representative of the "fake" WP movement.
People will say, "I want my horse to have a slow and cadenced lope". Then they'll get on and pull their horse's face until the horse chugs along on his forehand at a 4 beat.
Did you teach your horse how to balance at a fast lope? Does the horse stay upright in his circles? Does the horse move off your leg to pick up his shoulder? Does your horse have a soft, supple face? Does your horse know how to haunches-in at the walk, trot, and then lope? Does your horse know how to work on a counter canter? Does your horse move off your leg cues?
These are all questions any rider in any discipline would have to consider to get a well-balanced canter or lope. The end result is just to use that balance and collection to slow down the speed, and drape the reins and let your legs/body do the work.
Thanks for the replies, seeing even these aspects laid out helps a lot! My "just started" horse is such a blank canvas it's easy to lose the sight of where you want (and need) to go. Especially since I've not gone (or tried to go) for WP so methodically with the horses I've ridden and trained in the past.
It'd be interesting to hear how WP trainers usually go about building a WP horse -- the core syllabus, so to speak. Of course there needs to be variation for individual horses, but I guess the building blocks are roughly uniform...?
The basics that oh vair oh put in her first paragraph will put you on a good path no matter what direction you and your horse take.
I personally see Wp and ranch riding to have slightly different goals, and therefore different bases. I have a reining trained horse (and I have a grade horse)that I am looking at doing some ranch riding on. Ranch riding classes, at least from what I have see, incorporate more of the reining way of going than a traditional WP way. Personally I see reining horses as more maneuverable......"catty" if you like that term, and even willing to move on cows. I do not see WP training to be compatible with competing in ranch riding, but perhaps I am missing something. JMHO.
But I think even getting that basic level of "nicely moving horse" out of my pony in a consistent manner will prove to be a task. So probably (most likely) we'll leave all the class-specific finessing to those who are "in it to win it". Still I think understanding the process to a finished WP/RR horse is useful even if there's no intention to go that far.
Oh, what I wouldn't give for a proper RR/WP trainer! Or the chance to ride a good WP/RR horse...
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