I have been showing western pleasure for 8 years. I started out on a pony that did not want to listen. In western pleasure that's a problem because judges look at your every move & your every move has to be PERFECT. Judges look at many different things & no 2 judges veiw things similarly. When your at a show, look at who he/she places in a class before you & see how they did it& possibly adjust yourself to be more like them. Being slow is a MUST. Most judges are starting to look at a more natural movement (at least they are here in Ohio) so you don't have to be crippling slow & your lope doesnt have to look like it's painful for the horse. Lol Posture is very important, no slouching, heels down, chest out, & smile. That always adds a nice touch. (: If you do any horsemanship classes (pattern riding classes) don't be afraid to take your time. I mean of course be reasonable about it. But it's not timed. You can take your nice time opening a gate & making it perfect while not letting your horse get stressed! Hope this helped you out! (: Enjoy!!
Common misconceptions of western pleasure right there.
When a judge is judging a class (depending on the number of horses in the class) they are only able to watch you so much, they don't stare at you and only you. They have other horses to watch, I recently had a conversation with an AQHA judge who told me that when he judges a class he gets to watch every horse for a maximum of 30 seconds in a class. So no, you don't have to be perfect
. Perfection would be nice ofcourse, but the majority of judges understand that during a class you will have to pick up on your horse and correct them. Most judges will give you an area in the arena they will not look at so you can correct your horse. Going slow is not the name of the game. Quality of movement is far more important then speed.
Most people think that the slower you go the better you do in western pleasure, and unfortunately (due to some bad judging) that was the style for quite some time. The problem that this idea created is people took horses that were not physically able to go slow were forced, yanked, pulled, spurred into going slow which creates that ugly robotic crippled look you mentioned. Yes a western pleasure horse is supposed to go at a slow-er more relaxed pace. But a horse that is a little faster but a better mover then the slowest horse in the class should place front of the slower horse. If your horse isnt built to go slow then maybe western pleasure isnt for you but that's ok there are alot of other great styles of riding out there thatll work better.
Another thing mentioned in the quote above is to watch the winners and try to adjust to whos placing first. No no no no. This is my biggest pet peeve, this is why we have the crippled horses out there. Inexperienced people think horses are winning just because they are slow, so they take a horse that is just a decent mover and pull it back into the ground till its loping slower then most horses walk and it moves like fido. IMO if your having a good ride then don't fix something that's not broke. Its just not your day, the judge likes another horse better then yours which is ok. Who cares if your not placing first, there will always be another show and another judge. Its not all about winning, if you don't enjoy showing without winning then you shouldnt be showing at all.
Smiling, unless your truly having a great time and want to smile. Don't. 9 times out of 10 smiling becomes forced and fake looking. Its really tacky looking and most judges I have talked to say it doesnt sway how they place at all. Plus when your in 9+ classes you get tired and miserable after forcing a smile for hours.
If you want to try western pleasure, more power to you I think its a great idea. But make sure you get with a trainer who has experince
with western pleasure.