Monday, May 2, 2011

Half-Pass to Lope

After my horse has learned to half-pass, I ask him to lope off in the correct lead from a walk. It usually is not difficult if I have done the work on the half-pass. It’s virtually impossible for him to pick up the incorrect lead since, if he is half-passing correctly, his inside hind leg (the one that strikes off into a lope) is well under his body. Because of that, he is also in a collected frame where it is easy to lope. Most of my horses find themselves trying to lope and hardly know why because it so comfortable.

The Exercise
Walk your horse in a large circle. Half-pass to the inside several times, releasing after your horse performs the maneuver and walking a few steps. When you want to lope from a half-pass, keep your weight on the outside seat bone, release the rein pressure and “kiss”. Repeat a few times until your horse understands. Reverse and half-pass to lope in the other direction. Don’t expect too much too soon if your horse is learning. I accept any attempt to lope, then do it again.

Where can it go wrong?
  • The horse will not lope or trots a few strides before he lopes. When this happens, your horse is either not collected enough in a half-pass positon or you have not released rein pressure to allow him to move forward. Go back to the half-pass and be sure he is moving forward with his haunches slightly in, then ask again making sure you are releasing rein pressure so he can lope without restriction.
  • Horse overbends. If your horse is overbent, he may be drifting to the inside of the circle too. Be sure to apply enough outside direct rein to keep him on the circle and only enough inside rein in a pull-release motion to keep his head in the direction of travel.
  • The horse tries to lope before you ask after you have half-passed. This is almost for sure because you have been doing only one half-pass, then loped off. He has learned that you are going to lope after only one half-pass. To correct and to ensure it does not happen, always half-pass a few times in a schooling session so he does not guess when you are going to ask for a lope. Of course at the show, you will only slightly move the haunches in and lope off right away so as to look the prettiest but still not incur a penalty.

Note: Although it’s, very correct to lope off from a standstill in a reining pattern, you are allowed to walk a few steps into the lope and many riders do. I do not want to walk more than four steps, two is better. Since you will be penalized for trotting or, of course, loping off in an incorrect lead, it’s important to prepare your horse for the lead departure. This exercise does that.