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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: If You Want Your Horse to Lope Well, Practice Loping

Everyone wants to ride a horse that lopes with cadence, follows their focus and listens to their cues. It’s no fun when you ask your horse to pick up the lope and he constantly speeds up and slows down and zigs and zags all over the place. Unfortunately, you can’t expect your horse to lope well unless you practice loping him. I always tell people to think about how they got good at a riding a bike. When your parents first put you on a bike, your balance was terrible and your hands shook on the handlebars. You probably toppled over a few times. With practice, your balance improved and you were eventually able to ride your bike with ease. The same goes for your horse learning how to lope. You have to practice loping him.

As a general rule, during training sessions, we practice loping our training horses in two 10-minute sessions. The length of the sessions depends on the weather. For example, if it’s really hot, we’ll cut the time down. However, 10 minutes is a solid amount of time to allow your horse to practice loping and figure out a rhythm.

If you are serious about getting your horse to lope well, actually get a stopwatch and time yourself or have someone else time how long you are loping. This will help because loping for a minute can seem like an hour, especially when you’re first learning. I proved this point several years ago at one of my 10-day Fundamentals Clinics. After a few days of the clinic, participants were whining and complaining about having to lope so much, so the next day I took everyone outside to the tree area and told them to lope. As soon as their horses were loping, I started my stopwatch. Six minutes later, I had to tell them to stop because I was afraid that a mutiny would erupt if I made them go any longer. When I told the participants how long they had been loping, everyone’s jaw dropped; they couldn’t believe it had only been six minutes. At that point, the horses were just starting to settle into a cadence and get relaxed. In reality, they needed to lope for another six minutes before stopping. If you want your horse to lope slowly with cadence to his feet, you have to lope…and lope…and lope him. And when the horse starts to get tired, you should lope him some more. And when the horse is begging to stop, you should lope him a little bit more. I’m exaggerating of course, but you get the point I’m making. Unless you actually time yourself, you’re probably going to underestimate how long you’re actually loping your horse.

Have a horsemanship question or looking for more training tips? Check out the No Worries Club.