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Western Pleasure
 By Fantasy Farms   •   17th Aug 2010   •   6,322 views   •   3 comments
One of the more popular western classes is western pleasure. Western pleasure is a class where your horse is being judged. Your horse is going to be judged on how it moves and its manners. Your horse should look like it’s a pleasure to ride. You want your horse to be going at a relatively slow gate with its head in a position that is suitable for its breed.

An example is paints should go with their heads down and arabians should go with their heads higher and more round. If you ride a horse where his or her head is supposed to be down, make sure you don’t get their head below the vertical. Imagine there is an invisible line that goes from your horses withers and continues straight. You want your horse’s head to be in line with that invisible line. If your horse’s head goes below that line, it’s called below the vertical. If your horse’s head goes above that line, it’s called above the vertical. Your horse should be moving at a slow gate that is natural for your horse. If your horse is going so slow that it looks un-natural, it’s not going to be a pleasure to watch. If your horse gets moving too slow, they could start four beating at the lope, jogging in front and walking in back, be pinning and swishing their tails and moving with their nose behind the vertical. The lope is a three beat gait. Four beating is when a horse adds that fourth beat. You want your horse to be soft in the face. What that means is when you ask your horse to put his head down he will do so without flipping his head or resisting. When your horse flips his head, it takes away from the overall picture. You you’re your horse to go on a loose rein. You don’t want to have a death grip on your reins, but at the same time you don’t want your reins to be swaying and be droopy. Western pleasure is a class where your horse needs to have decent manners. Your horse should not be pinning his ears when another horse passes him or trying to bite or kick other horses. A pleasure class is judged on your horse, not the rider. A horse with rough gaits, bad manners and is hard to control is obviously not a pleasure to ride.

Western PleasureIn a western pleasure class you are going to be asked to walk, jog and lope your horse in both directions. When you are asked to reverse, turn your horse towards the middle and then continue on the opposite direction. Some western pleasure classes will ask you to back your horses too, so be prepared to do so. After the rail work is done, the announcer will ask you to line your horses up. When lining up you want to be facing your ring steward. If no ring steward is present, line up facing the grandstands. All of the horses should be parallel to each other and be standing straight. Some judges will come up to competitors in the line up and ask your horse to back. Your horse is expected to back as long as the judge is still looking at you. After backing then walk back up to where you were standing before backing. Sometimes when you are on the rail, the announcer will ask you to extend your jog. When you extend your jog your horse should be going faster than what his or her jog is. The extended jog shouldn’t be as fast as an English trot though. You can either sit or slightly close your body forward when extending the jog. Its more impressive if you can sit the extended jog though.

Western PleasureWhat does the judge want to see in particular? A horse that is relaxed and happy, that carries his neck and head relaxed, has a true rhythm to his strides, and that never appears like you have to hold it back. The judge wants to see a flat, natural, ground-covering walk, a flat, natural, ground-covering, two-beat jog, and a smooth, relaxed, clean three-beat lope. The horse is supposed to stay at the relaxed speed natural for it, never wanting to go any faster, never on the brink of breaking gait. Your reins should have a bit of slack. You should be sitting comfortably in the saddle, no cues necessary that an observer could detect, and whenever a transition is called for, you make it happen promptly, smoothly, without the horse losing its over-all composure, without the horse flipping its head, or leaning on the bit, or any other unpleasing habit.

Now that you know how to do western pleasure, there are some things you need to do before you show. You want to first clip your horse to the appropriate breed. Clipping your horse will make your horse have a clean appearance. You will also need to bathe your horse like any other show. If your horse is a paint, quarter horse, or appaloosa, it’s a good idea to band your horses mane and forelock. If your horse is an arabian or morgan, long, un-banded manes are acceptable and proper. Fake tails are acceptable depending on the breed. They are fine for quarter horses and paints where they are illegal for arabians and morgans. You want your tack to be clean too before you show. You don’t need to have a saddle loaded with silver. As long as your tack is clean and in proper working condition, you are fine. Remember that nosebands are not allowed in western pleasure. Your outfit needs to be clean and match. Your outfit should match the color of your saddle pad, boots and hat. If you don’t have a cowboy hat to wear, a helmet is fine. A long sleeve shirt is required. Chaps, gloves and spurs are optional.

There are controversies in western pleasure as any other sport. Some include:

Tail Deadening: Tail deadening is illegal. It is the process of nerving the horses tail to prevent a horse from swishing his or her tail. A horse that is bored and irritable will swish their tail. Excessive tail swishing is penalized, so some exhibitors have cut the nerves in their horses tail to prevent them from swishing their tails. Injecting alcohol into the horses upper tail also numbs the nerves. The bad part about this abusive practice is that a horse can’t swish its tails at fly’s and biting insects that can leave open sores. Some of the methods used to numb a horses nerves in their tail leaves no scars, so it’s hard to notice it. Of methods leave white scars on the horse over time.

Peanut Rollers: A peanut roller is a horse that carries his head in an extremely low head position. This is a problem because when a horse carries their head that low and goes really slow, it shifts the weight from the hindquarters to the forehand. Over periods of time, this un-natural movement for a horse can cause soundness issues.

Spur Stop: The spur stop is a training method used to ask a horse to slow down, halt and back. The spur stop is also known as “riding the brake”. When your spur a horse, the horse should slow down instead of the traditional speeding up. It takes lots of time to teach a horse self-carriage and slowing down by only using your seat and sometimes voice. An unconventional method came along called the spur stop. The spur stop is frowned upon by several major organizations including AQHA. In 2003, AQHA put out a series of videos on correct and incorrect style and way of going for western pleasure horses, showing a "hit list" of undesirable traits not to be rewarded in the show ring, with the spur stop leading the list. In the video horses were asked to be ridden with the spur stop and then again without the spur stop. When the horses were being ridden without the spur stop, their movement was a lot smoother. A well-known and professional trainer is Bob Avila. Bob Avila talked about the spur stop and said, “The spur stop is the worst thing ever invented. If I were to get a horse in for training that had a spur stop on him, I could do one event on him, period: Western pleasure.” Overall horses that were not trainer with the spur stop method moved nicer and their riders rode their horses better.

Overall, western pleasure is a great class! Its fun and competitive. It takes a lot of work to win a western pleasure class, but when you do you will know all of your hard work was worth it!
Western Pleasure
Western Pleasure
Western Pleasure
Western Pleasure
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My horse is really an all round horse. He knows how to slow lope, gallop, slow trot, fast trot, then a regular walk. I use him in barrel racing and western pleasure. He won novice western pleasure, and got 2nd in reg. western pleasure. He also got 2nd in barrels, and 1st in poles. It keeps them from getting bored with just doing 1 thing. My horse does NOT know the spur stop. To him, spurs mean speed, i use them while barrel racing and pole bending. Great artical too!!
  Aug 18, 2010  •  2,524 views
WOW!! I never new that about the neck and head!! I have been worried that my pleasure gelding wont win anything cause he caries his head at his withers! Now I know better!! Thanks so much!!
  Aug 17, 2010  •  2,527 views
I used to like Western Pleasure and my horse used to be good at it, but after a while she got bored and wanted to race instead. I actually think she hates it now, but I am not against other people doing it. My advice would be, not to do it too much though.
  Aug 17, 2010  •  2,552 views
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