Do you find loping to be a difficult and daunting part of your ride? Oftentimes loping, or cantering, your horse can be found intimidating. But it shouldn’t be! Loping should be exciting, exhilarating, and is actually an important part of your training! We have come up with three key factors to keep in mind to help you to enjoy loping and create that smooth ride you’ve always dreamed of. So keep it simple by just remembering to relax, look ahead, and practice!
Learning to relax in the saddle is often easier said than done, but it is so important to developing that control and confidence at the lope. Some common mistakes that are a result of not being relaxed tend to be tension on the reins, rigidness throughout your body, and squeezing with your legs; all sending mixed signals to your horse. The combination of these factors ultimately contribute to a poor seat in the saddle. So working on relaxing your body in the saddle, staying light with your hands and legs, and taking deep breaths all help your horse to relax into a lope. Creating that smooth lope is a result of learning to relax your seat in the saddle and developing that rhythm.
One of the most important things in keeping balance and control at the lope is looking ahead at where you want to go. When you look with your eyes at where you want your horse to go, it naturally causes your body position and seat position in the saddle to help steer your horse. You don’t want to ride your horse like a motorcycle, leaning where you want to go. Instead, use your eyes to look ahead or side to side. This will help your body position in the saddle to remain in control of your horse while loping. It is also important to remember that with loping you mustn’t quit riding; this is when it falls apart. Relax your body, eyes up, and ride!
Finally, after focusing on relaxing your seat and looking ahead, practice is key! Loping does not get easier without repetition, for you and for your horse. The more you work on loping, the more comfortable your horse gets at the gait which makes it more comfortable for the rider. Loping may intimidate some riders at first which makes them not want to do it so much, but the more you practice the more comfortable it becomes. If practicing means getting help, then do it! Having a set of eyes and encouragement from the ground helps work out the kinks and helps you build that confidence at the lope. Start small and build on your loping time with each practice, focusing on staying relaxed and looking where you want to go.
We often tell our students; it will get ugly before it gets pretty!
It’s true that it’s not going to be perfect at first so stay diligent with it! Consistent and confident communication is key. Whether it’s you or your horse that needs confidence built, remembering these three points will help the process. Stay relaxed, look where you want to go, and practice.
Finding success at the lope is a great goal to have for your horsemanship journey and can be accomplished with that ease and control that you desire.
Written by Chad and Christiana Wenger of C and C Horsemanship