Teaching a 10-year-old horse to perform the slow lope required in Western pleasure and Western horsemanship show classes takes time, effort and patience. The slow lope is a slowed-down version of the normal three-beat lope, supposed to appear more pleasurable to the eye. If you have not trained a horse before, obtaining the services of a trainer will help your horse learn the proper speed to lope, the proper body carriage and correct mannerisms.
Have a vet check your horse for soundness. A horse with leg issues will have a difficult time achieving collection or sustaining a controlled slow lope for any length of time. Since your horse is already 10 years old, you need to make sure he is suited to the task at hand before you try to train him to perform.
Get your horse to lope at a comfortable and consistent speed. He should change gaits smoothly and maintain a steady, relaxed natural pace comfortably before you attempt to modify his speed. As long as your horse is sound and does not have lameness issues, he should be able to perform this task with adequate training.
Get your horse in a collected frame. He needs to be working off his hind end and engaged through his midsection and back, with a curved neck. He should work under saddle without resistance, and his expression should be relaxed.
Slow the lope by sitting securely and deeply in the saddle and asking your horse to slow down while you are loping. Practice asking your horse to slow down by gently squeezing and releasing pressure on the reins while maintaining enough forward motion that your horse does not break gait. Continue to ask your horse to lope at slow speeds until the slow lope becomes his habit and is the speed he picks up when he is cued for the lope. Watch your horse for any signs of lameness or injury as you work. A 10-year-old horse is a mature adult with a reasonable attention span, so you can expect him to learn new concepts more quickly than a 2-year-old or 3-year-old.
- 💡 Slow-loping an adult horse who's trained for a fundamentally oppositional riding discipline can be more challenging than training a young horse. A horse trained for barrel racing or cutting, for instance, will require significant retraining before you can expect him to perform the slow lope every time.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images