really western pleasure

In my last post it really ended up being about the look and feel of a show bill and how a typical one looked and how I would do one. Thiss time I am actually going to talk about western pleasure.

One of the most popular classes within the spectrum of western riding is the western pleasure class. It is a typical class for beginners to the show ring to acquire experience and control over themselves in a show scenario. In contrast to events like reining, western riding, trail, and others, in a pleasure class the contestant is not alone in the show ring. He/she can “hide” among a group of other competitors and is not judged individually.

Of course, hiding among fellow competitors isn’t what western pleasure is all about, but for the novice show rider it usually helps enormously not to be the only one under scrutiny and not to feel the eyes of all the spectators focussing in on him. In a pleasure class, one can get used to being in the show pen. To be sure, winning a western pleasure class is NOT easier than winning any other class! In order to win or do well in a pleasure class, one needs to stand out in the crowd – which is the more difficult the more riders compete in the class.

Being competitive in a western pleasure class necessitates knowing what the judge is looking for – and being able to present your horse in that way. What is the judge looking for?

The western pleasure horse must, above all, look like it is a pleasure to ride. Obviously, a horse with rough gaits, a horse that’s difficult to control, tricky to get to pick up the correct lead, and ill-tempered towards other horses is not a pleasure to ride.

In a pleasure class, the judge is looking for the best mover, for the horse with the most pleasing and comfortable gaits that is controlled on a loose rein and responds to invisible cues. The pleasure class is not one where the slowest-traveling horse wins, like some seem to believe.

Some riders try to make their horses travel extremely slow, which leads to certain problems, all of which will cost you points: horses that jog in front and walk behind, horses that four-beat at the lope, horses that don’t seem to cover any ground at all, horses that appear unhappy, pinning their ears, switching their tails, moving with their noses behind the vertical – all because their riders try to make them do something that’s unnatural for them.

To win a tough pleasure class, you’ll have to have a pretty horse (conformation is judged to a degree under most rules, too) that’s a real smooth mover, that’s a natural as far as carrying neck and head level, one that’s not fazed by other horses crowding it, passing it, or jogging and loping ahead of it, and that will respond in the transitions willingly, readily, and without considerable work on your part. You’ll also have to have a good posture in the saddle and a winning attitude. When you look down on your horse, you are telling the judge: I don’t trust this fellow. So the judge’s response would be: If he doesn’t, why should I? If you sit your horse like a monkey on a whetstone and not proud like you had already won the class, the judge’s subconcious reaction would be: If he isn’t proud of that horse, why should I think enough of it to make it the winner?

here is some more info for you to learn about western pleasure, and there is a lot more out there to learn from. i would recomend a lot of AQHA things.


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