Loping (or Western cantering) a horse is one of the most popular paces for riding a horse. Mostly used for western riding, it is known for being a comfortable pace for riders and horses alike. Once you master the lope, it's likely to become your favorite gait when riding your horse. Here's how to lope a horse:
- Understand the principles. Loping a horse is considered a three-beat gait. It tends to have a smoother feel in the saddle than jogging your horse. A smaller and more controlled pace than galloping, this comfortable pace is an essential gait when learning western riding.
- Find a safe place to learn how to lope a horse. Learn how to lope in an enclosed arena or in a round pen, rather tan out on a train. Most riders learn how to transition from a lope to the faster jog first, but you can also teach your horse to go from walking to loping. When loping a horse, you must maintain a controlled and confident manner. The best way to learn how to lope a horse is while he is being lunged for exercise by a confident leader.
- Start on the lunge line. Begin by walking your horse to warm him up before trying to work with him. Increase speed gradually to get your horse ready to practice loping.
- Achieve the loping form. After the horse is in a trot or canter, slide your outside leg behind the girth of the horse. Apply pressure with both legs and sit deeper in the saddle. Your horse should lift his shoulders and increase forward motion. Keep your hands in gentle contact with the reins as the horse's stride picks up speed. Sit upright and don't let your upper body sway, although you should follow the rocking motion of the horse somewhat.
- Practice loping a horse. A horse and rider that are both well-trained and practiced in loping will make for a safer ride for both of you. Remember to reverse directions periodically when practicing in a ring; you and your horse will probably find one side to be more difficult than the other.
- Lope a horse in events. Once you have practiced loping and are comfortable with it, this gait can be incorporated into barrel racing, trials competitions, and other western events.
While most horses can walk, trot, and jog relatively easily, some riders find that their horses are harder to get into a lope. The lope has a slowed pace and distinctive form that may not be easy for new riders to achieve. As you practice, you will see an improvement in your horse's posture and his response to your commands and movements.