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What To Look For In Western Pleasure Show ClassesBy Expert Author: Jenifer Whitmire
Anyone new to the world of equestrian competitions should spend time learning about the different requirements for each class. Western pleasure show classes have been popular for many years. They were originally developed to allow owners and riders the opportunity to present their horse in front of a judge and demonstrate how easy and comfortable he was to ride.
The horse should in a nut shell be a pleasure to ride. He must move forward freely and willing, but not rush. His gaits should be smooth and consistent. The rider should not have to work hard to control the horse and the commands must be all but invisible. A well trained horse will respond to the slightest movement of the riders weight in the saddle. Some horse and rider teams seem to have an almost telepathic ability to communicate with each other. These combinations are a really joy to watch.
A fast trot can be very difficult to sit to. By slowing the pace down to a slow jog the rider stays balanced and comfortable. The horse should still demonstrate athletic ability and move forward. The rules state that each pace must cover the ground. There has been a lot of controversy in recent years that the horses are moving too slow and not covering the ground. However many riders are unwilling to change as they fear not being placed by the judge.
Cowboys spent most of their lives in the saddle and needed the most comfortable horses possible. They also needed an animal that was calm and sensible. They bred from stock that showed these characteristics and many more. Horses that were easy keepers were favored as they did not cost so much to feed. Those that were strong enough to rope cattle were always in demand. In addition to all these factors the horse should also possess a great temperament and be easy going.
Points are awarded in each class for being balanced and calm. The horse should display good rhythm and correct leads in the lope. The animals body should be parallel to the wall during rail work and some judges will make a point of watching carefully to see that this happens. Any animals that is moving at a diagonal to the wall will loose points.
Turn out is an important part of showing. The horse must be bathed and groomed to perfection. Their mane should be trimmed neatly and banded with a contrasting color elastic band. Great conditioning is a product of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The horse must receive high quality food and plenty of fresh water. Being outside to stretch their legs and eat some grass is also important to both their physical and mental well being.
There are also complaints that the horses gaits are just to slow. Although it is very comfortable for the rider to sit to, a very slow jog is quite unnatural and does not even look good. Often the horse appears to be shuffling along and not striding out at all. The lope is also shown at a very slow pace. It takes a lot of training to achieve this but it is not always attractive to watch.
Competing in a western pleasure show is a fun thing to do. Both horse and rider need to practice and really know what the judge is looking for. It takes many years of training to compete at the higher levels and working with a good trainer really helps.
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