In western pleasure, your horse should be a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to ride - no matter what your skill level. Photo © The American Quarter Horse Journal

Tips to Make Level 1 Western Pleasure Exhibitors Feel like a Pro

AQHA judge, Louis Hufnagel provides the following tips for beginning western pleasure competitors.

• Read the rulebook. Any time you have a question about how your horse should look in the show ring, don’t depend on fads to tell you – look at the AQHA rulebook.

• Practice. Many Level 1 exhibitors get scared when their horses go a little too fast, because their balance changes with the rhythm. That’s something you need to practice, too: changing rhythms until your whole body is relaxed. It’s like any other sport – it takes physical exertion. Your horse won’t stay steady in the ring unless you’ve got him steady at home.

• Plan ahead. Passing isn’t bad – it’s better to pass than to crowd – but you can set yourself up better if you get behind a horse that jogs faster than yours so you don’t have to make that decision. If you need to pass, do it, but be smart about it. Plan ahead. Don’t start thinking about passing when you’re six inches from the tail of the horse in front of you. What you should do is start moving your horse off your leg toward the center of the ring a couple of horse lengths before you pass the horse in front of you, leaving plenty of room.

• Be timely. When a gait is called, you can count, “one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two,” but by “one-thousand-three,” you should be in that gait. Don’t poke around on the rail. The one who has the most room is supposed to go first. If you are in a line that’s pretty tight and you can lope off when they call lope, you have gained points.

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