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Dear Cherry,

I’ve just started loping recently and when i do i feel like im gonna fall out of the saddle, and it makes me nervous. And sometimes i find it more difficult to steer my horse. Do you have any tips on this? And also what’s the differences between loping, cantering and galloping?

Desirae

Hi Desirae,

Your nervousness when loping is a common anxiety with new riders. I’ve answered similar questions on this blog.

To search for topics, just type the subject in the search box (there is one at the top of the page and one in the right hand column) and click on Search.

For example, entering loping, you will find the following articles:

Overcoming the Fear of Loping

Aids for the Canter or Lope and Sitting the Canter or Lope

Overcoming the Fear of Loping (another rider, another reply)

Here are  the difference in the terms you ask about.

The canter and lope are both a three-beat gait with the following foot fall pattern:

1.         initiating hind leg or outside hind

2.         the diagonal pair or inside hind and outside foreleg

3.         leading foreleg or inside foreleg

4.         regrouping of legs or a moment of suspension.

If the initiating hind leg is the left, the diagonal pair will consist of the right hind and the left front, the leading foreleg will be the right front and the horse will be on the right lead.  When observing a horse on the right lead from the side, his right legs will reach farther forward than his left legs.  The right hind will reach under his belly farther than the left hind; the right front will reach out in front of his body farther than the left front.  When turning to the right, normally the horse should be on the right lead.

The canter has an alternating rolling and floating feeling to it.  The energy rolls from rear to front, then during a moment of suspension, the horse gathers his legs up underneath himself to get organized for the next set of leg movements.  The rider seems to glide for a moment until the initiating hind lands and begins the cycle again.

Canter is the term generally used to describe the gait of an English horse.

Lope is the term associated with a Western horse and is a relaxed version of the canter with less rein contact and a lower overall body carriage.

An extended canter or lope (sometime called a “run”) is a canter/lope with a long, strong stride, head and neck reaching forward.  The extended canter/run has maximum ground coverage per stride while retaining the tempo of the ordinary canter/lope.

There should be no increase in the rhythm of the hoofbeats from a canter/lope to an extended canter/run  – just an increase in reach. There should not be a shift into the gallop.

The gallop occurs when the horse increases tempo AND length of stride so is maximally extended at full speed. It is a 4 beat gait because the diagonal pair work separately.

The term hand gallop is often called for in the hunter show ring.  In many cases what is really desired is an extended canter.

RELATED TERMS

Disunited is when a horse is on one lead in front and another behind.  Also called cross-leaded.  This is very rough to ride.

Counter-cantering is cantering on the “outside” lead on purpose as a means of developing obedience, strength, balance, and suppleness.  If counter-cantering on a circle to the right, the horse would be on the left lead and he would be flexed left.


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Horse Management:

Keeping a Horse in a Pen or a Run

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Just when we were getting the horses used to some grazing, we got some crazy weather that dumped a lot of rain on us. Being that this is a semi-arid area with between 15-17 inches of moisture per year, we are ALWAYS glad of any rain or snow. However, because of the low annual moisture, our pastures are very fragile and it would take them a lot of time to recover from hoof damage during muddy weather or “whole plant grazing”. That’s often what happens when it is wet here – the horse takes a bite and instead of the grass breaking off, the horse pulls the whole plant out, roots and all.  I think of how long it took that grass plant to establish and survive over the weeds yet in one casual nip, its gone. That’s a bad thing !

So to be the best stewards of the horse AND the land that we can be, when it is muddy, like it is today, the horses must stay in their large sheltered pens. They are often called “sacrifice pens” because the pasture that once was where the pens are now has been sacrificed – there is no vegetation.

Keeping a horse in a large pen or run is often a necessity so here are some guidelines about pen life for horses.

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

Keeping a Horse in a Pen or Run

When you want your horse to have some room to move around but you don’t have access to a pasture, a good set up can be a group pen or individual run. These are usually located adjacent to a barn or other covered shelter and can vary in size from a bare minimum of 16’ x 60’ individual run off a stall to a 60’ x 100’ or larger pen off the end of a barn or loafing shed for a group of horses.

A good pen has safe, durable fencing and comfortable, well-draining footing. The pen should be located on high ground and be situated such that the horses can take shelter from cold wind, wet weather, hot sun and insects as needed. There should be a clean place to feed and a comfortable place for horses to lie down. To prevent feed from blowing away, windscreens can be attached to the outside of the panels.

The land in pens and runs is considered “sacrifice” because no vegetation is expected to survive the constant traffic. If the natural lay of the land doesn’t slope away from the barn or shed, then excavation should remedy this so that the shelter under the building is high and dry and the pen or run gradually slopes, about 2 degrees, away from the building.

Depending on the native soil, footing can be added to provide cushion and minimize mud. Some choices are decomposed granite, road base, and pea gravel.

A sheltered feeding area with rubber mats allows a horse to eat off ground level without ingesting sand or wasting feed.

In the loafing area of the pen, bedding can be used to encourage a horse to lie down but it usually invites a horse to defecate and urinate there also. This behavior can be minimized or eliminated by locking a horse out of the loafing or eating areas except during specific times.

Pen fencing can be made from metal panels or continuous fencing. Panels don’t require setting posts so are more adaptable to changing pen size or shape. Whatever pen fencing is used, it needs to be tall enough (5’ is OK, 6’ is better) and strong enough to withstand roughhousing, rubbing, and playing across the fence. Panel connections should be tight and safe.

Pros and cons of pen life. See the book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.

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