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Ranch Riding Techniques


An extended trot should show a horse that covers ground but is also comfortable to ride over a long distance. (Journal File Photo)

A horse in obvious mouth pain from a harsh, shank bit with very high port.
Ever wonder what the judges look for in Ranch Riding? AQHA professional horseman and judge Fielding “Bozo” Rogers answers that question on the AQHA webpage:

Rogers gives good advice in this article – not only for ranch riding, but also for other equestrian disciplines. At each gait, moving forward, balanced, and engaged is generally what is needed.

For example, consider the walk. He writes: “I like to see a horse really extend that gait on out there, going somewhere. I like to see the ears come up and see them look like they’re going somewhere.” Dressage judges also like to see a horse with a forward moving walk that’s “going somewhere.”

With the trot, again, “you want to see them going somewhere, but … you want to see it natural.” While the term “extended trot” may not be the same term used in Dressage (in Dressage it would more likely be called lengthening in the trot), the regular working trot and the extended trot are seen in Hunter Equitation classes, and judges look for the same thing: lengthened stride and moving freely forward.

“The lope should be a nice, pasture-covering lope, and the lope should look like it’s comfortable to ride.” I’ve heard Dressage judges say that they give high marks to a horse that’s moving so well that they would like to ride the horse themselves.

And his advice on stops is spot on: “If they throw their head up in the air and gape their mouth and resist, you’re probably going to lose [points] there for showing resistance.” The horse is doing this because he (she) is trying to escape the pain in his (her) mouth. When the horse is concentrating on avoiding pain caused by the bit, communication with the rider and obedience to the rider’s commands is nil. Thus, performance style and precision are diminished.

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