I thought we would start out the new year talking about Ranch Pleasure and Ranch Riding. We have had questions and inquiries about Ranch Pleasure. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what these classes are and how to be competitive in these show rings.
Ranch Pleasure in AQHA is a pattern class. There are basically five patterns which are in the rule book, but a judge can also make up their own pattern.
The patterns have a walk, trot, lope as well as extensions at the trot and lope. Also included is a lead change (simple or flying), a stop, a back and a turn around. They can also include logs (walk or trot over). The pattern will usually use the entire arena. The rider should ride with light contact and not a draped rein. The walk should be a working walk, freely moving forward and covering ground as if you have some place to go. The trot should be free and forward moving with a natural headset and the extended trot should be a definite and visible difference in speed. The rider can post or stand the extended trot (holding onto the saddle horn is permissible at the extended trot). The lope should be a forward gait with natural movement with the extended lope being visibly faster but not a gallop. Transitions between regular gaits and the extended gaits are important. Each pattern contains a turn (360 or 540) which should be performed as a controlled turn on the haunches (with some speed as if you were turning around to go after a cow). There is a lead change in the patterns, simple or flying is permissible. Overall, the horse’s performance should be like a horse riding across the ranch with a job to do. This class should show the horse’s ability to work at forward, working gaits while always under the rider’s control. Tack should look like working tack including a back cinch and breast strap (but not required). Silver on saddles is discouraged. Banded manes, tail and mane extensions and hoof black will get you a trip to the gate with a score of zero!
Ranch Riding at American Ranch Horse Association (ARHA) shows is a rail class. In my opinion, this class reminds me of the western pleasure classes of the 1960s and ‘70s (not that I’m that old…OK, yes I am!). The horse again should display forward movement with drive from behind. Light contact is expected and the exhibitor will not be penalized for picked up the reins to keep the horse soft and in the bridle. This does not include jerking, yanking or an out of control horse. The walk is a four beat gait with a level top line and is relaxed with the horse bright and attentive. The jog (trot) should be effortless and efficient with lift and self-carriage yet soft in the feet and controlled. The good lope should be a rhythmic three beat gait, with drive from behind and a deep hind stride. No ‘troping’ allowed. Reversing direction it should always be done to the inside. An extension can be requested at the walk and trot, which should show a bright and alert horse with an extension in stride. The extensions should exhibit a difference in speed but still be balanced, soft and show control.
This year a new class called Ranch Pleasure has been added to Ohio 4-H. Not to be confused with the Ranch Pleasure in AQHA, in Ohio 4-H this is a rail class with rules similar to Ranch Riding in ARHA. Important; the exhibitor cannot show the same horse in western pleasure and ranch pleasure. I pushed to have this class added and helped write the rules for it, as I felt that it was really needed in 4-H as an option for the kids who don’t have that super slow western pleasure horse. The ranch pleasure horse should have a free flowing stride and natural head set which is in keeping with the confirmation of the horse. This is a walk/trot/lope class and extensions can be requested for the walk and trot. The quality and cadence of the gaits is a major consideration and should mimic the ranch horse that looks like they have a job to do. Light contact is permitted. Success will be for the kids who have developed a cadence and control at all gaits, while the horse looks like a bright and willing partner.
The excitement I see in all of these classes is being able to exhibit a horse that is getting back to good natural movement instead of a horse with unnatural manmade gaits. The training methods to be successful in all of these classes will come from good horsemanship. A good ranch pleasure horse is about a well trained horse that has natural movement, can extend when you ask for it and then come back to you when you ask for it. They can stop when asked, turn and move out again. The process to making a good ranch pleasure horse is through lots of hours and wet saddle pads.
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Terry Myers is a national clinician and champion horse trainer with a depth of knowledge developed from over 45 years in the horse industry. Myers has been a popular clinician at multiple expos in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about Myers’ Ride-In-Sync methods as well as clinic and training services available, visit Myers at www.tmtrainingcenter.com or on Facebook.