All of today's photos were taken at the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association's Youth and Amateur Show held last month at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado. The commentary is specific to Western Pleasure as it is typically seen at a stock breed show. Different breeds follow different trends so this information may not be particularly helpful if you are wanting to show an Arabian.
One more disclaimer--I'm a hunter girl at heart. I know enough about the Western classes to get by, but this is not my area of expertise. Please go easy on me if I make a mistake!
Western Pleasure horses are shown at three distinct gaits--the walk, the jog and the lope. Horses should be quiet and responsive and are ridden on a loose rein. The jog is a slowed down version of the trot. Most rulebooks call for the horse to exhibit a "level topline." This means the horse should carry its neck level with its withers. Additionally, the horse's head should be slightly in front of the vertical. Some horses do in fact go this way.
However, most of the horses performed with a much lower headset. This is what it commonly referred to as the "peanut roller" look.So, that's everything I have on Western Pleasure. Comments, corrections, interesting observations--please post them to the comment section!
This horse was the eventual class winner. He was not penalized for his ultra low headset.
The third required gait is the "lope" or slow canter.
Unfortunately the quest for "low and slow" has resulted in a lot of horses with gait issues. At first glance, you might think this grey horse is walking but he's actually loping or "troping." This sort of four beat, half trot/half lope was painfully common at this show. Trust me, this picture looks positively wonderful compared to some of the others I took!
The Western Pleasure class also includes a backup. This may be done either during the rail portion of the class or during the lineup at the end. At the RMQHA show where these pictures were taken the riders were asked to halt their horses on the rail...
After the horses have walked, jogged and loped in both directions, they are called into the middle of the arena and asked to lineup. The placings are announced, typically working from first to last. As each rider's name and number is called, she rides forward to receive her ribbon.
Turnout for a stock breed Western Pleasure class generally includes a pulled and banded mane.
The bands may either match or contrast with the color of the horse's mane.
Tails are uniformly long, thick and banged (cut straight across) at or just above the fetlocks.
This look is not just a product of good grooming--nearly every horse in the Western Pleasure and Hunter Under Saddle divisions was wearing a fake tail. You can clearly see that in the next picture.
Silver trimmed, light oil tack continues to be the favored look. All the horses at this show were shown in plain split reins.
Speaking of reins, this is how they are held. The excess rein should fall on the same side as the hand holding the rein.
The next picture shows the two different ways a rider may hold his or her free (non-rein) hand. The boy in the blue shirt has his arm straight down along his side. This is the typical Western Pleasure style. The girl in green has her arm bent at the elbow and her hand level with the rein hand. This is more of a Horsemanship (equitation) style.
Proper rider attire includes a cowboy hat, chaps and Western boots.
Very elaborate rider outfits are common. In fact, a Western Pleasure class often looks like a mounted fashion show!