Many beautiful western riding runs have been ruined by that pesky solitary log that appears in each of the four different AQHA approved patterns.
When most of the rider’s focus is keeping their lines true, and getting solid lead changes, taking the strides to and over the single log can throw off the entire run when the rider and horse are not full prepared. Just like getting down the timing of lead changes preparing for the log takes ample amounts of practice and patience.
AQHA Professional Horseman and Sothern California native, Kellie Hinely, explains her approach to training horses and riders for the single log in the western riding patterns.
While the log may be thought of as trail obstacle Hinely maintains that the single log found in western riding is different for a couple of reasons, pace and judging distance. The pace in which the log is approached, ability to gauge distance and stride to and over the log are all very different for what is experienced in a trail class.
“A single log may sound easier than a full trail course but there are no other markers to gauge where your horse’s feet are landing and the distance of the horse’s stride.” said Hinely.
The lack of other obstacles in the arena to use as markers for approaching the log can prove to be more difficult for some riders than nailing the precise placement for lead changes on the line.
In this class, the horse is moving at a quicker pace to the approach, cross and depart from the log, which can feel very different from the slower movements used on the trail obstacles.
However, like in the trail courses, western riding judges would like to see the log crossed without a break of gait or an extreme change in the horse’s stride. Half a point will be subtracted from the score if the horse ticks the log and a full point will be deducted for rolling or moving the obstacle.
To achieve the desirable pace for the horses and teach riders to find the right distance to the log, Hinely will practice the single log on the same days she works on lead changes. She will take a horse over the log at a working jog and a fast-paced lope. Working on the log in conjunction with perfecting lead changes helps to establish a good working pace in which to approach the log.
Working on the approach will help the rider to get a feel for the horse’s tendencies, such as slowing down to a walk or rushing over and ticking the log. Knowing how the horse will approach will allow the rider to make adjustments to get the desired pace. In addition, working with the log will help the rider learn how to gauge distance without guiding markers.
“Eventually, the horse learns to rate itself to the log and the rider gets trained in seeing the right distance.” explains Hinely.
Hinely owns and operates Trendsetter Performance Horses in Chino Hills, California. She runs a competitive all around program and has coached amateur and youth riders to world championships, reserve championships and top five placings at AQHA and AQHYA world shows and the AQHA Congress.
For more on Trendsetter Performance Horses visit TrendsetterPerformanceHorses.com or find them on Facebook.