The Road from Pleasure to All-Around
When looking at the growing numbers of horses and exhibitors participating in all-around events, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Where do our all-around horses come from? How will we get our next generation of champions?” In 1997 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, there were 90 horses shown in the junior pleasure and 35 horses in the junior trail. This past year, (2010) there were 56 horses in the junior pleasure and 52 in the junior trail. This trend is the same at many of our weekend shows and major circuits alike. While I think it’s great that the trail numbers continue to rise, it would be even better if we could maintain large numbers in the pleasure as well. I really like the way our industry is going towards the all around horse; it makes better horses and better riders. However, we cannot lose sight of the importance of the pleasure horse. They are the foundation of our all around horses.
I’ve been around many different disciplines my whole life and in my opinion, the pleasure horse industry is lucky enough to have some of the best horsemen I have ever known. I can name several trainers who have come from a pleasure horse background and have gone on to win the reining futurity, the cutting futurity or be successful in trail, western riding and all-around events. Not only are the trainers talented but the horses as well. The horses that excel the most in the pleasure industry have lift, balance, rhythm, and body control. If we pick these attributes when selecting horses, maintain them throughout the training process, and breed to achieve them, we’ll continue to have better quality all around horses.
If we take a horse that is a good mover, it has rhythm. In my opinion rhythm is a must in any event. You want a western rider that will stay the same; not speed up and slow down during a change or throughout its pattern disrupting the flow. The same goes for a trail horse; a horse that won’t maintain an even rhythm is going to be more likely to chip or reach to a pole instead of leaving the ground at the same consistent spot, creating a seamless flow to the pattern. Even in horsemanship and equitation- whether it’s slow or fast work, I always want my horses and riders to keep a rhythm that you could match with a metronome. Rhythm is a key ingredient in any event.
Body control is another one of the attributes I try not only to look for but maintain and develop while training. I start early…within the first couple months of riding. I start teaching my horses to move parts of their body independently from others. When I slide my leg forward, using my foot up by the girth it means “move your shoulder over.” It helps break their body apart at the withers and in turn, helps lower their neck. When I slide my leg back it means “move your hip.” With constant repetition and specific use of my feet and legs, my horses learn to willingly move their bodies, however I ask. At first I ask just a step or two at a time then eventually a turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, spin, or side-pass. Any good horseman knows all about body control and it makes the transition into pattern classes much easier. This is why we can take two and three year olds and get through trail courses without ruffling them. An “L” back thru, a side-pass, or a serpentine…all could be very daunting for a young or green horse, but if it’s broken down into a series of commands like, “move your shoulder, move your hip…” it becomes something they are already familiar with. Any successful pleasure horse exhibits body control.
As many of us as trainers, exhibitors, owners and riders head in the direction of the all- around horse, I hope that we don’t lose sight of the pleasure horse and our pleasure classes; because those horses are our next generation of western riding, trail, and horsemanship champions.
Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses. Troy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his website at www.troygreenqh.com