Horsemanship Help with Al Dunning

Master your western horsemanship pattern with these tips from top trainer Al Dunning. From Horse & Rider magazine.

Horsemanship pattern:

  1. Jog to first marker, then continue by taking right lead to second marker.
  2. Stop at second marker and do a 360-degree turn to the right.
  3. Jog to third marker and stop.
  4. Go back to second marker and make a 180-degree turn or rollback to the left.
  5. Lope on left lead to first marker, break to a jog, and jog to position on rail.
    Horsemanship Challenge: To execute all maneuvers with dispatch, precision, and confidence.Horsemanship Strategy: You’ll need to demonstrate correct position, light hands, and your horse’s obedience and responsiveness. Here’s what I’ll look for:

    Be in position and jog off confidently, when I nod to you. Allow at least 8 feet between your horse and the markers to accommodate the turns.

    Promptly pick up a right-lead lope when your horse’s shoulder reaches the first marker. I usually set up this pattern with only 10 to 15 feet before the first marker; if you delay in getting the lead, you won’t lope far. Don’t look down to confirm your lead, show me you can feel it.

    Ask for the stop when your horse’s nose is at marker 2, so he’ll complete the stop with it aligned with his shoulder or your leg. Stop smoothly with your body upright and no bouncing. Use a light rein hand to demonstrate your feel. I’ll penalize you if he reacts to a hard rein pull.

    Hesitate just slightly, then start your 360-degree turn, using a light rein so your horse can turn freely.

    Complete the full turn, then promptly jog. Your horse may expect to lope off again; by nailing the jog, you’ll show me a degree of feel and skill.

    In your back-up, I’ll be looking again for a soft rein hand and precise positioning. Back straight, stopping with marker 2 aligned with your leg. Make a snappy 180-degree turn, with your horse pivoting off his hocks. Add a bit of right-leg pressure as you complete the 180, cueing your horse for a left lead. This will show me that you’re riding with feel, thought, and confidence.

    At this point, if you’re sitting up, with your head erect, eyes forward, legs correctly under your body, and your heels down, I’ll know you have a solid base of balance and good body control.

    Break to a jog when your horse’s nose reaches the first (now last) marker, and exit.This article first appeared in the June 1997 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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