5 Things People Should Stop Saying About Western Pleasure

It’s time western pleasure riders get the respect they deserve!  Every time I post something about western pleasure it sparks a debate.  Whether you love it or you hate it, these riders deserve the same respect as any other discipline!  Here are 5 things people should stop saying about western pleasure.

1) Western pleasure horses are all lame and crippled.  This is not only terribly inaccurate, it’s downright rude and offensive.  Western pleasure horses receive the same veterinary care and attention as any other performance horse.  They are closely monitored to ensure they are sound and comfortable.  Unfortunately, in every discipline, there are those that value winning over a sound and healthy horse, but they are not the majority.  The majority of exhibitors put their horses and the care of their horses first.  Just because you don’t understand the way a western pleasure horse moves doesn’t give you the right to call them all lame.  Leave the lameness diagnosis to licensed veterinarians!

Photo Credit, Impulse Photography. Courtesy, Brandy Brown (shown).

2) Western pleasure is abusive.  How can the discipline be abusive?  The discipline is not riding the horses, people are.  Western pleasure done correctly is anything but abusive.  It creates a happy partnership between horse and rider.

3) Western pleasure is not a real sport, it is so easy.  I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see most people get on their horse with slack in the reins and flawlessly guide them around the arena with invisible cues.  I challenge all of the people who think western pleasure is easy to do this with their own horses and then they can talk about whether or not it’s easy.

4) Western pleasure horses are downhill and not collected.  The Wikipedia definition of collection states, “Collection occurs when a horse carries more weight on the hind legs than the front legs.”  Just because my horse can do this without their head arched up high in the air and without going fast, doesn’t mean they’re not collecting.  It means they are collecting in a way that’s NATURAL for their conformation.

5) Western pleasure is unnatural.  Yes, western pleasure would be unnatural if you were trying to train a 17.2 hand Hanoverian to do it!  However, it is perfectly natural for a horse that is specifically bred for the discipline to do it.  Just because it would be unnatural for your horse to do it, doesn’t mean it’s unnatural for mine.  Horses are individuals just like people.  If I expected my western pleasure horse to do the 4-foot jumpers….that would be unnatural!

I will leave you all with this video clip that highlights the 2015 AQHYA (Youth) World Champion.  You can see in the video that she’s beaming with pride in her accomplishment, her horse and the team around her.

Her horse won this world championship because she moves naturally for her conformation, she’s sound, happy, athletic, and collected!  Share this on Facebook if you love western pleasure!

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    You used Wikipedia as a source? Seriously? Your article just lost all credibility.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe you should pay attention to the content of the article instead of fucusing on one small source. Don’t be closed minded.

    • Jeannette

      My thoughts exactly! I’ll take a vets word over Wikipedia. The poll should be even with the withers not lower.

  2. Susan Graf

    Please show me any young horse that moves like this naturally and I will believe you. Otherwise, they look stilted and sad! Next time you watch a national or world class pleasure horse class, please note that not one horse looks happy doing their work. The schooling rings are even worse where trainers are jerking on the bits and tying their heads down. They keep telling me that the pendulum is coming back to a more natural horse but not seeing it in the show ring. No thanks! And also while you are at, why don’t the quarter horse people stop riding their horses when they are yearlings and two year olds, they need time to develop their bone structures. Just because it is allowed doesn’t make it right!

    • Ngaire

      Yes pleasure horses that are bred to do this do it naturally, in the paddock as youngster , Not one single horse I see ridden is happy about it. they would rather sit in the paddock doing nothing, No dressage, reiner or kids pony looks HAPPY being ridden, so your point is floored IMO. ignorance for the breed in no excuse for the comments written on her, It just pisses people off, Grow up People 🙁

    • Rachael

      My lazy loper moved like this as an unbroke 2 year old. It is natural for them. Just like running is natural for a TB or gaiting is natural for a TWH. I have never understood this argument. Watch them in the pasture. They do move like this.

  3. Nancy C

    1. A Western Pleasure horse may in fact be perfectly sound, but the way they move under saddle makes them look as though they are lame and crippled–that is what people are commenting on.
    2. Saying that a discipline can’t be abusive because the discipline isn’t riding the horses is a ridiculous statement–you’d have to be fairly stupid to not understand that people are talking about the human participants in the discipline. If you are naive enough to believe that abuses don’t take place, I feel sorry for you.
    3. Western Pleasure is a class or division at horse shows, not a sport unto itself. I have yet to meet a WP horse that isn’t broke to death, and I’ve known plenty of WP riders that would come right off if they rode a horse outside of an arena. Sorry, but the skillset isn’t that impressive.
    4. Western Pleasure horses ARE downhill. You can’t tell me a horse has shifted their weight off their forehand when their head is lower than their withers. And collection is more than simply going glacially slow.
    5. Western Pleasure is supposed to be showcasing a horse that is a pleasure to ride, a horse with flowing gaits that covers a decent amount of ground when they move. Horses shuffling along slower than an elderly person can walk? None of the above.

    • Western Pleasure Girl

      Wow Nancy C! Reading your responses proves how ignorant you are. You too Susan. If you don’t prefer the discipline just pick one you like and move on. You both prove exactly what this article is about your opinions are exactly that opinions!

      Peace out

      • Ngaire

        Agree Western Pleasure Girl,
        I get so sick of people saying they are on their forehand because their heads are lower than the wither??? but to do a lope rolling over the hock eg a piviot means they are not on their forehands it’s simple really, but those that don’t like it, Move on by, haters going to hate, those that can’t do bitch about what others can, really Simple

    • Anonymous

      Agreed!!! No horse moves like this naturally. I get so sick of the human race trying to say you can breed this NO you can’t in a few years change the biomechanics that have evolved for millions. The trainers tie the heads down to get them to move this way that is a fact. Soaring, rollkur, chains it’s all abuse for the glory of a trophy,

      • Anonymous

        You don’t know what you are talking about!!
        I have one in my paddock that I bred to move like that. She is totally level on the lunge line and moves like a pleasure horse should. She isn’t even started and she moves like this. So don’t comment on something you know nothing about!!

    • Ramona

      Agree with every single thing you say Nancy C !! This isn’t a sport, in itself. The first time I saw a WP class, I thought there was a bunch of lame horses. There can be no collection with that head set. And they are built very downhill. And look to ride that way, on the forehand.
      That said, I ride English and Western, no showing…

  4. Anonymous

    Pleasure horses do not move naturally, with their noses on the ground, and a four beat canter is not legal under the rules. At the last AQHA show I attended, two pleasure horses in the trail class fell completely down in their flying lead change. Sad


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