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Loping Tips To Prepare Your Cutting Horse To Show

June 9th, 2017 by Simone Cobb

Top Loper Miranda Westfall

It’s a sight synonymous with cutting: dozens of horses next to the show arena being loped, and in some cases loped more and a few cases, loped more still lol! Yes, there are horses that need a lot of preparation while others just need to stretch and warm up. So do you know, exactly what your horse needs and can you tell when your horse has reached that ideal, show-ready state?

Below you’ll find some great tips for loping by one of the industry’s top lopers Miranda Westfall. But first let’s explain why we even lope horses before competition.

Cutting is an explosive sport, where horses gather up their power in the stop in order to pounce in the right direction, at the right time and in just the right amount to block the cow. But if they have too much energy stored in their bodies, they pounce too far and from there it all unravels.

Another reason for loping is to get the horse’s mind on the job, to help them focus and to make sure they are listening to foot cues, your seat etc. Loping is part of the showing ritual, that signals to the horse that it is time, not just to go to work, but to perform at their best.

So tips to help you prepare your horse to show:

  • Know your horse. Every horse is different physically, mentally and has different habits. Even if you don’t lope your horse at a show, lope it at home to get to know what your horse needs, so you can fully explain this to others. This takes time but will pay off tremendously. The better you know your horse, the better you will show.
  • Know loping etiquette. Everyone lopes in the same direction. The direction changes each herd change. Those going faster remain on the outer edge of the circle, walkers are on the inside.
  • Have tidy attire (especially if you are loping for someone else) and no hoodies is important.
  • Don’t move straight into a trot/lope. Miranda says this teaches them a bad habit. Walk your horse first and build the momentum.
  • Older, show-experienced horses generally take less time to lope (unless they are more high-strung) than younger horses.
  • Be consistent in everything you do. For example, put your horse’s boots on at the same time at every show. Miranda says she likes to put them on before she starts loping so it’s one less thing to think about (some people like to do it just before the horse crosses the line). The important thing is not so much when, but keeping it the same every time.
  • Don’t be picky with your horse, it’s not a time to train or get into a fight and make them mad before competing.
  • Trotting will often tire your horse faster than loping.
  • Understand your leads and be on the correct lead according to the direction you are moving.
  • Watch for the signs that your horse is ready. Are they “between your feet” (responsive), are they throwing their head (still fresh), are they soft in the face, how heavy are they breathing (good to have their noses blowing a little), how much are they sweating?
  • Remember, it’s better to have your horse a little over-tired than a little under-worked when showing.
  • Make sure you walk your horse to cool down after showing. A rule of thumb: the longer they loped, the longer the cool down.

Miranda, who works for Clint Allen, warms up one of the show horses.

To watch Miranda’s video series on loping click HERE (if you’re not logged in you’ll need to do that HERE or join up as a member HERE).


Winning The Mind Game

May 31st, 2017 by Simone Cobb

When people participate or watch sports many people make the statement, ‘mind over matter’ or ‘it’s all about your mental game,’ but how many athletes train their brain to prepare for a competition?

“When you get to those really elite levels [of sports], you have athletes telling you it’s 96-97-98 percent mental,” said mental skills coach Tonya Johnston. “[People need to] understand that your mental skills are absolutely apart of the package as far as seeing yourself as an athlete.”

Johnston has her Masters in sports psychology and specializes in working with equestrian athletes, traveling across the holding clinics and working with equestrian sports teams such as Stanford, Smith and USC. Johnston emphasizes in her clinics and book “Inside your Ride,” that taking time to work on your mental game is just as important as working on the physical aspect. country

“When you spend 10, 12, 15 hours a week on physical and zero hours on mental skills, that could be where nerves and stress come from,” Johnston said. “Because I believe it’s much more mental activity, my competing is much more mental but all of my practice is in the physical realm.”

Johnston states that when your physical game is to a certain level, when it comes to competition day it is about making good choices mentally while in the moment.

“[When] the physical is dialed in, they know how to get the most out of themselves, they know how to connect with their horse and communicate with their horse and they understand that on any given day it’s about being present,” Johnston said.

One of the best pieces of advice Johnston mentioned was focusing on the positive.

Many people focus on bad days [and ask] what did I do? What happened? Why didn’t I ride well?” Johnston said. “I look first and foremost at good days-what are you already doing naturally and help that become part of [your] routine.”

Some other ways Johnston recommended to become more consistent and improve your mental game in the arena is by:

  • Visualizing
  • Tracking goals
  • Making sure your energy is in a good place
  • Making sure you’ve got a routine in place

Lastly Johnston notes that it’s just as important for you to have a routine as much as your “horse before competing, such as stretching, loosening up and having a plan for when you’re in a hotel.

“When you have an amazing run, think back to how did you prepare yourself, where was your focus, what were you saying to yourself, what were you doing before you got on your horse,” Johnston said.

To hear more tips from Tonya Johnston, listen to the full interview at: https://chtolive.com/podcasts/  (Gold and Platinum members get full access to podcasts, Silver members get access for seven days when new podcasts are uploaded.)


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