It seems that the majority of people dislike (some very strongly) what western pleasure has become. Yet if that is what everyone is doing in the show ring, it must be what the judges are looking for. I hope that in the future, the current WP style will become a distant memory and the horses will move like horses again. I would like to pick the brain of a WP judge and have them explain what they are looking for. What would happen if you had a lovely natural moving horse in a WP class collected but with impulsion and a real 3 beat canter- would they pin last? OK rant over.
I experienced just last weekend two judges that used a good mover over the untrue movers (ie no true 3 beat lope or 2 beat jog). I was asked to fill the amateur and junior western pleasure class on my AQHA hunter mare. I don't think I have had a western saddle on her for anything in over 6 months. I taught her to "jog" in the warm-up pen and then asked her to settle into a nice canter that was really relaxed. I ended up second in both classes under both judges, picking up some points. No, she is not a western horse, and I didn't try to imitate one either. But she went around relaxed, happy, with high quality movement and an appropriate stride length for her body. And it was rewarded by both of the AQHA judges I showed to last weekend.
Western pleasure horses were once meant to be horses that looked like a dead broke, safe, anyone-can-ride-it kind of horse, and anyone could take it out to work. In the mean time, it people equated 'slow' with 'safe' and then it became a 'my horse is slower and safer than yours' contest and those horses were being rewarded.
I will say that they have become a lot better over the past few years though which makes me happy. I'd rather see a horse move out freely and naturally than become a peanut-pusher. Sometimes I want to become a judge myself just so I can have a hand in moving it back to where it was suppose to be.
I show in breed shows, but refuse to do Western Pleasure. It is possible for my gelding to move like that, but I won't do it. It's painful for me to watch it, and it's not the way he wants to go.
I show in Horsemanship and Western Riding. Both allow a faster pace.
I cringe when I watch the WP class. There's one horse at my barn who is a natural WP horse. Out in the field on his own he'll move at the same slow, but free-moving, cadence. It's beautiful to watch. Not surprisingly, he wins a lot.
But he's the exception.
I'm starting to work on the Ranch Horse Pleasure classes. Have yet to show, but I love the patterns.
I do think it's still preferred, though I don't show AQHA.
I think this horse is exceptional. I love the jog as she enters, though on the rail the horse should have been bumped up just a hair to keep the cadence. I thought the lope looked natural and effortless.
While I think lopes have improved, jogs have suffered. So many horses could have better jogs if the rider would just bump them up a tad to ensure it's true-ness. And some just are bred to be great lopers these days and not natural joggers.