About a year ago, I went to an AQHA show and there were three horses in a western pleasure class. One horse and rider were doing so badly they were a throwout; the other two were pretty good. The woman on the big sorrel rode her horse down the rail at a slant: they would lope down the rail with the horse's head towards the rail and his hindquarters more pointed to the center of the arena. (I think it was referred to as riding your horse at an angle or a "C".)
Kind of similar to riding your horse like this:
My trainer said you're supposed to ride your horse at a C in advanced w.p.
The other woman on a dark bay did not do this, and she won the class. She and the judge were very thin, and the woman on the sorrel must've been over 150lbs overweight. The two horses and riders were very close, and horse shows have tons of politics, so my trainer said the woman probably lost because of her size.
A couple months later I read in the American Quarter Horse Journal that you're not supposed to ride your w.p. horse at an angle.
Recently I saw a video of Zippo Can Do winning a World Championship with Cleve Wells, and he was loping at an angle.
So... Now I don't know what to believe!
My trainer IS very good: she rode with top professionals for over 20yrs and has actually ridden Zippo Can Do. Yet I'm wondering if some riding styles she's accustomed to have been deemed outdated: the AQHA recently (2 yrs ago) made a bunch of new standards for western pleasure after people were crying "abuse" (but I won't get into that...). Can Do won the World Show about 7 years ago, so the video is before all the changes.
So, I'm wondering what you guys know? Read? Seen? Heard? Thanks so much!
x-posted to _aqha, equestrian, and westernpleasure
EDIT I've heard that the point of riding your horse at an angle is to show that you can control your horse's body, like keeping the horse's head and neck on a verticle is showing that you can place the head anywhere. Western pleasure is no longer about the horses being "a pleasure to ride" as much as the athleticism and training of your horse.