Four Beating in Western Classes

Four beating and winning in Morgan Western Pleasure, should this be happening?   Should this be considered a major fault when judging Morgans?

I would be interested in other people’s comments on this, other than perhaps it is one judges opinion.


16 Responses to Four Beating in Western Classes

  1. underdog88 says:

    I am not sure if I have seen this problem much first hand since I usually only attend only Morgan shows. At the All Breed Shows that I do get to spectate, I don’t think I have seen any Morgans doing a 4 beat canter. If it is happening at the shows that you have seen, though, I agree that is a problem.

    In general I have a problem with the 4 beat canter. I am not completely familiar with all of the rules and guidelines for breeds like Quarter Horses, although I wouldn’t say that I know nothing. I have been to many Quarter Horse breed shows as a spectator, as well as seen videos from their pleasure classes online. I DO NOT understand the appeal of, or desire for the 4 beat canter. In my mind, it is incorrect. The canter is a three beat gait. Period. I’m guessing that to them, it signifies a horse having complete control over its muscles and going as slow as it possibly can. I don’t know, but I have a problem with it. Not only do I find it very unattractive and bizarre to watch, but I can’t help but feel like it is unnatural and the horse is not enjoying it. It looks so mechanical and slow and forced. It looks like the opposite of free moving. I also don’t really get people’s desire to go as slooow as physically possible…but that’s a whole other can of worms.

    I really like that in our breed, we have not (at least yet) succumb to the “4 beat canter trend”. It looks absolutely beautiful to see a Morgan western pleasure horse controlling its muscles and loping slowly, while STILL maintaining a fluid, flowing, THREE beat lope. I have seen Arabian western pleasure classes as well at the high level, and it seems that they have also followed the QH loping ways. I have even ridden a few of those dead broke western pleasure QH’s and in my own opinion, it is neither comfortable nor fun. Even the motion in the saddle feels unnatural and choppy- and these were very nicely trained show horses!

    I just don’t get it!! Does anyone agree? I would love to be enlightened if there is something I am missing that makes this gait so appealing to some people!

  2. colwilrin says:

    Four beating is a MAJOR fault in WP classes. I have seen a few do it. Most are pinned down, but occasionally you run into a judge that forgets to look under the horse.

  3. DVFMorgan says:

    Looking under the horse, I like that, good one…….LOL

  4. Vintage_Rider says:

    OMG It is absolutely my pet peeve!!! And oh my, YES I have seen it at Morgan Shows! AND to make it worse, I have seen it PINNED! But, I do believe this is a by-product of trying to go toooooo slllllllllllow on a given animal, at least I choose to think so, rather than on purpose. Thankfully, as Colwilrin says, it doesn’t happen often that they are rewarded for this, to put it kindly, awkward, gait.

  5. RaeOfLight says:

    Is this just a question of cadence or is there a big difference in movement from a true canter? If it’s a different motion then a judge should notice it, but if it’s something you have to hear it might not be so easy to pick up on from center ring. I know as a spectator if you’re standing close to the rail the horses are going right by you and it would be really easy to hear.

  6. StacyGRS says:

    when they put the forth beat in there it lacks the fluidity of the lope. It adds an extra “bump” in the back and forth motion of the rider’s seat and is pretty visible often without even looking “under” the horse. It seems to be pretty acceptable in some breeds, but not in Morgans. It’s neither correct nor attractive, IMO.

  7. Vintage_Rider says:

    Can be seen and heard and felt in the saddle

  8. StacyGRS says:

    it’s easy to see from anywhere…you can often see it if you just watch the rider. It adds a “bump” into the normally round motion of the lope and takes away the fluidity. It’s not just incorrect, but fairly unattractive, IMO.

  9. underdog88 says:

    Here is a video where horses can be seen doing a 4 beat canter- the video starts with the jog, but you can skip ahead a bit to see them lope. It is not something you can miss. Like Vintage Rider said, it can be seen, heard, and felt.
    This topic really interests me in the context of horses in general. Why did this come about? Why do people find it desirable and attractive? I guess we’ve all got our own opinions, but I just don’t get it. The canter is a 3 beat gait!!

  10. somedaysue says:

    A quick double check of the USEF rule book for Morgan western pleasure division lists as “minor faults” going either “too slow” or “too fast.” That, to me, leaves lots of discretion to the judge as to what is considered “too”? However, listed as a “major fault” is “not performing a three-beat lope”, which does not seem at all subjective. A four beat lope should be penalized as a major fault.

    I believe the Quarter Horses and other stock breeds aren’t supposed to do it either, but they do, and they get pinned for it and so the trend continues. Personally, I find it unattractive and it looks as tho’ the horses are just struggling to go as slow as requested and they can’t maintain the 3 beats of the gait at such extremely slow speed.

    Our Morgan club hosted an all breed show early this month which had some open classes that brought in some stock horse breeds. Not only were the western pleasure classes painfully slow, in my opinion, but so were the hunter classes. I chuckled to myself at one point, wanting to shout out, “Hurry! The fox is getting away!” There isn’t a fox alive that couldn’t outrun those hunters mincing around the ring. Why they ever took a breed bred for speed and lightening quick starts and then asked them to go like snails is beyond me???

  11. Vintage_Rider says:

    ROFL SomedaySue!

  12. underdog88 says:

    haha somedaysue!! I agree, that fox would be long gone!! I have been to a couple regional AQHA shows and I have seen the same thing, the hunters are only bit faster than the western pleasure horses, and their canters are closer to lopes. I have seen 4 beat canters on some of the hunters.

    You bring up another interesting point about the Quarter Horse being, at least originally, bred for speed. They are extremely powerful and fast sprinters, and it seems that they’ve just been dulled down to the point that riding them is more like riding the “quarter horse” at the grocery store. Like I’ve said, my world is Morgans, but I have been to some AQHA shows and know some Quarter Horse owners and trainers. The consensus seems to be that they are all striving for the push button horse that requires little or no rein contact, and that provides NO risk of spooking, disobeying, resistance, etc.

    I can understand why someone who is afraid of horses would want that…but in my opinion, I have one word: BORING. When I ride, I want to have something to do, I want to be proud of my work. I’ve had the opportunity to ride a few of these dead broke wp and hunter under saddle QH’s, and I have to say that my hypothesis was correct. In my opinion, I found it very boring. I had almost nothing to do. The owner of the horses would always be reminding me to stop trying to fix things and just leave the horse on the longest rein as possible. So the training is done so that all that is needed on your part is sitting in the saddle. I was told to just sit and enjoy the ride. If I wanted to go for a putt down a dirt road or something, I guess that’s what I would want. But when I want to compete, I want to feel proud of the way I’ve handled and presented my horse. It seems that the only proud ones must be the trainers who made these horses respond this way!

    I’m sure that not all QH’s require nothing but the rider “just sitting in the saddle”. But in the case of the ones I got to ride, it was, and a lot of them sure look that way. All just my opinion, though! As for me, I prefer action, excitement, and competition!! And Morgans are a blast!!!!!

  13. leslie says:

    Definitely agree with the fox comment! And they still carry their heads so low, even in hunter. How would they ever see the fence coming, much less jump it? As much as the park hunters in our world make me cringe, the shuffly, deadhead stock hunters are worse, IMO. A long, sweeping, ground-covering stride is a beautiful thing. Those horses just look lame.

    Four-beating is definitely supposed to be a fault in AQHA WP, but it’s one of those things… The rule book says one thing, the judges pin something else. Frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of a horse that lopes slower than I can walk. What if you want to GO somewhere?

    I hope this four-beat trend isn’t showing up in Morgan WP now. Ugh.

  14. RaeOfLight says:

    Haha, I remember when I was younger watching these wp classes and having trouble reconciling western riding with it’s cowboy origins. I used to think “when I cowboy wants his horse to run I think he’d want it to RUN”. I’ve gotten so used to the idea of a slow lope that I forgot about my initial impressions.

  15. Trisha says:

    I have shown in 4h shows and it’s a little frustrating riding a Morgan in an open hunt class and letting the horse in front pick up their canter so I have space when that horse canters slower than my horse walks! hahah by the time all the other horses have “cantered” around the ring once, I’ve already made three trips.

    Four beating is a huge fault and not a natural gait. A judge can disqaulify a horse that four beats because they are technically not performing all the required gaits in the class. Though most judges don’t do that. I have seen a couple four beaters at morgan shows, but it was few and far between and they never won the class.

  16. rodmanstables says:

    lol on the fox comment! :) So true. I know something about this subject because I have grown up in a primarily ‘stock horse’ area of the country, and have shown stock horses myself (even tho I do morgans now). I remember the beginning of the ‘four beating’ era. The mid to late 90s were the era of high-hipped, low pencil-necked QHs showing in WP, with four-beat movement. Since then, I do know that AQHA has enforced rule changes, requiring an extension of trot and canter shown both ways of the ring in WP classes. In the last 5-8 years, luckily they have made good decisions on working to change this image by changing the judging standards on loping/cantering, and I can honestly say I have seen a difference at our shows around here, INCLUDING the Quarter Horse Congress. I have watched judges start to pin nice, uphill movers with level headsets and true lopes. They still move slowly, but that doesn’t mean it’s a four-beat lope. One must realize that a horse can have a slow, hesitated lope without four-beating if he is trained properly and has correct conformation.
    Bravo to the QH judges and industry for their efforts to stop the unsightly four-beat lope/canter!! Hopefully someday we won’t see it around at all. And yes, the hunters should be more like real hunters!!

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