This is a good article by Brandon that pertains to the canter / lope
of the Icelandic Horse and all other gaited horses.
By Brandon Carpenter:
I have never experienced a lope causing any damage to the
consistency of intermediate gaits. It is a gait in itself that is
entirely different from any of the intermediate gaits. Because it
is NOT an intermediate gait. There should be no reason in the world
that the lope will do anything other than exercise different muscle
groups working at that gait.
When training a new horse, I do all the ground work, then ride in
the corral a couple of times (usually not more than 2 or 3 - 10
minute rides) then get the horse out into open country. I ride long
enough to make sure the turns and stop and back work in the new
environment, then ask for more speed. I'll trot, pace, fox trot,
fino fino, paso llano, tolt, rack, stepping pace, running walk, or
accept any other gait the horse will give me. Usually most horses
will give several combinations of different gaits. It isn't about
attaining a specific consistent gait at this point. That work will
come a short time later.
Towards the end of this ride (usually about 20 - 30 minutes)I'll ask
the horse to lope for a couple hundred yards. It helps to dissipate
any remaining uneasiness. It helps the horse to blow off any extra
nervous energy you feel it has. As my dad has always said about
this initial lope, "a lope is better than a buck."
Getting a lope during this first ride helps the horse to understand
that there are no boundaries concerning what I will ask it to do.
Often the horse is overwhelmed mentally and emotionally the first
few rides. We are really just stealing rides from them. That is
why I don't expect too much from them at this point. Sometimes it
is the best time to push the envelope because they tend to not be
very resistant the first few rides.
I don't expect any consistency or necessary rate of speed at the
lope, just the effort from the horse.
How should we ride the horse at a lope?
Ride like you would any other time to support the horse. If you
need more speed, ride with energy forward and up, yet balanced over
the back. If you want consistency of speed in gait ride balanced
over the back. If you want slower, drop and drag your energy and
ride balanced over the back.
The key is ride BALANCED like you know you should to help the horse
just as you would at any other gait. Move with your horse as one
unit; relaxed. Most of your weight should be on the saddle and just
enough weight on the stirrups to hold them in place. If that sounds
like how you would ride when in a flat walk or the intermediate
gaits, then you know what to do.