I am back at it! This is my real riding challenge day 6, and Frisby is back to work after his one day off. And today I wanted to share with you what it’s like to ride a lazy horse. Because, well, that’s what Frisby is.
And I’m not sure if he is just lazy, or if it’s my fault that he doesn’t want to move forward. It’s probably my fault, but I have been doing so much reading lately of how to get a lazy horse to move that I am hoping all of my learning will be helpful for getting Frisby to move!
Is Your Horse Lazy?
It can be so frustrating, you tack up your horse for a schooling session, or a lesson and by the time your ride is over, you are exhausted and your legs feel like jell-o from continually pushing your horse and trying to get him to move forward.
He might reward you with a slow jog, or maybe even a canter for about 2 strides, but then keeping him at that pace is a battle not worth having.
Frisby came to me untrained under saddle. He knew the command walk, trot, canter from the ground and he is very good at it most of the time. But in the tack, I was continually squeezing and nagging him to move forward.
When you are riding a horse like this, it can be frustrating and it takes the fun out of working with him (or her). Your riding time becomes a battle of trying to get your horse to move and instead of having fun, you end your ride in exhaustion and frustration.
And I have been working with Frisby to get him to move, and I wanted to share these tips with you, in case your horse doesn’t want to go forward.
Find out why Your Horse Doesn’t Want to go Forward
First things first, see if there is a reason that you can fix of why your horse doesn’t want to go. Check over your tack, and make sure everything is in good repair, and nothing is too constricting or hurting your horse. Also you might want to consider having the vet come out. Maybe there is a health reason your horse refuses to move.
But after you have determined that your tack fits well, and your horse is healthy, sound, and no issues, then you can work on getting him to move!
Again, I will use Frisby as an example. When I tried him out, his former owner wanted to watch me ride him, to make sure I was ok for him. He walked off just fine, but in order to gt him to trot or canter, she had to run along side of him with a lunge whip in order to motivate him to go forward. I was not able to get him to canter under saddle for an entire year after I brought him home.
But with sheer determination, and repetition I finally got him to canter consistently. But it takes him about an hour to be ‘warmed up’ and get to this point. So typically when he is ready to move, I am exhausted from trying to get him to move!
But there are some things I have been reading about lately that have been helping. And maybe these things will help you and your horse too.
Get Out of the Arena
Getting your horse away from the arena may be all that’s needed to motivate him to get moving and become more responsive. You could go out on a trail ride, or even just do your work in a big open pasture.
Wherever you go, your horse might have a little more interest in his work if he does it somewhere new.
I have had a little success with Frisby by taking him out into a pasture as well as getting him out onto the trails behind my house. He is more alert, and motivated to move, which is a good thing!
We have been doing some hill work while we are out too, in order to help build his muscles as well getting him moving forward freely. And moving forward ‘freely’ means not restraining him in multiple ways.
Let Your Horse Move
Sometimes when our horses actually begin to move forward, we inadvertently end up asking them to not move forward by restraining them. We ask them to go forward with a squeeze from our legs, but then we grip them too tightly with our thighs, or hold them back by bracing our bodies as well as not allowing them to move forward be restraining them with the reins.
Instead of gripping with your thighs and lower leg, and bracing your body try and relax. You can have a secure seat and still have a relaxed leg.
And when you give a squeeze with your lower leg don’t have a death grip on the reins. If you do, you are asking your horse to move forward yet you are not allowing him to move forward. So you are giving him a mixed signal. You want your signal to move forward be clear and unmistakable.
First you ‘ask’ him to move forward by squeezing with your leg, but not holding him back with the reins. Don’t let the reins go, but don’t have such a severe contact that he is being held back.
Second, if he does not move off from the pressure of your leg squeeze, you can use your voice and cluck. If he still doesn’t move forward, you can reinforce the ask with a crop. But this has to be consistent and quick.
Ask, Ask, Ask, Tell
So squeeze (ask) voice (ask) cluck (ask) and then if he is not moving forward, use the crop behind the girth (tell). And it has to be done consistently and quickly. You can’t ask, and then a minute later halfheartedly tell him. No, it needs to be quick, concise and like you mean it. If you don’t mean it, your horse will know. Horses are masters of knowing when you do and do not mean business.
You need to be the leader. You need to be the one that tells your horse what needs to be done. He needs to trust you, as his leader. If he doesn’t believe in you, he isn’t going to do what you ask.
Don’t Be A Nag
And once your horse does do what you ask, stop asking. Don’t continually squeeze your legs around him, basically don’t nag him. If you continually nag him eventually he will become numb to you.
You know your horse can move off of the slightest pressure. He can feel a fly land on his massive body for goodness sake. He can feel your leg and the pressure you create.
The goal here is to get him to move forward from the pressure of your leg smoothly, quietly and with a “Yes Sir!” Type of attitude. Once he gets it, then you need to be consistent with the messages you are delivering to your horse. If you only do this on special occasions, or once in awhile your horse won’t respect you and will do what he wants to do, not what you are asking of him.
Say it like you mean it, every time and your horse will respond and get better. It may not happen immediately, but with consistency and practice he will get it, and move forward when you ask him to do so. I may be wrong, but honestly I feel it is a respect issue. And if your horse doesn’t respect you he isn’t going to do what you ask, why should he? There are no repercussions for him to not do as he is asked.
So practice this each time you ride him, and practice perfectly. He will get it, and he will move, you just have to be consistent with your ask, every time.