Without forward motion you are going nowhere.
Everybody wants the old plodder. The horse that is safe, needs to be pushes on and doesn’t want to go anywhere fast. That is fine, until you actually want to start riding. Then all of a sudden everything gets hard because you can’t move your horse. If your horse doesn’t move forward freely, he can’t do any of the exercises you want to try. So we need forward motion.
How do you get your horse forward? By putting two legs on and pushing the horse forward. And again, and again. Guess what, lazy horses trick you into doing all the work and in the end you are tired from all this pushing and the horse is still going nowhere. Okay you might think, I need spurs or a whip. Wow this works, but unfortunately only for a little while. You will find yourself in the same position pretty quickly. What happened is you desensitised your horse to the spurs or whip the same as you desensitised him to your legs.
I ride high level reining competition without spurs. I have nothing against them, but I just don’t need them. I prefer to get my horses soft on my leg cues. How do I do this? By giving my horse the responsibility to answer to what I’m asking. I start with my lightest cue, if the horse doesn’t listen I ask again, but with a more defined cue. If he is still not listening I will give him a cue that comes through and he does respond. If I give a cue, I want a response. It might be the wrong response, but I want a response. Any cue that I give to my horse and he doesn’t do anything, I’m desensitising him.
Next time I ask, I start with my lightest cue again, so my horse has the opportunity to respond to a soft cue.
Okay you might say, I’ve tried this but my horse just gets crankier. I had one of these horses at a clinic in Perth. I asked him nicely, he put his ears back. I asked him again with a little more cue, he give me back more attitude. Then I slapped him on his bum with my rein to make him move and he gave a nice bronco display. This horse doesn’t have a forward problem, he has an attitude problem. People have been nagging him to move, he didn’t want to do it and found out that if he put his ears back or give a pigroot, his rider would back off. Well, not this rider. I kept working with him the same way I was, ask nicely, ask more, and make him do it. He found out that his buck didn’t get him out of the work; it was actually more work than just going forward. His bucks got less and less, with less enthusiasm until after about 20 minutes he was moving forward nicely, which is where I quit him.
You might not be able to do this with your horse, that is where you seek help. Find somebody who is able to work with your horse’s attitude problem. That’s what trainers are for.
Sometimes is not the horse, but more the rider. I had a lady in our clinic in Esperance and she had trouble getting her mare forward. She said the mare was lazy and didn’t want to go anywhere. So I talked to her a bit and asked what she did with her mare or what she wanted to do. She said they had a big farm and she worked cattle with her and competition wise she barrel raced and roped on her. Well, you definitely need forward motion for that! But apparently that was no problem; the mare had plenty of forward outside, but not in the arena. So I asked her to try something. I told her to ride a big circle and pretend she was chasing a mickey through the scrub. The difference was amazing! That mare had plenty of go, it was just the rider that only focussed on how slow her mare was but in the mean time she wasn’t going anywhere. The rest of the clinic we could work on other issues because now we had forward motion.
We will talk more about being focussed on where you are going in my next post.