Forward versus Fast.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, December 3, 2007 07:13 PM
Working with my students and auditing clinics I found that many riders do not know what it means to ride a horse forward. There are too most common situations:
  • Riders do not ask enough and their horses move with slower then adequate tempo or not enough range of motion and impulsion.
  • Riders let or ask their horses go forward without regulating energy. Horses simply run fast and hard, usually on the forehand.
Both of these situations are wrong. First one is more common with less experienced riders. They fall into a trap of constantly squeezing with their legs, trowing their hips around in attempt to send their horses forward. Horses learn to tune out and ignore their requests because riders do not change the aid or do not stop asking when it is necessary. Legs should not squeeze or bang constantly. Lower legs should be soft and quiet until needed. The leg aid is light and quick like a touch. If you get response the leg quiet again, if not you need to find a way to impress your horse and get his attention. It is not necessary to kick or hit your horse with the whip. You can start asking with greater tempo instead of greater force. For example, you ask lightly with the legs once and then you can start tapping with the legs slightly firmer then first time but more importantly faster. If that doesn't help add a whip on the shoulder or on the haunches, light taps. This usually gets horse's attention and he starts to move. Instantly become quiet. He slows down you start the whole process from the beginning, light touch with the legs... Be patient and consistent in a few days you will get your horse much more responsive and much more forward.
Second situation is easier to fix. Usually these horses like to run by themselves, they do not need motivation. I myself prefer such horses. The energy is there, now the only thing you need to regulate the gait. To fix that you need to use your body correctly and to create a contact with the horse's mouth. But in no circumstances you should try to slow down such horses by pulling on the reins. Shorten your reins enough to feel connection to your horse through the reins and just keep it there like you holding someones hand. If your horse gets frightened or disturbed by it and start throwing his head around try to keep the connection no matter what without pulling or jerking him on the mouth and give him lots of brakes at the free walk. To use your body correctly you need to have balanced seat and learn how to use your torso and thighs. Read more at Your horse starts to listen to your body and you can create necessary tempo and balance without much use of the reins. If your horse wasn't ruined badly by harsh hands or pulling on the bit, he will start coming on the bit by himself. Especially with a lot of transition work.
These are just general principles. Each horse is different and I advise you to seek help, so knowledgeable person on the ground can tell you either your horse is correctly moving forward or not.
This is not a one day fix. In a month you will feel significance difference, in a year you will have much better balanced, engaged and sensitive horse.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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