Get Your Green Horse Moving Forward

Western Flex

Q: I have a 3-year-old filly that has been started under saddle. However, her natural inclination is to move backward, not forward. When she wants to evade a request, she slows down her movement and eventually pops up in the front. Recently she even reared straight up, and once she scooted backward so fast that she sat down. How can I encourage her to be forward-thinking and moving?

A: Running backward and rearing are signs that your horse has no confidence in what she’s being asked to do. A horse exhibiting these behaviors is dangerous to ride and handle, and shows that the current approach to training is taking her in the wrong direction.

A green horse needs gentle, calm and consistent guidance. She needs to be taught that she can move forward freely even while being supported and directed with light rein contact. This lesson is introduced through lateral flexion on the ground. Then, when she’s asked to carry a rider, it’s a familiar and comfortable request; steady pressure is applied using a leading rein until she yields to the pressure and makes the rein go slack.

When she’s mastered this in both directions, she can be encouraged to step forward on a circle while maintaining the bend in her neck.

These early lessons are the foundation of forward motion. Slowly and methodically building upon them—and changing course or going back to basics the moment your horse shows signs of confusion or resistance—ensures that she has a positive experience and is on the road to being a safe and reliable mount.

Liked this article? Here’s more training advice:
Charging up the Lazy Horse
How to Ride Through a Rear

DALE RUDIN is a CHA-certified riding instructor and clinician with a mindful and balanced approach to horsemanship and riding.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine.
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