Q: My horse will not trot, canter or gallop without me applying lots of pressure. When she does this, she is very uncollected and sour. How do I fix this?
Using a leading rein can help encourage your horse to move off your cue.
Shift your focus away from upward transitions and concentrate instead on improving your horse’s balance and impulsion from behind. Start by asking her to move forward from the stop. Kiss and squeeze her lightly with both calves. Count “one-two” to give her time to process and respond. If she doesn’t move, bump her firmly with both legs once. Then sit quietly and kiss-squeeze again. Since your horse has trouble driving forward, she may just stand there. If she does, a smooth, firm pull with a leading rein will encourage your horse to arc her body and take a step forward and to the side with her shoulders.
To use a leading rein, shorten one rein. Using smooth, steady pressure that’s directed away from your horse’s neck, create a 45-degree bend in her head and neck and lead her into a turn. Encourage her to step forward enthusiastically by bumping your legs against her sides at the same time. When she steps freely with self-propelled energy, she is balanced, driving from her hind end, and ready to respond to your cues. Use the momentum you gained in the turn as you send her out of the bend into the trot or canter. If she refuses, drive her into another turn before asking again. As her balance improves and she becomes more confident about moving forward, she’ll respond to you with greater ease and a more willing attitude.
Dale Rudin is a CHA-certified riding instructor and clinician with a mindful and balanced approach to horsemanship and riding. www.un-naturalhorsemanship.com
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe!