Pennsylvania 7 year old THW ridden in walking horse bit with abetta saddle  by  intermediate rider.

Question: I have a lazy horse who really wants to poke along. It is extremely difficult to keep him going. I have used a crop and spurs and he doesn't seem to care, just keeps "smelling the roses" along the way. It is very tiresome to ride him. Also, I cannot work on his gait if he will not pick up any speed!


From Panelist Carol


The secret to putting a little life in your lazy horse probably lies in how you deliver your       "go forward" cue to him.  There is more than one way to effectively train a horse to go        forward; this is how I do it.  Remember, your cues for any movement should be delivered
in increasing phases of intensity.  First, look up and forward to where you want to go.

Second, start squeezing starting with your hips and let the squeeze travel downward your
legs, pressing with your heels.  If he still isn't responding, pop your crop against your leg 3
times, and if he still isn't responding, let the crop hit him 3 times.  The third whack should
be hard enough to wake the dead, which may be what you feel like you are doing.  All
cues should be held until the horse responds, i.e. you should continue to look forward and
squeeze with your legs while you deliver phases 3 and/or 4 the whip cues.  Lots of horses threaten to buck or rear if they don't want to go forward.  

If this is the case, read up on establishing your go forward cues from the ground and work it out on the ground before tackling a rearing and/or bucking horse.

Finally, one other very important point to remember is that all cues must be released the
instant the horse responds even a little bit.  Be sure your legs come off the horse's sides
when he responds.  When you start to get through to him, he will start responding with
lighter and lighter cues, which always must be released the moment that he responds. 

Thanks for your letter.  Hope this helps.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Lee

While it is nice to have a horse that is not running away with you, it can certainly be a lot of work to keep one of the "molasses in January" types moving.   Assuming that there is no physical reason for his laid back approach to life, such as low thyroid or nutritional deficiencies,  it sounds as if this horse needs to learn the "lesson of the leg" and "hands
without legs, legs without hands."  These are both techniques used in French type dressage to develop  and maintain energy in the horse.

First, the lesson of the leg.  Try this first, if you can,  in an arena or enclosed area -- a corral will work.  Acquire a dressage whip (relatively long).  Hold it steady in the hand away from the rail, the lash behind your leg, the hand even with the horse's withers and the other hand.  You must be able to apply the whip behind your leg, without moving your hand or pulling on the rein as you use it, which is why a dressage whip is necessary for
this exercise -- a short crop won't work. With the horse at a stop, squeeze gently and  immediately release with your lower legs just where they hang in the stirrups, NOT back behind the vertical position,  to ask him to move forward quickly. He probably will pay no attention.  Repeat the squeeze/release, at the same degree of pressure, DO NOT kick or try to squeeze harder, and this time, instantly follow the squeeze with a *strong*  tap on the horse's flank behind your leg with the whip. (never use a crop on the shoulder, it tends to inhibit forward motion, not enhance it) The horse will move forward, hopefully with some speed -- DO NOT inhibit his forward motion in any way by tension on the reins. As soon as he moves forward, stop him  and repeat the lesson, asking first with your legs for him to move out, reinforcing with the whip when he does not.  Practice this a couple of times until the instant you squeeze with your legs he moves out.

Now for the "legs without hands, hands without legs" part.  Ride forward at a fast walk, if possible, with no more than the weight of the reins in your hands, no stronger contact.  When he slows down (he will, given his history) squeeze/release with your legs -- if he does not move out again, reinforce this with another single, strong tap from the whip, releasing all contact at the moment you drive him forward.  Take up contact with the reins lightly only after he is moving forward with energy, asking him to place his head where you want it.  If he slows, again slack off contact and drive him forward with a squeeze/release of your legs, reinforced by the dressage whip if necessary.  Do not at any time use your hands to "hold" him at the same time you use your legs to try to move him forward ... the two aids, hands and legs, must be kept separate so they do not cancel one another out.

Once your horse gets the message that a squeeze/release means move out, remember not to squeeze or flop your legs against his side unless you are asking him to move, and try to avoid the habit of squeezing more strongly when he ignores a light pressure with the leg.  Use the whip instead of kicking or trying to push him harder with your legs.

Until he is very responsive to the leg at all times, carry the dressage whip when you ride, in case "reinforcement" is necessary.  With some practice, he will no longer need to be reminded that leg pressure instantly released means "move out."

Good luck with your horse, and remember that not all TWH have a super fast gait. Take time to develop what gait he is able to do.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Erica

Try going back to less and less of a request. Give him a reason (motivation) to move out when asked. When riding, do not use constant pressure with your legs when he is moving consistently. When wanting more speed, use both legs on his sides (tap, tap, tap, tap) until he gives you a noticeable change of speed. Once he does, reward lavishly!! Repeat. If you start out with very little leg and slowly work your way up to more of a nuisance until he
responds he will eventually get lighter at moving off your leg. Remember to always start with as little leg as possible and move up SLOWLY! Good luck!

Erica Frei

From Panelist Liz


I first recommend checking to see that the saddle is first fitting this horse, possibly making moving out an uncomfortable place to go. If this is not the case then it may be time to do some ground work and teach this horse how to move out from the ground, so it understands how to move away from pressure and respond to aids, voice being one of
them so this can be applied while on the horses back. Once back up and riding start making riding more interesting. Ask the horse to do an obstacle course that it has to pay attention maneuver.

Weave coves do ground poles ask the horse to walk ,back up, and move forward again right out of the back. Keep things coming at this horse so it is much more in tune to you and waiting for the next task. Always reward the horse for each task completed so it looks forward to the next and knows it is doing well.

Good luck.

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