When you ask your horse to walk forward, what happens? If your horse doesn’t calmly step forward when you apply your legs, you’re not getting the correct response. Riding a reluctant horse can be frustrating and even dangerous at times. But how do you go about teaching your horse to move forward under saddle?
At Easy Horse Fix, we’ll show you a gentle, relationship-based method for teaching your horse to move forward off your leg. But first, let’s take a closer look at this common problem.
Why Is This Skill So Important?
Horseback riding is mostly about going forward. If you want your horse to calmly jog and lope under saddle, they must first understand how to move forward from the halt to the walk. If you have to kick, use a whip, or shout to get your horse to walk, how aggressive will you need to be to get a jog or lope? On the other hand, if your horse walks forward in response to gentle leg aids, you have plenty of room to strengthen those aids when asking for a faster gait.
The ability to move forward off your leg is also a matter of safety. Especially when riding on trails, you must know your horse will respond quickly when asked to walk forward. Getting into an argument with your horse – or having to use aggressive aids – can put both of you in harm’s way on a narrow or busy trail.
What Is Reluctance?
Refusal to walk forward can look different for different horses. Some horses may throw up their heads and brace their feet when asked to walk. Others may back up. Still others may simply stand there and act as if they’re ignoring you.
You’ll see all of these types of reluctance in green horses who simply don’t understand what you’re asking. Sometimes, even well-trained horses suddenly start showing reluctance under saddle. When this occurs, it’s important to look for causes that may be contributing to the behavior, such as refusing to move forward if he has an injury or if your saddle is too narrow.
What Approaches Don’t Work?
If your horse does not move forward off your leg, resist the urge to kick harder and harder. Kicking just desensitizes your horse to your leg over time. He’ll learn to only move forward when you kick hard – which is not what you want.
Don’t hit or yell at your horse, either. Horses who are reluctant to move forward are not misbehaving. They simply do not understand what you want. Using the Easy Horse Fix method, you can teach your horse what response you want when you apply your leg.
The Easy Horse Fix Method
Before you start teaching your horse to move forward under saddle, we recommend practicing the Foundational Flex 7 Exercises. These exercises will teach your horse to bend and give in response to pressure. They’ll also help establish a relationship with your horse. This relationship will give you a starting point when teaching more advanced skills.
Once you’ve mastered the Foundational Flex 7, check out our video entitled “Teaching Your Horse to Move Under Saddle.” In this video, we’ll show you how to bend your horse at the poll, and then ask them to move off your leg. Your horse will move away from your leg pressure. Then, you can send them forward. Releasing your aids reassures your horse that he did the right thing.
We’ll guide you in repeating this exercise in both directions. The repetition is important; horses must learn each exercise or aid in both directions, separately.
This training exercise only takes a few seconds, and we recommend repeating it a few times at the beginning of every ride. You’ll be surprised how quickly your horse learns to move off your leg when you use a gentle approach and positive reinforcement.
Even once your horse moves forward willingly, it’s a good idea to revisit this exercise from time to time. Doing so keeps your horse sensitive to leg pressure. Simple, consistent exercises like this also strengthen your relationship with your horse.
Whether you have a green horse or a more experienced one with a few holes in his training, the training methods taught by Easy Horse Fix can make for a better, more enjoyable ride. Consider signing up for a monthly subscription. Members gain access to our complete library of training videos.