Imagine you’re walking your horse down the trail, and you come to a hill. How does your horse respond? Do they maintain their gait and walk calmly up the hill, or do they pick up their pace and lope up the hill? The safest, most desirable response is for your horse to continue walking up a hill, but sometimes even well-trained horses like to break gait and run up hills instead. Here’s a closer look at this horseback riding problem and how the Easy Horse Fix training methods can help you solve it.
The Problem: Running Up Hills
At first, it may not be obvious why running up hills is an issue. You’re still getting to the top, right? While galloping up hills may help you reach your destination, it unfortunately increases your risk of accidents. For instance, you don’t always know what’s on the other side of the hill, so it’s best to still be in control of your horse when you reach the top. This way, if you need to steer around a hiker or a big rock, you can do so.
Less experienced riders may also be unseated if a horse suddenly leaps forward and runs uphill. Whether or not you are experienced enough to maintain your seat, others who ride your horse may not be and could risk injury by falling off.
Finally, it’s important to consider the horse’s health and well-being. Walking up hills encourages a horse to engage their hind end. Running up hills, on the other hand, mostly works your horse’s forehand. Most horses already have strong enough forehands and need more work to strengthen their hindquarters. If you teach your horse to walk calmly up hills, you can then use uphill walks to help build up their hind end. Strengthening your horse’s hips, stifles, and hocks can help prevent injuries and soreness as they age.
Why Do Horses Run Up Hill?
Before you attempt to solve any problem with a horse, you should seek to understand why that problem developed in the first place. Horses run up hills for a couple of reasons.
- Running may be easier than walking if the horse’s hind end or back is weak
- Nervous horses may rush to reach the top of the hill
- A previous rider may have rewarded a horse for running uphill or may have otherwise encouraged this behavior
Green horses almost always run up hills until their riders take the time to train them to walk. More experienced horses sometimes develop this habit with a nervous rider, or with a rider who encourages them to rush by leaning forward. The good news is that the Easy Horse Fix method can help you teach your horse to walk up hills regardless of why he’s running.
The Easy Horse Fix Method
The Easy Horse Fix method does not involve pulling back strongly on the reins or holding a lot of contact. It also does not involve any negative reinforcement, yelling, or use of a crop. Instead, we show you how to teach your horse to walk up a hill using only gentle aids and your body position.
To best understand this exercise, we recommend you watch the video “Teaching Your Horse To Walk Up a Hill and Not Run.” There are a few things to keep in mind as you watch. First, we recommend that you begin practicing this exercise in a halter, not a bridle. Doing so will prevent you from catching your horse in the mouth, which only tends to make horses more nervous. With a halter, you can apply gentle pressure and maintain control of your horse with less potential for discomfort.
Also, note that your body position will be really important when learning this exercise. We’ll show you how to lean back in the saddle just enough to encourage your horse to slow their gait. As such, this exercise can be good equitation practice. Make sure you have a comfortable saddle with properly adjusted stirrups before you begin. It will be difficult to sit in the required manner if your stirrups are too short or if your saddle is too small.
You’ll be amazed how quickly your horse learns to walk uphill with just a few small changes to your tack and body position. We recommend practicing this exercise a few times at the beginning of every ride until it feels natural.
“Teaching Your Horse to Walk Up a Hill and Not Run” is one of our more popular videos, but it’s not the only one! Consider becoming a monthly member of Easy Horse Fix. Members gain access to our full library of gentle, relationship-based horseback riding videos.