More ways to help a reluctant horse move forward.
In the Saddle
Oh boy do I have experience with this. One of my most piercing memories of riding with this issue is of riding with a Tellington TTouch for Horses and TTouch for You Training in Kohala, Hawaii at Na’alapa Stables in Paniolo cowboy country last year. This open range ride on a 12,000 acre ranch was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had. But the first half of the ride was marred by the all-too-familiar struggle with my Belgian mount, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent. He knew his job and wasn’t planning on doing one thing more than the minimum. When frustrated, we tend to revert to old patterns. I squeezed and I kicked and I urged him forward with my seat. I flung my reins forward and sat as still as a statue. Nothing worked. Linda Tellington-Jones rode quietly up to me and said, “if you just let him be himself, you’ll have more fun.” I was suddenly struck by the fact that I’d been more intent on performing for my equestrian idol than on the experience at hand. I was so embarrassed. I had been doing exactly what I would have cautioned another rider against! And I was caught red-handed by someone who hoped I knew better. When I finally gave up and allowed him to plod, I started having more fun. No changing this guy in the course of three hours.
Given the opportunity to work with Poky in the ring, I might have tried the following:
1. The Half Walk. This is not to be confused with half steps which are used in developing collection.
As classical masters knew, walk-trot or walk-canter transitions correctly performed advanced the whole training of the horse and eventually produced the collected forms of the gaits. For instance, a collected walk transition to trot gives ‘half steps’ and later on the piaffe (trot in place).
What we are after here is not an exercise in lengthening and shortening for elasticity but in maintaining the attention to stay slow and short. Riding the horse at different paces and practicing transitions is nothing new. But how often do we ask them to maintain the slower, shorter walk? Asking the horse to work a non-habitual pace wakes up his mind and body to the rider’s cues. The end result is a quicker, more responsive horse.
More info on transitions and half steps:Dingo’s Breakfast Club
2. Liberty Neck Ring. Remember riding as a kid with a circle of rope or baling twine around your horse’s neck? If you haven’t done this, now’s the time. The simple act of removing the bridle and bit awakens the horse and rider to new possibilities for communication. This “necklace” of stiffened rope acts as a less confining steering wheel. Use of the Liberty Neck Ring exaggerates your shifts in weight and movements of your upper body. Your cues become very clear. Less interpretation form the horse leads to quicker, more definitive responses. When the horse feels freedom, his movements become free. Don’t try this outside the ring, for obvious reasons.
So often, horses do not get the opportunity to express freedom of movement in the ring. Time to stretch out and move naturally like the miracles they are is limited to the pasture. Sharing this incredible freedom with the horse should be what riding is all about. The process of using the Liberty Neck Ring returns both horse and rider to this elemental partnership in motion. Even if only for a bit, mutual enjoyment of natural movement, cue and response, and asking rather than telling allows Poky to respond in a playful manner that shows him you appreciate him for what he is: a natural horse who wants to work with you.
3. Promise Wrap. This is a simple ace bandage or stretchy standing wrap (NOT a polo!) applied to the horse first on the ground and then under saddle to give new awareness of his hindquarters. Since many poky horses tend to leave their hindquarters behind, or have poor awareness of what their hind ends are doing, you can remind them that they have these motors for impulsion back there. Oh look! If it’s there, why not use it?
There are a lot more things a handler can do to get a horse moving without resorting to dominance, a heavy seat and strong hands or whips and chains.
I am interested in learning what others do in such a situation. Please do let me know.
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