Are you sick and tired of doing all the work while your lazy horse plods along without energy? Remember that a horse can feel a fly on his side, so logically there’s no reason for him to be dull to your legs.
Here are the steps to put the lazy horse in front of your legs:
1. Give a light leg aid
2. No response, half-hearted response, or delayed response
3. Correct him by sending him forward
5. 100% response (99.9% isn’t good enough!)
Let me explain those steps in a little more detail.
1. Give one feather light squeeze with both calves. A horse can feel a fly on his side so it’s logical that he can feel a light aid.
2. Your horse must react instantly and eagerly. If he doesn’t, DON’T adjust your aid by repeating it or making it stronger. If you do, you’re letting your horse train you!
3. Instead, correct him by chasing him forward. Before you actually correct your horse for a dull or non-existent reaction to your leg, consider his temperament. The easy-going, lazy horse might need a few taps with the whip or a few bumps from your legs to send him forward.
But the sensitive soul might only need a brush with the whip to get the same reaction. The point is to get a clearly forward, “hot-off-the-leg” answer– not to terrorize him.
Also, if your horse is the type that bucks when you use the whip, it’s better to bump him with your legs instead. First of all, you don’t want to get bucked off!
In addition, if he’s bucking, he’s obviously not going forward, so he’s missed the whole point of why you corrected him.
So, close both of your legs very lightly on his sides to ask for his version of a lengthening. If your lazy horse doesn’t respond (and he probably won’t if you’re used to giving him strong leg aids), send him forward for eight or ten strides by tapping with the whip or giving him a couple of bumps with your legs.
Keep in mind that at this point, all you’re looking for is some type of forward reaction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “pretty” answer. It’s fine if he puts his head up in the air and rushes off. None of those reactions matter in the beginning.
Your only goal when you start this process is to get some kind of enthusiastic answer that shows your horse is paying attention to you.
While you’re sending him forward, maintain a light contact with his mouth, but don’t give any rein aids. There’s no point in using the reins to put him on the bit if he’s not “thinking” forward.
4. Once you’ve chased him forward, go back to a normal working trot. Ask for the lengthening again by RETESTING with a light leg aid.
Retesting by closing both calves lightly is the most important step in the entire process. If you don’t retest, your horse only becomes duller. That’s because you’ve only taught him to go forward when he feels the whip or kicking. You haven’t taught him anything about reacting to a light leg aid unless you retest.
5. Accept nothing less than a 100% response. If his reaction to your legs is “better” or “pretty good” but not wholeheartedly forward, repeat the whole process from the beginning until he makes a 100% effort.
6. When you RETEST, if your lazy horse responds by immediately going forward energetically, praise generously. At this point it’s still okay if he breaks into the canter when you do the retest–later on, through repetition and reward, you can explain to him that you just want a lengthening in the trot. But for the moment, ANY forward reaction deserves to be rewarded.
Click here for more on making a lazy horse more energetic.