Make A Horse Move Forward

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Making, Not Breaking
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Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
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Horse Won't Move Forward

    2006 Cherry Hill

Dear Cherry:  
     My stallion refuses to move when I am on top of him and only asking him for a slow walk or even a running walk.  I then get down and lunge him in a canter for 5 to 10 mins and then get back up and he will then go for me for a few mins and then refuses after that.  What can I do to stop this from happening can you help me with this.  I work him in a confined small area until I can get him to do what I want and not what he wants.  I don't use spurs. I use a whip to encourage him at times.   D

Dear D:

     As far as your problem, before I can offer you an answer, here are my initial reactions to your e mail and some questions.

     First, I assume that all people who are working with a stallion are very experienced in training and handling horses of all ages and sexes. I know that is not true, but it should be.  If you are not experienced as I have defined, you should not be training a stallion.  I don't even think it is wise for an inexperienced person to even ride a trained stallion.

     Second, to me, it sounds like you are training this horse rather than riding a trained horse.  Going forward from the leg is a very basic lesson of mounted training - in fact, its really the first lesson during the first few rides and it is emphasized throughout the horse's training.  (See my book, Making Not Breaking, where training for forward movement is described in detail.

     So, I wonder, is this one of the first rides for this horse?  Or is this a problem that cropped up - he used to be OK and now he is hesitant to move forward? 

     Do you have a trainer that you work with regularly?

     When the horse "refuses to move", just exactly what does he do? Does he just plant his feet, throw his head, buck kick, what?

     What does he do when you apply the whip?  Where do you apply it?

     What type of bridle and bit do you use and what type of contact do you have?

     Could there be a problem with a poor fitting saddle that  makes it painful for him to move with the weight of a rider on board?  You say he is willing to move forward on the longe without a rider on top.

     Does he urinate when you are mounted?

     Can you longe him at a walk?

     Give me some more information and I'll try to head you in the right direction.  Ultimately, with such a problem, either the rider, the horse or both would benefit from some lessons.

Take care.         

Dear Cherry,

Thanks for responding to my email.  I am experienced horsewoman. The stallion I am having problems  has been trained and is very gentle in all mannerism except to ride.  He was broke to ride by a professional trainer and I have let him just be standing for a number of years due to family and school.

Now I want to get him started again, and am having trouble getting him to go while I am on his back.  I think he has a mind set and wants to remain his own person you know what I mean.

Answers:  He just plants his feet and refuses to go. Nothing else.

If I lunge him first I can get him to move with me on top without the lunge line with a small crop to the hip area just enough to encourage him to go. I think when they broke him they used spurs and a whip.

I ride English and I have an English bridle on him with a nose piece and a curb chain.  In his mouth is a twisted wire bit and it is also a gag bit as I want him to know he can't get away with me if he tries.  But I have been debating on changing it as I think this might have something to do with the movement because if I remember right they used a broken snaffle. what do you think?

No the saddle is fine.  No he doesn't urinate when I am on top. No he will not walk on the end of the lunge line in fact after cantering he decides to stop by running in to me on the lunge line.

I will take a look at the book you mentioned but please help me in the mean time.

Thanks, D  

Hi D:

     You are right about the bit and bridle - a twisted wire mouthpiece coupled with a noseband, curb chain and gag set-up all tell the horse DO NOT GO FORWARD!  I imagine when you longe, the reins are not as tight as when you ride - does he have more freedom of movement of his head when you longe him?  Definitely take off as much of this "whoa" gear as you can and still be safe.  Since you say he is gentle and well trained, you should be able to get along with a lot less head gear as you suggested.  You be the judge re: your safety.

     Make a strong connection between your voice command when longeing, "Walk on!!" with a high tone, spirited command at the same time you crack or apply the longe whip if he is hesitant.  Perk him up on the longe so that he walks off immediately in response to the voice command alone. You want the voice command to trigger a response in  him when you ride. You'll use it for a while until he gets back into the swing of things.

     You are correct in applying a whip aid to the hindquarters of the horse to ask him to go forward.  Don't apply it on his ribs or flank - in those areas, the whip tends to collect a horse rather than drive him forward.  But don't use a crop, which is short with a flat popper on the end.  Use a long dressage whip so you can reach all the way back to the BACK of his hindquarters without you having to get in an awkward twisting posture or letting go of your left rein to do it.  Use the same voice command you used in longeing and use the dressage whip in the rear of his hindquarters immediately to scoot him forward if he doesn't respond. You want a crisp depart, almost a lurch forward at this point, so don't grab onto the reins just as he goes forward or you will give him a conflicting signal.  After he gets the idea, you can smooth things out so that he just promptly steps into the walk with energy but without a lurch.  At first you want promptness, later you can work on form.  Be careful you don't bump him in the mouth when he goes forward.  That would punish him.  Work on one thing at a time.  Forget about head set, topline, pace etc.

  2004 Cherry Hill



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