Up Your Horse
© 2006 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com
is 15 and wonderful, but he is lazy and slow. How do I get him to have a little
Danylle from California
rather start with a wonderful but lazy horse than a naughty but Spunky horse,
wouldn't you? But you can have wonderful AND Spunky. I'll help.
First lets go through a check list of physical causes for low energy before we
talk about training.
your horse on a regular deworming program? Parasites can rob a horse of nutrition
Is your horse in
good flesh and condition?
Is he too
fat or too thin? A fat horse is understandably lazy as it takes so much
more effort to move and a thin horse often doesn't have the physical reserve for
exercise. A horse that receives regular exercise tends to look forward to it so
has more "spunk" than a horse that is only occasionally ridden
so if you can get your horse into condition and keep him at a good level of fitness,
he will likely be more lively.
horse receiving enough high energy feed such as grain? Horses on a
diet of only coarse roughage will lack energy. Feed grain according to the
horse's current weight, his condition, and his workload.
Is your horse comfortable on his hooves? Whether a horse is barefoot
or shod, his hooves must have regular attention so that he can move comfortably
and soundly. Be sure you have a qualified farrier take care of your horse's
hooves every 6-8 weeks.
Are you using
a bit on your horse that "discourages" him from moving forward?
Sometimes harsh head gear acts like a STOP sign in front of your horse.
With your well trained horse, you can experiment with a soft rubber
snaffle bit in his mouth instead of the curb bit you are probably using, for example,
to see if the bit is unduly subduing him.
Finally, be sure his back is not sore because if it is, he will not want to move
out. Make sure your saddle fits properly and the pad or blanket, cinch and
breast collar are not rubbing him.
The best way to rev up a horse's forward movement is through lots of extended
trot work (even if you are a Western rider), loping or cantering freely out on
pasture, and livening up the horse to your legs aids. When you squeeze your
legs, your horse should immediately step forward energetically. If he does
not, you can reinforce your leg aids TEMPORARILY with the use of spurs or a whip.
Here's how you'd do it. Apply the leg squeeze. If he does not respond, immediately
tap with the spurs on the ribs or with the whip on the horse's hindquarters.
Next time, same thing. Pretty soon, the horse learns that when you squeeze
your legs, if he doesn't respond he will receive more "encouragement".
Once he learns to "move forward from your legs", you will not longer
have to use spurs or a whip. They are just a stepping stone to help your
horse learn to move forward. And be sure that when you ask your horse to
move out that you don't confuse him by holding back with the reins at the