Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
I don't know what style of riding you do, but here are some things that seem to work for me:
1 - With a snaffle bit, as the right shoulder moves forward, use very slight pressure on the right rein - a light pinkie's worth - with all the pressure of that pinkie gone when the hoof starts to move back. By that time, his left shoulder will be moving forward, and so you use very slight pressure on that side. The way it was described to me was that you aren't pulling back so much as you are just not moving forward as much. The reverse is to push the right rein forward at a slightly enhanced motion, to ask for the horse to stretch out its front legs.
You can practice it at a walk. When you do it right, the horse will start to walk a little slower or faster. When I was taking lessons, we all had to practice doing this at a walk, and then at a trot. It seems to be something of an instinctive reaction on the horse's part, since I was then able to bring it home and practice it on my own horses.
2 - With a western curb bit, I seem to get some of the same reaction by either raising my hand vertically (NOT back) a few inches, or lowering it. That changes the balance of the slack in the reins, which Mia (my mare) usually picks up on.
3 - A non-standard thing I do is vary my leg position to ask for a jog vs a more extended trot. That came from getting annoyed with my horse when she would deliberately pick up a very stiff-legged, bouncy trot on a trail. I would slide my feet forward, tilt back a little (get 'on my pockets' as the western instructor used to yell at me), and then just bounce on her loins.
Since she didn't like how that felt, she would switch to her easy, relaxed jog and I'd go back to riding with her instead of on her.
Note: I'm not a trainer, instructor or competitor. YMMV.
English riders use half-halts a lot. Western riders may too, but the two western instructors who tried to teach me to do half-halts seemed to describe it differently than the books I have on English riding. My guess is that a half-halt done badly is more likely to confuse or annoy a horse than refocus him. It may be that half-halts work best when someone is riding with constant contact...don't know, just speculating.
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."