Horse too Senstive to Leg Cues

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Horse too Senstive to Leg Cues

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    08-07-2013, 05:26 PM
Horse too Senstive to Leg Cues

We bought an old show gelding a year ago. He is great, but he has had problems in the past of getting very anxious after loping. He wasn't hot or ill tempered, but he would just become too sensitive to leg cues and want to lope.

A year later, we find that he is getting worse with his cue anxiety. Now he cannot relax at the walk. If your leg is just relaxed and hanging comfortably, he takes the calf contact as a trot cue.

Any tips on how to remedy this so we can get him to relax more at the walk and be more confident in when we are actually asking him to go? Rider would prefer to not ride in spurs. So, how can we get him used to calf contact from a relaxed seat without him thinking "trot now?"

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    08-07-2013, 05:32 PM
Use more leg for more stuff.

Removal of the leg is a positive thing for the horse - so if every time he leaps forward from the leg and you take it off - you are rewarding him leaping forward.
I like to use a lot of leg yields and turns on the forehand for horses like this. And always remember - don't take the leg off until you get what you want!! If you want a faster trot and the horse keeps loping - keep the leg on and keep doing a rising trot - ask for a trot, leg yield the horse over until he trots. Then in the trot - take the leg off.

Make it very black and white for yourself - that there isn't punishment but just a reward when the horse does what you want - ie take the leg off and an audible "good boy".

During the initial re-training period things might get a bit hairy so it would be useful to have a professional ride the horse for a few times until he is used to the leg being used.
    08-07-2013, 06:09 PM
Thank you for the quick response!

We do a lot of leg yields, etc. with him, but it isn't so much his confusion of when to go as it is he becomes sensitive to relaxed, non-asking, "off" legs and begins to jog off.

When we ask for a jog or lope with a strong calf cue, he takes it readily. It is after we have loped or jogged that he will not give us that slow western walk again. He won't even walk relaxed. This is where we try to work laterally to slow down his movement, but as soon as we go back to the rail he is overly sensitive to just hanging legs. He takes our legs just hanging relaxed on him (in our case the "off" position) as a cue to trot. We are not actually applying the strong calf cue, he is just so anxious for the next step he can't understand we just want to walk.

Do you think the same exercises will help him become less sensitive to the relaxed "off" leg?
    08-07-2013, 06:14 PM
Yes. As soon as you take the leg off if he goes to fast - he is being rewarded.
    08-07-2013, 06:32 PM
She said when the leg is just HANGING there he takes it as a cue. She isn't using leg pressure.

If he starts trotting, stop him, then 'ASK' him to walk. If he starts trotting, stop him, then 'ASK' to walk.
CowboyBob and CaptTigg like this.
    08-07-2013, 06:44 PM
Originally Posted by Thrill Ride    
She said when the leg is just HANGING there he takes it as a cue. She isn't using leg pressure.

If he starts trotting, stop him, then 'ASK' him to walk. If he starts trotting, stop him, then 'ASK' to walk.
Yes - but then when he does trot off - she probably takes her leg right off. Which he takes as a reward.

This is a trained response. Training issues are rarely the fault of the horse.

I'm saying when the horse trots away, leave the leg where it was, or put it on more, and make the horse walk. Horses find it difficult to trot when they are going almost completely sideways, or doing a turn on the forehand. So do one of those, with leg on, until the horse walks, and then take leg off and praise.
waresbear likes this.
    08-07-2013, 07:07 PM
Anebel is right. If the horse goes when it even feels your leg hanging, you still need to put it on and make him DO something. Eventually he'll understand when leg isn't doing anything, neither should he. When leg is pressed on, he needs to move.

The reason he is so hot off of the leg is likely because you take it away because of his reaction. It's the same concept with desensitizing a horse to a rope. If the rope touches the horse the initial reaction is to move so if you take it away when he moves, he'll keep moving from it. If you stay with him until he shows signs of relaxing, over time the horse learns it's ok to just stand and the rope will go away.

If you don't like what he's doing, redirect him until he gives you what you want. Shutting him down by making him walk will likely frustrate him and exasperate the issue.
    08-07-2013, 07:39 PM
I agree that this is a trained response. Many Western riders won't put any contact on the horse until they cue and often they spur when they do. I am sure that this was how he was trained to respond, immediately to a spur, or else. IMHO he needs lots of schooling time with your leg resting on him in an arena--NO SPURS.
If you just keep your legs off of him he will anticipate the spur coming and become very anxious--you said it's getting worse.
I would ride exclusively in an arena while you fix this. I agree to give clear cues, just quiet ones, just like you want him to listen to when you've fixed this. Circle when he picks up a trot without the cue, and same with picking up the canter without a cue. Ask for the half halt and EXHALE slowly to help him relax, and when he listens, half halt to a walk and praise him...a LOT. He will feel more comfortable walking instead of halting. Take your good old time dismounting, too, then hand walk him for about 30 minutes. You want him to really trust you as his "relaxation coach." He sounds like a very good horse who became too much for the previous owner. This retraining is similar to what barrel racers have to do when their horse starts racing without listening to the rider, easily getting out of control.
This is one of those times where it will probably take 10x as long to remedy the situation as it should have taken to train him properly, in the first place so BE PATIENT.
The more time spent being quiet with your legs the more relaxed he will become. This would also be a great time to teach him to move into the walk, trot and canter with your weight. (Watch Dennis Reis and how he starts colts--he's on and online.)
    08-07-2013, 08:07 PM
Rub your legs on him at the walk and turn him in a tight circle if he takes off, hold the circle until he walks. Keep walking and rubbing him until he walks nicely.
CaptTigg likes this.
    08-14-2013, 01:54 PM
Hi all! Thank you for your advice.
Since this was posted, the geldings rider/owner realized he was mainly changing gait when he got into a corner. Earlier in the season this was something she was told to do at every corner just to keep the horse thinking. It seems the guy picked up on the exercise a little too quickly. We have taken him off the rail and asked in different places, and the problem is almost gone. He still gets a little antsy in the corners back on the rail, however he is much more willing to relax.

BIG thank yous to Thrill Ride and Palogal. The small circles until he is calm and relaxed with a blend of stopping him has helped him go around more calmly, relax quicker, and actually listen for the leg aid instead of assuming it is just coming.

Thank you all again for chiming in!
palogal likes this.

leg aids, leg cues, senstive to leg

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