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post #1 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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Forward

How do I make my horse more forward in the arena?

I would like to work on more flatwork/dressage in 2020. I am a trail rider; I have specifically trained and used my horse for trails. She is a good trail horse, but in the arena, she dawdles. She will walk, "trot" (gait), and canter when I ask without any complaints, but she is not very forward. When I push her forward, she will go forward for a few good strides then return to dawdling. If I continue to ask her forward, she will toss her head and get a little tail swishy. Perhaps she thinks I am being rude? "I am already moving but is that not good enough for you?" Perhaps she is bored? "Go ride a carousel if you want to ride in circles." Again, she is phenomenal on the trail but blah in the arena.

What should I do?
What arena exercises do you do to keep them forward, engaged, and interested?

Thank you.
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post #2 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 05:17 PM
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I used to ride a horse like that. Eventually, I gave up on arena work altogether. It just wasn't worth it of me to have to 'push' my horse so much.

My trainer at the time said the problem is that I WAS pushing. Horses hate to be pushed, and they will often push back against that.


'Pushing' can be a lot of different things. It can be your squeezying too much with your leg, on their flank. It can be repeatedly nagging, It can be putting leg on and pulling back with the rein at the same time, it can be trying to move them somewhere when mentally they are wanting to go somewhere else, (so trying to make them move their legs when their mind is not ON you and your request.)


When my trainer would ride, she would use very little leg at all, certainly never a hard leg against their side, and never more than one or two light taps, if any. She would focus on a point on the other side of the arena, and raise her own energy , in her body, which is a very perceiveable cue to the horse, and if the horse did not respond, she would take the long ends of the reins and slap them back and forth over the shoulders.



The point is not to reinforce your leg , as the so-called 'tapping' of a whip behind your leg, but rather to wake up the horse, gain their attention, and say, "hey! I just asked you something. pay attention!"


Once they react to that, they will usually leap forward a bit, startled, yes. Your job is to accept that forward, and not to try and mold or keep it in any way for a bit. The idea is to get the horse to realize that he has freedom in moving forward. of course, eventually, in dressage, you have to 'mold' that energy by asking for bend, or for collection or extension or a stop or a change of gait. But, when the horse gets dull or resentful, you go back to just getting a forward, and rewarding that.


I know you said that she will do this, but one thought is if you can get a forward from the cue of raising your energy in the seat (which you reinforce with neck slap if she ignores you), she may become less resistant to any leg cue asking for bend, for instance.


The idea is to build her sensitivity to your seat and your energy and your leg, by not overusing your leg.


I'll close this by saying that I invariably would start out with this concept, in my rare arena riding times, but would devolve back into pushing, pushing, pushing and becoming resentful at my horse's resentment and holding back. I ended up going back to the trail, where we both had more fun!
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post #3 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 06:54 PM
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Wanna trade horses? My horse is VERY forward. She trots as fast as other horses canter. My problem is getting her to just slow down for a minute!

Tinyliny hit everything I would have said.
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post #4 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 08:04 PM
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Everything Tinyliny just said, and I'll add this:

Does her canter improve her speed in other gaits? As soon as she's adequately warmed up, try doing your canter work -- including lots of transitions in and out of it -- earlier rather than later in the ride. This often gets them thinking more forward in trot, etc.

I rode the stickiest, pokiest, most resistant horse last winter. Here's how the rides usually played out:

I don't want to walk.
Fine, I'll walk, but I won't like it.
I don't want to trot.
Fine, I'll trot, but I'll barely move and I'll make you work for it.
I REALLY don't want to canter, ughhhhhh, but you're not letting up so I guess I'll canter.
Hey, after that, trotting is pretty okay!!!
Hey, cantering again is also pretty okay!!
Trotting is now AWESOME and I'll go all day as long as I can stretch and you keep your leg off.

I found that short, sharp asks were more effective than nagging him. Also, if he started to putter out in a gait, I wouldn't try to keep him in it. If he dropped out, I'd ask again for a transition back up, and mean it. Eventually he started to realize that it was easier to stay in the gait than to drop out and constantly be asked to go back up to it. Horses need to learn that it's their job to moderate their own speed, and they never learn that if they're not allowed to make that mistake. Legs OFF, if they're in the gait you want, except for the occasional reminder.

I also did a lot of work with him where I would LEAVE HIM ALONE as soon as he would give me forward. Loooong rein, legs OFF. I'd even just let him steer himself as long as he was MOVING. He seemed quite happy in those moments.
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post #5 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 08:20 PM
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With lazy horses, you have to be very quiet and use little leg. The more you ask, the more they tune you out. Ride with a crop. If they slow down, ask once with your leg and voice, then you back it up with the crop if they don't immediately respond(allowing a few seconds for them to process the ask). Rapid transitions, 2-3 strides in each gait before transitioning again. You can't be pulling back, expecially if you are backing up your 'go' with a crop. The worst thing you can do is have them jump forward (good!) then immediately be shut down by your hand. If you think that might happen, grab the front of the saddle, mane, saddle pad, breast plate, anything to stop your hands from catching their mouth.


Now, you say when you ask for more forward, she complies then gets agitated when you insist that she maintains the forward. Consider investigating any physical issues. A horse with sore hocks, for example, will not be willing to step under and push in that more forward gait. What you are describing sounds to me like she's giving you a try, then saying she can't do it again.
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post #6 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 08:42 PM
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From your post your mare is screaming loud and clear, she hates arena work. Let's face facts going in circles is boring.

Take her out on trails to train.

I've ridden in a arena after a few times around I'm over it...and head out to the trails.

Out riding my horse.
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post #7 of 11 Old 11-13-2019, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, everyone, for your advice.

When you say to wake her up with a crop, how hard should the aid be? She is sensitive to artificial/external aids, so much so that I can get her out of a complete balk on the trail with just a slap from my hand. I am concerned that she may get confused and nervous. She understands "walk", and "canter", but not "walk faster" or "canter faster." She thinks I am asking her to "trot" or "gallop" when I ask.
*I am leaving her "trot" (gait) alone. It is good for what I need. I do not know enough about Walkers to be messing around with it now.

She will stay in the gait I ask for as long as I ask, but she will quickly lose impulsion. She will move around like a thirty-year-old western pleasure child's pony.

She is forward on the trail, just not in the arena. I will still look into physical problems; I am getting the vet out soon to float her teeth.
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post #8 of 11 Old 11-14-2019, 07:56 AM
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I think it needs to be said: almost all horses are more forward out on trails. If you are mainly doing trail work with that horse, you are used to their trail speed which is more likely to be forward. Just keep that in mind. There is more stimulation, more space, more everything so they are wide awake out on trails.

Exceptions do exist, of course. My mare was a golden, relaxed trail horse but a speed demon when we initially started arena work.
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post #9 of 11 Old 11-14-2019, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteadyOn View Post
Everything Tinyliny just said, and I'll add this:

I rode the stickiest, pokiest, most resistant horse last winter. Here's how the rides usually played out:

I don't want to walk.
Fine, I'll walk, but I won't like it.
I don't want to trot.
Fine, I'll trot, but I'll barely move and I'll make you work for it.
I REALLY don't want to canter, ughhhhhh, but you're not letting up so I guess I'll canter.
Hey, after that, trotting is pretty okay!!!
Hey, cantering again is also pretty okay!!
Trotting is now AWESOME and I'll go all day as long as I can stretch and you keep your leg off.
This is pretty much a lot of the lesson horses I've ridden. It's very refreshing to get a horse that can move right off the bat. Or at least doing as little of the above as possible, but sometimes the lesson horses that drag along are the best to learn on. But sheesh can it be frustrating. I've felt like I've wasted many a lesson on these types, considering I don't ride as consistently as I used to. Though then there's the opposite of having a speedster and holding them back the entire time

I rode a particular TB a few weeks ago that dragged along until I got up in two point/jockey stance. Oh boy did that put a change in the air- it's as if someone played the race trumpet. He was off! Granted that was the day I fell off haha.

As for the OP's concern if she is sensitve to the crop try using one of those crops that are just a flimsy little thing (I think they just have a small strip of nylon or something at the end). I know for me, using a crop and preventing the forward movement via the reins is a hard habit to kick as mentioned, so see how it goes.

cantering on, into the familiar and unknown

Last edited by Finalcanter; 11-14-2019 at 12:52 PM.
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post #10 of 11 Old 11-14-2019, 02:16 PM
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if she is that sensitive to a slap of your hand on your leg or something, then she might just do with a kiss, or an intake of breath.



you need to do more transitions to keep her awake and engaged. Dressage should be all about transitions. Get them right, and most everything falls into place.


canter, trot, canter, trot, walk, trot, stop, trot, canter, walk . . . . etc.


eventually, you can transition within the gais, from slow trot to fast trot, to slow trot. You just have to use a very light aid, and a very slight restraint with your core and reins, if the horse thinks you mean go up a gait.


get a few good ones, and quit.
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