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Odd title, I know, but it's what we have to say to my horse every five seconds, or so it seems. I have a list of minor problems with my good old boy, but think this one might help the others, so it comes first.

Some background. Dozer is a 19ish QH gelding that I lease. Lazy as all get out. A good plodder, and relatively bombproof so a perfect trail horse for me. He moves like an 'undignified western horse', as I like to put it - head low, stretched out, small steps. He is an ex-school horse, I don't know any history before that.

The problem. When he moves, he barely lifts his legs. Even in the trot, his hooves barely get off the ground. No matter how much I urge, even in a 'fast' trot, his legs move faster but the strides stay the same - short, choppy, and just off the ground. Unless we're riding towards a gate, or somewhere that he wants to be. So I know he is capable of lifting himself up, it's a matter of either him not wanting to, or me not knowing how to get him to. The latter is entirely possible - in my entire life I've only had 6 months of 'lessons', very late in my riding 'career'. Until then, I didn't know what leg aids really were.

My question. Is there something I should be doing different as I ride him? Should I start working him over poles? Or, though probably a little unorthodox and unwise, I have noticed that wearing fetlock boots on his hind legs make him lift them out of dislike. I've considered putting them on, but I don't want him fussing or uncomfortable. Plus, he used to wear front tendon boots when he was a school horse, so he's used to them.

You can stop here if you'd like, but I thought I'd quickly run over the other problems that I feel are likely connected to his not lifting his feet/being lazy.

He is extremely hard to keep moving, especially in the canter. He tends to throw his head down - hard - when going into the canter to get himself up off the ground enough to kick off. If I use the crop when he ignores my leg, he throws in a mini buck/crow hop. When he's being really lazy, he trips or starts to drag his feet. Watching him move in videos, it's like he's not putting in any effort whatsoever. It might feel like he's doing the right thing in the saddle, but watching it back is horrible.

A lot of this is probably (most likely) my fault. I don't know how to get a horse rounded up, collected, on the bit. I'm struggling to work with how desensitised he is to aids. Many, if not all of you, would say to get a trainer. The closest trainer is probably an hour away, and when I really only want to be able to ride the trails without constantly working to keep him moving, it seems like a bit of a waste. What I want is to make riding easier for both of us - me in that I don't have to be at him constantly, him so that I won't be at him constantly.

So please, some advice. If necessary I can post video, but be warned, it will not be pretty!
 

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I once had a student that came to me with similar problems.

It just so happened that my dentist was going through a bunch of my horses and I asked the woman if her horse had been under dental care recently.

She said her horse was due and so she was fit into the days schedule.

"How old did you say your horse was Ma'am"?

The dental check revealed the her horse was about 10 years older then she thought.
 

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You are describing the perfect beginner horse. Maybe it is time to give him up to a beginner that really NEEDS a horse like him and time for you to move up to a horse with a 'bigger motor'. Nagging at him will make him miserable while there are numerous wannabe riders that desperately need a horse just like him. If you move on to a slightly more ambitious horse that challenges your ability, you will both win. JMHO.
 

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Lazy! Ugh, not my favorite but glad it work/ed for you.
Just wanted to add that at his age he could very well be getting stiff or have arthritis, and him moving like that exacerbates the problem.
Ground poles may help, a ground person, if not a trainer may help. But I agree with Cherie. You'll probably just end up nagging him, sounds like it's just how he is.
 

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Is he lazy, in pain or confused? Or a combination thereof? Is there anyone else nearby that could watch you ride him? Or lunge him? or watch you hand trot him? Or ride him? I think you need more "on site, hands on" input.

A video might be helpful. Someone might see something that you are not aware of - whether its the horse or you.
 

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you could probably make his response to the leg snappier, if you were committed to it and had an expectation that you really kept in mind and never allowed him to fall back into a lifetime habit. But, I have to agree with Cherie that a horse this old, and with a long history of being a good boy to learners is not that easy to change, and is it fair to him?
maybe now is the time to consider a new lease?
 
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