How do you get a horse going when it won't go forward?

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Answered by: Cassidy, An Expert in the Training Your Horse Category
I have schooled horses for the past 19 years and one problem I always encounter whilst training new youngsters is that the first few rides, I cannot get a horse going forward.

They get a bit confused with the bit in their mouth and the rider on their back and they're not always sure of exactly what you want them to do. One thing I can never say enough is patience is a virtue. You need to remember staying calm keeps your horse calm and you do want a calm environment when training a new baby.

Please note that these are rough numbers, but out of the fifty horses I have trained, I would say there has only been two or three that are really just push button. They know what to do and when to do it. Then all the others buck around a bit, shake their heads, run backward.

Okay, so we all know the basics, or at least I would hope you know the basics if you're schooling a new horse. So if you're reading this, chances are that you have done all the basic ground work, lunging, fitting a bridle and saddle on your new youngster, getting them used to having a bridle and saddle on them. Then comes the getting on, one leg in, hang around a bit, get on, slowly put weight on the horses back, sit there for twenty minutes, pat the horse and get off. Give them a break. Don't rush training.

So it's the next day, repeat everything you did yesterday, back on, apply leg pressure, the horse doesn't budge. So he doesn't know what you want him to do. Bring in the crop, do not beat him, just make the noise or hit your boot, if this doesn't get a horse going forward, pause, take a deep breath and follow the next few steps.

I usually start by bringing someone in that the horse knows or trusts and I get them to lead him or her around the ring whilst applying leg pressure with a loose rein. This will help your horse identify leg pressure with moving forward. After going around the ring two or three times, get the person to back away but make sure you do not let the horse follow them as you want the horse to associate the person on his back as the dominant or master. Try to apply leg pressure, if he moves two or three steps and then stops, try turning him towards the middle of the ring, right around to the edge and keep them moving.

If the above only slightly helped and then your horse froze again, get the same person to come back in and lunge the horse off the rein, with a lunge whip, ride as if you were riding normally, keeping leg pressure and a loose rein. Do three circles each way, stop the horse, reward them and get off.

I have always asked my horses to do something if they do it correctly, I reward them, get off and only ride again the next day, but they must get it right before I get off.

Once you have your horse going forward or doing what you ask them to, pat them, reward them, and continue again tomorrow.

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