Teach Your Lazy Horse To Go Forward Enthusiastically

Do you get exhausted trying to get your lazy horse to move forward energetically? It doesn’t have to be that way. All you need to do is go through the following 6 step process to put your lazy horse in front of your legs. Depending on the horse, you could completely retrain him to be more sensitive to your legs in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Here are the steps to put the lazy horse in front of your legs:

1. Give a light leg aid. Remember that a horse can feel a fly on his side, so logically there’s no reason for him to be dull to your legs.

2. No response, half-hearted response, or delayed response

3. Correct him by sending him forward energetically.


5. 100% response (99.9% isn’t good enough!)

6. Praise

Let me explain those steps in a little more detail.

1. Give one feather light squeeze with both calves. A horse can feel a fly on his side so it’s logical that he can feel a light aid.

2. Your lazy horse must react instantly and eagerly. If he doesn’t, DON’T adjust your aid by repeating it or making it stronger. If you do, you’re letting your horse train you!

3. Instead, correct him by chasing him forward. Before you actually correct your horse for a dull or non-existent reaction to your leg, consider his temperament. The easy-going, lazy horse might need a few taps with the whip or a few bumps from your legs to send him forward.

But the sensitive soul might only need a brush with the whip to get the same reaction. The point is to get a clearly forward, “hot-off-the-leg” answer– not to terrorize him.

Also, if your horse is the type that bucks when you use the whip, it’s better to bump him with your legs instead. First of all, you don’t want to get bucked off! In addition, if he’s bucking, he’s obviously not going forward, so he’s missed the whole point of why you corrected him.

So, close both of your legs very lightly on his sides to ask for his version of a trot lengthening. If your lazy horse doesn’t respond (and he probably won’t if you’re used to giving him strong leg aids), send him forward in rising trot for eight or ten strides by tapping with the whip or giving him a couple of bumps with your legs.

Keep in mind that at this point, all you’re looking for is some type of forward reaction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “pretty” answer. It’s fine if he puts his head up in the air and rushes off. None of those reactions matter in the beginning.

Your only goal when you start this process is to get some kind of enthusiastic answer that shows your horse is paying attention to you. While you’re sending him forward, maintain a light contact with his mouth, but don’t give any rein aids. There’s no point in using the reins to put him on the bit if he’s not “thinking” forward.

4. Once you’ve chased him forward, go back to a normal working trot. Ask for the trot lengthening again by RETESTING with a light leg aid. Retesting by closing both calves lightly is the most important step in the entire process. If you don’t retest, your horse only becomes duller. That’s because you’ve only taught him to go forward when he feels the whip or kicking. You haven’t taught him anything about reacting to a light leg aid unless you retest.

5. Accept nothing less than a 100% response. If his reaction to your legs is “better” or “pretty good” but not wholeheartedly forward, repeat the whole process from the beginning until he makes a 100% effort.

6. When you RETEST, if your lazy horse responds by immediately going forward energetically, praise generously. At this point it’s still okay if he breaks into the canter when you do the retest–later on, through repetition and reward, you can explain to him that you just want a lengthening in the trot. But for the moment, ANY forward reaction deserves to be rewarded. For more tips, sign up for my free newsletter at: http://www.janesavoie.com

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5 Responses to Teach Your Lazy Horse To Go Forward Enthusiastically

  1. linda murase says:

    Hi Jane-this five yr. old off the track gelding has beautiful natural gaits but resents forward anything-by now he has me trained to chase him and now he refuses to canter unless I rev him up on a small circle- same thing on the longe- I wish I had a whip holder behind me when I ride him- I only ride him 2 days at a Japanese riding club-any tip? for me – I have time to take my time with him

  2. Cheryl says:

    Hi Jane – My 4 yr old is extremely stubborn. I have had him 9 mths and worked with ground work as he had manners, he would just push through me. He is better now not biting me as much but having trouble with flat work. I am not on completely flat ground as the paddock I have access to work him is uneven. When I do circle work he wont listen to my leg aids. I get tired and frustrated. I tried your technique over the past week , we have improved but on the cirle as I am trying hard not to use my rains I finds he wants to run out. How can I keep pressure up to keep him moving forward when he wants to test me & run out. I am not even attempting the canter yet as I dont trust him and he refuses to canter anyway. Its hard when your dont have the safey of a menage and riding in an open paddock.

  3. Jenae says:

    Hi, i have a 5 year old TB that ive been working with but i can not get her to understand what go means. she knows stop, left and right and lunges fine. But once on her i can not get her to move foward. Do you have any suggestions for maybe some ground work to get her to move under saddle? Thanks, J

  4. Paulina Platkowska says:

    Hey, I have an 8 year old Welsh C gelding, stone horse. No vet related problems, either just lazy, unfit or has attitude.. So hard to get him moving! Ignores all aids (legs, voice, crop, schooling and lunge whip). I can’t lunge him because he doesn’t want to move.. Does lead well though 🙂 It takes me 25 minutes to walk him from one end of the field to another, and 3 minutes to gallop him down.. He’s only willing to go from one direction to the other, and not the other way round!:L I’m confused and not sure what to do 😦 Can someone please email me to discuss or help me out? (paulina_platkowska@hotmail.co.uk) I don’t own him 100% so can’t take him off grass livery or move yards.. He jumps ok and when out hacking, I’d be walking 10x faster on my own feet…

  5. Nikki Walker says:

    Hi i have a 7 year old clydesdale who has never been backed,I have done a little lunging but he is very lazy,so now i have tried long reining,but he has no clue about steering etc,so he either stops or romps off wherever,i have had him in a snaffle french link,a ported myler and now a fulmer with flash as he puts tongue over bit but has managed this with all bits,which i think is not helping.He is getting better on the ground but still very bulshy.What can i do to help him understand the aids> thank you.

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