When working on forwardness it can be easy to fall into the habit of niggling at your horse’s sides every stride, especially if he is partial to napping or falling behind the leg. However, this can make your horse numb to the leg.
To improve your horse’s response to your aids, concentrate on lateral movements such as leg-yield and shoulder-in, especially in walk. International dressage rider Charlie Hutton says: “If you have the horse in front of your leg in walk, it will be easier to achieve and maintain the same in trot and canter.”
Here are Charlie’s top tips to deal with napping:
1. Don’t give up
It’s easy to give in and let your horse get his way if he bucks or jumps around, but never be defeated as this will cause the problem to get bigger.
2. Change something
Take the horse’s mind away from the issue by changing direction, doing a transition or turning a circle.
3. Stay in charge
Don’t let it get to the point where you won’t ask for something because you know it will cause an argument. Seek advice from an experienced trainer to help you move on.
4. Don’t nag
Ask once and expect a reaction immediately – don’t keep niggling at his sides. It’s an easy habit to fall into, but a hard one to break.
5. Have an expectation
Keep your aids concise and know exactly how you want your horse to react.
6. Reward or repeat
When you put your leg on and get the reaction you want, reward your horse with a pat. If you don’t get the reaction, repeat the aid firmly until you do. Making it clear what’s acceptable helps your horse learn.
Want to find out more about getting better responses from your horse? Read the full article in issue 448, available here