Bucking, rearing, and bolting are all nerve-rattlers, and are often the vices we find most difficult to control. Having a horse whose behavior is unpredictable can affect your confidence, but dressage rider Hannah Biggs has inspiration and tips to give you more control and calm your horse's tricky behavior.
Take Back Control
A turn on the forehand can reduce tension through your horse's back and ribcage, which, in turn, will help you to keep him focused on you. This movement also allows you to get your legs on his sides.
It's a common misconception that you should take your leg away from a hot-headed horse - but the opposite applies. A forward-going horse requires more leg, while a horse who doesn't react to your leg requires less.
When asking your horse for a turn on the forehand, first turn your body to where you want him to go. Sit up tall and ask him to turn. You don't want his front legs to be completely still, pivoting or swiveling - they still need to keep moving, just making a smaller turn.
You should be concentrating on asking your horse to let go through the rib cage and back muscles, not just fall out through his shoulders.
This exercise is also an excellent way to encourage your horse to accept the leg so you start thinking forwards, rather than holding on to his front end and thinking backwards.
Help him relax
Trot poles are great for varying your horse's workload and can add variety to his regular routine. To get your horse really working over them, ask for four strides of walk beforehand, then push him on into the trot over the poles, giving hi enough rein to allow him to extend. This will encourage him to stretch in his neck and back, as well as flex and loosen his joints, which will help him to relax.
Changing the rhythm within each pace as you ride will help prevent your horse getting bored and switching off to your aids. The emphasis should be on tuning your horse into your seat and weight aids, so he focuses on you rather than challenging his energy into bucking or rearing.
This exercise varies the pace from extended strides to tiny baby steps. Start in walk and, to ensure a more forward-going walk, swing with your hips in the saddle to ask him to extend his stride, pumping your arms forwards with the nodding movement of his head. When asking for baby steps, make your arms and hips quieter to control his movement and help him slow his step.
If you're doing this exercise in trot, the same principles apply, and you can control your horse's speed through your rising. Rise slower to ask your horse to slow down and get his hindlegs underneath him. Likewise the faster you rise, the faster he'll go.
Throughout this exercise you use this time to ensure you're not simply hanging onto the rein as a handbrake.
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