For the next four weeks, I’m going to give you a peek into my Equestrian Masterclass on Solving Common Horse Behavior Problems.
When I have a student or a clinic rider introduce their horse to me and tell me that their horse is dull or lazy, most of the time what that really means is that the horse is behind the leg. For one reason or another, this horse has learned to require a larger amount of energy or pressure from the rider in order to respond to the aids. Said another way, he’s not really on the aids.
We always want to find the root cause, and I’ll dive into that more in subsequent segments. But generally, we always want to ask ourselves, “Are they in pain? Are they nervous and anxious about something ahead of them? Or have they learned to be dull and behind the rider’s leg?” Generally, we’re teaching a hot horse to accept the leg more, and we’re teaching a dull horse to be more reactive to the leg.
I have two leading pieces of advice with horses who tend to be “lazy” or “dull” simply by nature:
- Do the work to find what motivates him. Many riders want to be a bit abrupt with their lazy horses, and it can borderline on rude. But just like with hot horses or any other type of horse, your lazy horse deserves to be treated politely and it will actually make a more willing partner. Like a good boss at a job should do, figure out and acknowledge what motivates him. It could be food, it could be rest breaks, it could be play. Whatever it is, use it! It’s not about creating a horse who only wants to work and never wants to take breaks; it’s about using his natural motivation in order to get his best work while he’s moving. This could also be a great chance to use positive reinforcement training.
- Make his world neutral. I talk a lot about making the horse’s world “neutral” and this can apply to the lazy horse, the nervous horse, the young horse… the list goes on. What do I mean by this?
Imagine that everything your horse is drawn towards (the in gate, his buddies in the field, the barn, his feed bucket) has a plus sign. Everything that he’s repelled by (the spooky tractor at the end of the ring, the side of the ring where he can’t see his friends, etc.) has a negative sign. You want to create an environment where the + and - are spread equally around his world.
What might this look like? Every time he walks to the end of the ring where he can’t see his friends, he gets a treat or a break. Or maybe you position his best horse buddy to stand beside the tractor in the ring that he’s afraid of. There are endless iterations of this, but all of this will help balance the + with the - in his world, which is what I mean by making it more “neutral”.
In next week’s post, we’ll discuss how to test whether your horse is behind the leg, and how to fix it.
Ready for the next step? Build a better partnership with your horse with Tik’s help.