Riding a Horse Who ‘Won’t Listen’

Riding a Horse Who ‘Won’t Listen’

Riding a Horse Who ‘Won’t Listen’

Riding a Horse who 'Won't Listen'

This episode will explain how:-

  • Looks can be deceiving this type of a horse
  • And why I suggest bringing the whole conversation back to basics
  • To create a channel for the ‘forwardness’
  • You can identify any ‘weak spots’ in your channel

We all know one… The horse who makes you question everything about your riding abilities and knowledge.  The horse who, when you get on, just seems to invite you to ride as though you began yesterday!

It can be such a frustrating place to be for any riders trying to improve themselves.  It can cause a confidence crises.  However, rather than just giving up and accepting it, I want to give you a few ideas on how to begin making this more positive.  Positive for you and positive for the horse as well.  

This episode of the Daily Strides Podcast is about how you can begin reframing the conversation with this horse, so you can both walk away feeling good afterwards.

Looks Can Be Deceiving with a Horse who ‘Won’t Listen’…

If you are currently working with a horse like this, you might feel even worse because of how the horse ‘seems’ to be.  He is calm. People might even comment that he is ‘easy’.  This of course only adds to your frustration, and negative self talk, because you know first hand that he is anything but!

Very often a horse who is ‘easy and safe’ can be a huge struggle to get going forward.  And if, by some miracle, you get them going forward it is exhausting to keep them going!

You might notice how issues that you corrected years ago, or lessons ago, in your riding are now all of a sudden cropping up again.  Things which you thought were put on that all important ‘autopilot’ have, as if by magic, been brought back into play.

This of course only compounds the whole problem.  Now, you have to deal with ‘fixing’ yourself, as well as dealing with the horse who ‘won’t listen’.

Often, because your position or basics have reverted to an earlier version, you end up not even asking the correct question any more!  All of this gives your horse a great excuse to ignore you further…

This is where I am going to suggest you stop what you are doing, and bring everything back to the absolute basics.

Bringing the Conversation Back to the Basics

In my experience, usually the big missing piece in this sort of situation is forwardness.  I think that if you can focus on just that one thing initially, it can have the power to change everything else.

Work on consistent forwardness in the walk and trot.  Don’t worry about the canter right now.  If you can lay down a few ‘rules’ in the slower gaits, they will carry over to everything else. 

Another reason I suggest leaving canter out of your schooling initially is due to it being a big contributing factor to this issue.  Have you noticed that the trot to canter transition is often the one that causes everything to come apart at the seams?!

Forwardness is Both Physical and Mental

You and your horse must ‘think’ forward as well as ‘go’ forward.  If the mental forwardness is missing, there will be no consistency in the ride later. 

When a horse is thinking forward, he is open to listening to what you are saying.  He is actively part of the conversation that is happening between both of you.  A lack of forwardness can often be the physical manifestation of a lack of basic respect.  He literally ‘won’t listen’ to you.

There are some links to past episodes and blog posts that deal with this problem at the bottom of this episode.  I strongly suggest having a read or listen if you are struggling with this in your riding.

Creating a Channel for that Forwardness

Now, you’re possibly wondering what is a channel?  Think of it like a river flowing.  The banks create the channel that keeps the water inside and, well, flowing in a particular direction.  You can also think of it like train tracks.  Anything that dictates where the ‘thing’ is travelling to.

If your channel is weak, or has weak parts or areas, it will be very difficult to put more energy in there without it leaking or bursting out somewhere. The horse we are chatting about right now is a master at figuring out those weak spots. 

When he can figure out where there are those weak spots or areas, he will try to take advantage of them.  Why?  Well, because he can then distract you and not have to worry about applying himself too much to doing what you are asking him to do!

If he can make the energy ‘leak out’, there is less engagement, less carriage and less ‘working’ all round required from the horse.  There is also a lot of ‘managing’ required from the rider – which is why you feel so exhausted and frustrated! 

Identifying Any ‘Weak Spots’ in Your Channel

If this is all sounding familiar, great!  It means that now you can begin identifying those weak spots and actively ‘reinforcing’ them where necessary.

A stronger channel, coupled with a horse who respects you and goes forward are the keys to turning things around when in this situation. 

I want you to think about something you do with your horse, where it ends up being a battle of wills.  Perhaps it is the transition I mentioned earlier, from trot to canter.   Think of how you normally get everything up the right way.  In this case, half halts and asking for a little flexion.  However, when you ask for the transition itself, that is where things begin to break down.

Where do you find yourself three or four strides out from this? Are you remaining centred?  How does your contact look?  What about noticing how the ‘flexion’ is looking now?  Things were probably great when you initially ‘asked’.

However, as more pressure was applied – that is where those leaks begin showing up. Being open and honest with yourself as to how far away from the ideal you are, is the key to begin identifying the weak points in your channel. 

Bracing or Resisting can also mean ‘Won’t Listen’

For many riders, this is where they begin to feel that their horse is really bracing against them.   This is another reason I am suggesting that you keep things in walk and trot initially.  Work on asking for a little flexion from your horse.

Make sure you are correct in how you are asking – and remain correct even if he ignores or braces against you.  Horses can brace through their barrel, their shoulder or their neck.

I would suggest making sure you are correcting him, while making sure you are focused on what you want to do and where you want to go. 

Notice when it is happening and, then be quick to correct him.  You will begin to notice the difference between him being a little stiff and him becoming a little defiant and ‘rude’ in response to your questions.

Now, obviously it goes without saying, but let’s just add it here anyway, that you want to make sure your horse is physically able to do what you are asking…

Your Forward Thinking Can Change Everything

We have already covered how forwardness is a mental as well as physical aspect for your horse.  But many riders fail to see that this is also true of them, the riders.

Your ‘thinking forward’ plays a huge part to resolving this issue for both you and your horse.  Allowing yourself to become ‘stuck’ on the issue is not thinking forward. 

Yes, you must notice what is happening, but don’t allow it to derail you regarding to what you want to achieve.  This is one of the biggest factors in overcoming this ‘battle of wills’ for many riders.

You must ‘think’ forward all the time.  I also strongly suggest having a theme or a specific goal or topic for each ride which you can come back to when you find things are getting a little ‘off track’.

Remember, this horse is literally inviting you to ride badly – don’t give in and RSVP to him! 

Final Piece of Advice

The final piece of advice I’m going to give you today is to focus on becoming more supple.  both you and your horse.  Yes, bending and flexion is part of it, but it is not the whole picture.   Work on moving the shoulders or the hind quarters.

Become incredibly accurate in your head about what you want to happen.  Then see how close to perfect you can get to it when actually making it happen. 

When both you and your horse are finally ‘thinking forward’ everything else becomes so much easier.  He will literally be waiting for your next input to your conversation together.  You will become more relaxed and able to ‘feel’ more, which will also only add to the over all experience for both of you.

Happy Riding


Links mentioned in the episode:-

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