Getting into canter on an easygoing or lazy horse can be exhausting! And while we do love our laidback equines… Can we all be honest in admitting how, sometimes, just a little more enthusiasm would change everything? The good news is that you can quickly begin to change this in your horse.
You see, often, the trot to canter is often a symptom of a bigger issue – a lack of responsiveness.
Increasing your horse’s responsiveness is possible. It will take a consistent approach from you – and the transformation can be instant…
So, rather than scrubbing, pushing, and shoving into the canter each time, begin working on increasing overall responsiveness first. Be strict or disciplined with both yourself (it all starts with you) and your horse. Oh, and did I mention that you also need consistency ;)
Your Training Goal
Before you begin working on this with your horse, it is important to have something to aim for. My suggestion is to have the goal of being able to ask a question with the lightest of aids, and have your horse instantly respond. However, I get that, right now, this may seem impossible.
Training your horse to respond to light aids immediately is your focus over the coming few rides. And you will also review this regularly going forward in your riding as well.
But, in order for your easygoing or lazy horse to begin changing, you must first take responsibility for your actions. How things are now is a reflection of what you have continued to allow to happen in your training. A more responsive horse starts with a more responsive rider…
Your Leg Aids
Just like most ways we communicate, you can use different methods with your horse to ask similar questions. So if you have been just asking one way and not seeing results, maybe it’s time to begin experimenting with a wider range of aids?
Easygoing or lazy horses need to learn to go forward without constantly being encouraged to do so by the rider’s legs.
Think of your leg aids now. How are they being used to ask your horse to step into the canter? A slight squeeze? Maybe a squeeze and a small ‘nudge’? Or do you have to give a few solid ‘kicks’? Your aim for your training is to have your horse respond to the slight squeeze.
However, in order to do that, you may need to apply a little more pressure initially using the ‘kick’. Although, I would rather strongly suggest the correct use of a schooling or long whip. This is because I believe a ‘tap’ behind your leg to bring your horse’s attention to your leg is often a much ‘nicer’ solution than kicking the sides off your horse!
Moving from Obvious to Subtle
As you work towards the ‘light touch’, it will be so important to remember that consistency is key when working on responsiveness. So getting on and wandering around for 10 minutes not really focusing on anything while ‘warming up’ will not help your situation! From the moment your bum enters the saddle, your focus will be on responsiveness.
Most riders overlook the very first transition that happens when begin riding. The one from halt to walk. Rather pay attention to it. This is where you can set the tone for the conversation going forward.
Aim for the whole conversation to be ‘I, the rider, ask a question and then you, the horse, respond in a timely fashion’. Ask followed by a quick response. Repeat this over and over, throughout the ride. Start in walk and trot. And only when your horse is truly ‘going forward’, begin to work on the canter.
Stop Nagging Every Single Stride
The final key to this is to change the habit of nagging. When you have ridden an easygoing or lazy horse for any length of time, certain habits can creep into your riding. Kicking or squeezing every single stride is one of those habits. Now, the irony is that you may feel like you MUST do this to keep him going forward, right?
It is important to remember that, when riding, the goal is for you to ask a question, and your horse responds until you interupt and ask a different question
Part of your responsibility, as a rider, is to allow your horse to take responsibility for his role in this conversation. Your horse must begin to take responsibility for ‘going forward’. And if you are reminding him of this every single stride, he simply can’t.
Learn to ask a question. Repeat if necesary with more pressure. Let your horse respond. Then wait until you need to make a correction…
The correction in this situation is asking again for more energy when you feel that he has stopped working forward himself. And going forward is not ‘working forwards’. True forward feels like moving with a sense of purpose. Keep that in mind as well.
Your Easygoing or Lazy Horse
As you begin working on this the next time you’re in the saddle it is really important to remember one thing. The struggle you are experiencing while getting from trot to canter with your more easygoing or lazy horse is merely a symptom. The root cause is a lack of responsiveness.
Responsiveness is one of the easiest things to correct in your riding. And it is something you have almost 100% control over the outcome.
Keep in mind that the key to overcoming this challenge is to be consistent with your training, and how you ‘show up’. I would suggest short, extremely focused sessions of 20 to 30 minutes initially and then build from there.
You will be amazed at what you can transform in just one ride!