Is there a more frustrating and exhausting experience when riding to match that of being on a horse that is not paying you a blind bit of notice?! You are on board kicking and pumping away. And all the while your horse is just meandering along. Ignoring you completely and acting as though he is on a relaxing Sunday outing.
Training your horse to move off your leg will help you overcome the inertia. It will also actively improve responsiveness in your horse. Starting the very next time you ride.
Why Is He Ignoring Your Leg?
It is always a good idea to first take a good, in-depth look at your horse’s health. Rule out the possibility of there being something physically wrong that may be causing him to be so nonchalant and laid back. Question whether or not the environment or weather could be contributing factors. Or perhaps his fitness levels, or lack thereof? Also, things like tack fit and confidence working on a particular type of surface or ground.
Once you have confirmed that he is fit and healthy and able for the level of work you are asking for, you can then begin to look at other factors.
- Has he been trained to ignore the rider’s questions?
- Is his rider asking correctly and then allowing him to go forward?
Inconsistent Riding Aids
Let’s first look at the fact that he may just be ignoring your aids. Some horses will only do what is absolutely necessary for them to do. Surprise, surprise! In a lot of instances, if they are not motivated sufficiently to go the extra mile, they won’t. Simple as!
As riders, often we ride to enjoy ourselves and relax. Unfortunately, during these rides, we can be a little ‘too relaxed’. This is in both our communication and our instance of doing things the correct way.
The problem arises when we ask for ‘more’ and then get upset when our horse doesn’t want to actually do ‘more’ for us. This is a direct result of our inconsistent riding and disciplining! If this is the case, your horse is simply reacting to how he has been conditioned or trained by you, the rider.
Nagging Riding Aids
On the other side of this incorrect training are novice riders who, whether knowingly or not, consistently do too much in the saddle. Whether it’s due to a lack of awareness, balance, or control over their seat and limbs, the result is the same. Riders become the ‘dripping tap’ on their horse’s sides… Nag, Nag, Nag.
Unfortunately, like the dripping tap, your horse will soon learn to completely ignore the leg aids. ALL OF THE TIME! So when you actually put your leg on to go forward, he just sees it as another ‘Nag’ and ignores it.
One of the most important skills we can cultivate with regard to our riding is mindfulness. Knowing what we are doing, when we are doing it, and why.
I also think it is worth mentioning that you must carry yourself, and your horse must carry himself while riding. This will help you to be more effective with your leg aids. And your horse to become more responsive. Both are necessary when moving off your leg is what you want to improve in your riding.
Conflicting Riding Aids
The last part of the equation is the fact that the rider may be giving conflicting instructions to the horse. Using their leg while at the same time, using the hand for balance. This is often due to a lack of independence in their seat.
It is a common sight in arenas, the knee jerk reaction of the hand moving when the leg is used.
Alternatively, instead of actually applying the leg when and where you should, riders often ‘polish’. This is when, to ask a question, the rider allows their leg to swing back along the horse’s side. It never actually does anything constructive except to shine a 6″ stripe on both sides of the horse’s body!
The rider gets frustrated. And their horse becomes confused. Luckily, being the kind soul he is, decides that if in doubt, rather don’t go or move anywhere! This is definitely not moving off your leg!
In fact, he is now ignoring your leg at all costs… Which is the exact opposite of what the rider actually wanted in the first place!
Improving ‘Moving Off Your Leg’
I have other resources on this topic, which have more detail on how to more effectively use your legs when riding.
Choose one of the topics, go deeper and see what you can achieve in your riding.
- Free Resource:- One Exercise Multiple Ways
- Connection; the Online Membership for Equestrians
- Lunging for Riding – 4-week program that gets results
- Groundwork for Riding – 4-week program (no arena required ;) )
- Daily Strides Premium Newsletter
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Equestrian Virtual Lounge Online Community