Now, if you've followed my blogs for a while you'll know I write about Crunchie an awful lot! It's not because he's brilliant and it's not because he's rubbish either! It's more that he's tricky and he likes to test both my patience and my ability as a rider (it's a good job he's cute!). So today's topic is catered towards those horses (exactly like Crunchie) who lack impulsion, are perhaps a little lazy and who are not 'in front of the leg'!
So what do we mean by 'in front of the leg'? Your horse should respond quickly to the lightest of leg touches i.e. a slight squeeze of the calf and respond to this with an appropriate amount of impulsion (or 'energy'). You will find if your horse is not 'in front of your leg' you will have issues with the contact, rhythm and straightness (enter a wibbly, wobbly mess!). It is so much more difficult to ride a horse which is lacking impulsion, so here's some top tips to help you get your horse in front of your leg:
1. Walk- Trot- Walk Transitions: These are best done on a 20 metre circle, preferably away from the safety of the arena walls! Ideally, you should ride a minimum of two transitions per circle. Remember to not go guns blazing straight away! Ask gently first, with a light touch, if he doesn't respond immediately, quickly ask again with a no-nonsense attitude until you get the reaction you feel is appropriate!
2. Pole work: This can be really useful to help 'spice' things up a bit! I find pole work, either trotting poles or canter poles give Crunchie a bit more enthusiasm when training so we automatically get that forward thinking vibe! #whoop
3. Transitions within the pace: These are a good test to see if your horse is in front of the leg, it also keeps him on his toes! Transitions in and out of the pace can usually be anticipated. Transitions within the pace are a little more tricky to predict. Be clear with your instructions and remember once you get the appropriate reaction, stop nagging! Sitting quietly is his reward for doing a good job!
4. Lighten your seat: This can help your horse to understand you want that extra impulsion, especially if your horse is very green. In canter, ask for a slight extension and lighten your seat. This gives a clear explanation to your horse that you want him to move forward. As he starts to understand your aid more you can start to 'quieten' this action .
5. Re-test: Lazy horses will always be lazy, it's definitely in Crunchies character to put as little effort in as possible and it will never be a quick fix! You have to re-test this day-in, day-out and always keep it in the forefront of your mind. It will get easier, but they will always test you, asking 'do you really mean that?', you have to be there to immediately say 'YES!'.
Remember, you have to be firm but fair. Don't let them 'run' it has to be a good transition! Once you have obtained it, do not nag or they won't be rewarded and you'll just end up making him more 'dead to your leg'! Make sure you focus and mean business and it should result in a much nicer ride!