True Definition of “Forward”: Whole-heartedly. Moving forward giving his best effort. When your horse is just rambling around, he is not moving “forward”.
3 Steps to Getting Forward Movement
1. Bring your horse up to a medium trot (this should be done in all gaits, the trot is just used for purposes of this example).
2. Close your legs lightly on your horse’s side for up to 3 seconds.
* If the horse does not make a good effort to really pick up the pace, start bumping him gently and steadily with both legs (1-2 kicks per second – with both legs) until he does move forward with effort.
3. Once the horse speeds up (even if only slightly), relax for a couple seconds & praise him ALOT!
At the end of step 3, wait about 2-3 seconds, then repeat all 3 steps. Horses learn through repetition, so these 3 steps will need to be repeated until the horse responds to your light cue to move forward 100% of the time.
This lesson is on forward movement, whole-hearted forward movement. While teaching this lesson to your horse, start at a trot and stay at the trot for the whole lesson. If you stay at the same gait, you are teaching your horse to respond to your request of moving forward within the same gait… no transitions.
However, you may also use this lesson to teach a young or “green” horse transitions. Using the method above, start at a walk. Use the method above and you’ll end up trotting. With younger or “green” horses who don’t even know the leg cue yet, it may take a couple days to a few weeks to get this concept through to them (this depends on how consistent you can be). Be as patient as you can!
Why Does This Work?
By the third or fourth time of doing this, your horse will soon realize that he must move forward off your light leg pressure to avoid the less comfortable, annoying kicks. Always start with light, delicate pressure. As your horse ignores your request, increase pressure and annoyance. The annoyance is what makes him decide to move forward wholeheartedly immediately the next time you ask lightly.
Practice this everyday, it is a GREAT warm-up for more advanced maneuvers and obedience. If you cannot get your horse to move forward whole-heartedly off your delicate leg cue, you will have difficulty in future situations such as flying lead changes, sliding stops, finding distances to jumps, passing other riders in a tight arena, and advanced dressage maneuvers such as the piaffe and passage.
The most important part of asking your horse to go forward is when he does not respond to your light cue, don’t give up and stop squeezing or kicking or you will have the reverse affect on your horse’s training (he will learn that your leg cue means to ‘do nothing’). The horse will learn that you aren’t serious or consistent about what you want him to do. He’ll become dull to your legs and will ignore your requests.