Go For­ward!

Horse & Rider - - Private Lesson -

Your body po­si­tion is key to stay­ing safe and get­ting your horse’s feet un­stuck. Here I’ll out­line two po­si­tion mis­takes that im­pede your horse’s de­sire—and abil­ity—to go for­ward and how to cor­rect them. I’ll then dis­cuss a sim­ple ma­neu­ver to get his feet mov­ing again.

This doesn’t re­quire any spe­cific tack or sit­u­a­tion. You can eval­u­ate your body po­si­tion in any tack, and you can use my tips any­where you have space—whether it’s in an arena or out on the trail.


This legs-for­ward, leaned­back, stiff-arm po­si­tion is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to your go-for­ward cues. Brac­ing with your feet—es­pe­cially if your hands and arms are stiff, too—doesn’t al­low you to use your body to en­cour­age your horse to move for­ward. This kind of pos­ture isn’t fea­si­ble for en­cour­ag­ing for­ward mo­tion.


Here’s the other ex­treme. Your go-to re­sponse might be to “chase” your horse for­ward by push­ing your arms to­ward his head, leav­ing slack in the reins. This tips your torso for­ward and pushes your legs back, which can put you in a dan­ger­ous, out-of-bal­ance spot if your horse shies out from un­der you. By taking your weight off his back and lean­ing for­ward, your head is in a bad spot if he de­cides to rear. And you can’t give a good sig­nal with your feet be­cause you’re stand­ing in your stir­rups, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to use your legs to cre­ate en­ergy to go for­ward.


This is a good ex­am­ple of mid­dle ground, rather than ex­tremely back or for­ward. I’m sit­ting straight in the sad­dle, with my shoul­der to my hip to my heel aligned, and I’m bal­anced. You can also see that my horse has col­lec­tion—he can go for­ward, back­ward, or lat­er­ally be­cause he’s in frame and soft in my hands. He’s in an ath­letic po­si­tion and is ready to lis­ten to my cue.


Leg po­si­tion mat­ters. Your legs should be closer to your back cinch than your front cinch so you can en­cour­age for­ward mo­tion. En­sure that your knees are away from your horse

so your lower leg, heel, and spur can be used in a pro­gres­sion to give your cue. Start by squeez­ing your horse for­ward with your up­per calf (around your boot top), then go to your heel, and then your spur if he doesn’t re­spond. Wrap­ping your legs around your horse with a far-for­ward po­si­tion can cause him to back into the pres­sure instead of go­ing for­ward.


Once you’ve checked your po­si­tion, here’s how to get your horse mov­ing for­ward. Bring his nose around to one side or the other by pulling your direct rein back to­ward your hip. Keep your out­side rein loose so it doesn’t con­fuse the sig­nal. Too much neck rein (out­side rein) can cause your horse to back or rear. Place your legs on your horse’s bar­rel, be­hind the front cinch. This al­lows his front end to move lat­er­ally or his hind end to the out­side, start­ing a move­ment that’ll un­stick his feet. When done cor­rectly, this keeps your horse from lung­ing or bolt­ing for­ward, rear­ing, or run­ning back­ward, as well as keeps his feet from tan­gling.


Now we’re get­ting some­where! My horse will­ingly moves for­ward. My hands are for­ward and my reins are loose, but my up­per body isn’t tilted for­ward like a jockey or leaned too far back. In ad­di­tion, I’m rid­ing be­hind the mo­tion to al­low my horse to travel un­der­neath me.

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