Moving Forward in 2018

I love a new year. Everything is fresh and new and I find a new determination that I lack at the end of a year. For me, the new year is all about moving forward and although I love to write a philosophical, motivational blog, this is not that. I actually want to write about literally moving forward.

Perhaps because I am not the owner of particularly long legs or perhaps because I am very laid back, I have always been better riding a forward going horse than a lazy one. Actually I have always ridden quite forward going horses. Pie is a horse that I just had to think about moving up a pace and he would already be doing it – not because he was amazingly trained but because he has always been, shall I call it, over-enthusiastic.

I think moving forward off your leg is the fundamental to everything though. If you are spending 80% of your energy just keeping your horse moving forward, then it doesn’t give you much scope for anything else.

In most situations, I find myself asking “What would Carl Hester do?” . Always a good place to start when it comes to flat work issues I find. (For jumping I tend to go for “What would Tim Stockdale do?” and basically anything else “What would Monty do?”) And I know his answer on this one from a talk he gave locally a couple of years ago.

“Your horse must work in front of the leg. This means that he should move forward of his own accord and not expect you to keep motivating him – for example, if you ask for canter, he must learn to stay in canter without any leg pressure, until you tell him otherwise.”

Well, yes Carl but how do we mere mortals achieve this..

“If your horse is not responsive to your leg, ask for halt and with a loose rein, give him sharp quick taps with your leg until he moves forward – it doesn’t matter what pace he goes into, just let him move forward.”

Everything I read about getting your horse going forward from the leg tends to be about one kick and then keep your leg still. It is so easy to get into the pattern of nagging with the leg every stride but it is a pattern you need to break. One bigger one and then still seems the way to go.

On the note of how amazing Lord Carl Hester is, can I just add that at a recent British Dressage convention, he also said “If you carry a whip just to make your horse go, you shouldn’t carry one. They are just for small corrections.” Although this doesn’t convince me to carry one, I can accept it more.

Another method I have found helpful came from my old horse, Floyd, and “What would Monty do?” When he arrived, his previous rider was a lot stronger than I was so I found it hard to get him in front of my leg. I needed a quick response from my leg as in a show I needed him to gallop in a short sharp burst. I was also jumping bigger fences and felt I needed an “emergency booster” for when I came round a corner or in a long double.

One afternoon I headed out with my “Giddy Up Rope”. It is made of soft nylon fibres braided into a thick rope, tasselled on the end with a loop on the other end to fit over your wrist. I asked Floyd to go forward, made a kissing noise and flicked the Giddy Up Rope – giving a visual and auditory cue and Floyd kicked up a gear. I repeated this and by attempt three, he moved just on my kissing sound. I then had my “emergency booster” that I needed and have created something similar on most of the horses I ride.

My final tip is transitions. Lots and lots of transitions. This will get your horse responding, listening and thinking and will always help with moving forward. As with any training, think consistency and patience!

I hope this helps you to move forward in 2018. Are there any other techniques that you have found helpful?

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