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How to transform a horse that's heavy off your leg to have serious get up and go

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How to transform a horse that's heavy off your leg to have serious get up and go

Training Tip

How to transform a horse that's heavy off your leg to have serious get up and go

Getting your horse light to any cue is all about having a good release and making your cues count. First, do a critical check on yourself, are you nagging or applying pressure all the time? This consistent application of pressure can cause your horse to tune you out. Are you "leaving the front door open" - giving your horse his face or have you been guilty of hanging on the reins? If your legs say go and your hands say whoa you're sending mixed messages. Getting responsiveness is straight forward - you don't have to be a professional trainer to enjoy the lightness of a well broke horse, you just need some awareness and discipline to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Have your bad habits or your horse's lack of attention to detail led to a sluggish go button? Here's some simple techniques to get accelerating together with grace.
  1. Ask a good question. Apply your leg or forward cue, mentally count to three to give your horse time to respond. If your horse responds, release your cue. Apply pressure slowly and release quickly is a great mantra for lightness.
     
  2. An over under can help you reinforce your cueMaking a new habit. If there is no response when you apply your cue to move forward, you'll want to reinforce the cue with different application of pressure while still applying your original cue. With your rein ends or an over under  (shown at right) in one hand apply rhythmic pressure side to side at your own shoulder level, you can then progress so side to side across the saddle if needed. Halting the rhythmic pressure as soon as your horse responds with an increase in momentum will help build lightness. With discipline on your part to be clear in your cues, he will respond off leg or seat cue alone.

    If your horse has been heavy for sometime, be happy with just a few clear wins in your first few sessions. Let him stop for a minute and realize how simple what you're requesting is. You can build the difficulty through time, intensity and expectation just like a muscle. Be sure to recognize and reward his try, even when it seems small. This one element will make that try and his lightness stronger and stronger over time.
     
  3. Build mastery. Can you get that response even sharper? Can you get your horse tuned into your body to the extent that that reaction is synchronous and harmonic where the thought barely passes through your mind and body and into his feet?
Gear and Knowledge Related to this topic: Over underPerfect Start DVD

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  • Sara Johnson