How to Motivate a Lazy Horse?

Dealing with a Lazy Horse

My horse is incredibly lazy. He perks up when we’re jumping but switches off when we’re doing flatwork. If I use spurs or a whip, he bucks. I use a lot of transitions and many of the ‘standard’ tricks to motivate a lazy horse. What can I try next?

Look closely at the schooling of your horse. You say that he bucks when you use your whip or spurs, which means he doesn’t understand your aids. Ask yourself the questions below:

  • Is my seat balanced, symmetrical and non-restricting?
  • Are my rein aids always encouraging forward movement or do I ride with a heavy contact?
  • What is my schooling routine?
  • Do I allow enough time for my horse to loosen up before I ask him to work?
  • Is he supple and rhythmic in his gaits before I ask for transitions and more advanced exercises?
  • Does he work correctly – i.e. does he use his back, is he accepting of the bit, does he bend and flex both ways without resistance?

You might already be employing some great tactics to spark up your horse’s forwardness but unless you act from a balanced, effective seat, your actions won’t bring long-term results.

‘Laziness’ can also be caused by a horse blocking through his back, which might be a riding or tack issue. He might remain round in the neck but hollow through his back, which will make it difficult for him to use his hindlegs productively and create the impulsion you’re after.

If this is the case, the more you nag him the worse he’ll get, because he’ll be physically unable to bring his hindlegs deeper under his body.

Dressage lessons might help you iron out some basics and work on rhythm and suppleness in your horse’s body.

Generally the looser the horse feels through his body, the more desire to go forwards he will have.

Another option I would strongly suggest is to book a couple of lessons on horses you’ve never ridden. One-horse riders can end up indulging in their own horse’s crookedness and other issues that affect the desire to move forwards. Riding other horses in a lesson situation, where you work through different schooling challenges and have your position and seat evaluated, could give you some fresh ideas as to how to ride your own horse better.

Lungeing him before getting on board can also help. You can observe his movement and assess his mood and desire to go forwards. It’s also a great way to loosen him before getting on.

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