Some equines are full of everlasting get-up-and-go. They respond instantly to the slightest leg aid and can maybe even be a little “hot.” Completely opposite to this is the lazy, mellow horse. These horses can be great for timid riders or beginners, and they tend to be very safe rides. They generally don’t spook much and their preferred gait is walk. If you’re looking to motivate your lazy horse, though, there are some things you can implement to get him thinking forward.
The first thing you should always consider before attempting to retrain your horse’s behavior is a physical ailment. Some horses who are feeling uncomfortable to move forward may be suffering from a health problem, such as joint discomfort. Before entering a strict training regimen, have your veterinarian perform a health check up to check for any underlying problems. If your horse is fit and his diet is appropriate, then you can begin schooling.
Be sure to remember that over exerting your horse in scorching weather could cause him to be more sluggish and unresponsive than usual. Try to stay clear from working in extreme heat.
Often, horses become unresponsive to leg aids because the message they are receiving from the rider is undefined and muddled. This can cause a horse to simply “tune out” the nagging aid, as his response does not offer him any relief. In order to keep your horse light on the aids, lighten your leg pressure after your horse responds to in the correct manner, i.e. moving forward actively. This is his reward, and simply slightly releasing your leg pressure can be enough to motivate some lazy horses. Of course, your horse needs your support and your leg aids are vital for communication, so don’t take your leg off of him completely.
When schooling your equine, establishing forward motion is critical. Work on a variety of exercises to keep his mind working in his feet moving. Maneuver the shoulders and haunches, get him bending through the corners and moving off your leg. Focus on leg yielding at the trot and even working over ground poles to get him stepping underneath himself and his hind engaged and working. Not only are these exercises physically beneficial for your horse, but they keep his mind working as well. This in turn makes schooling sessions more interesting for your equine.
Be sure to keep your schooling sessions with your laid-back horse short and concise. Dragging out your ride can lead to a board horse and thus a reduced response on his end. Push it too far and you can even create resistance.
Sometimes, mellow, lazy horses aren’t simply cut out to school at higher levels. That low-energy personality may make it a sour chore for him; you can’t mentally or physically force your horse to be something he’s not. If all schooling sessions with your horse seem to be ending with frustration, maybe your horse would be happier with an easier job. If you still feel competing is of utmost importance, and although it may be hard, a wise idea in this situation would be to possibly lease out your horse or move him on to another home. If, on the other hand, you are willing to accept his demeanor, or would still like to continue re-training, just be sure to always appreciate his calm nature and never take out frustrations on your horse.
Marcia King. “Charging Up the Lazy Horse.” Horse Channel.