Making Your Horse Faster: Dealing With a Lazy Horse
We’ve all ridden those lazy lesson horses that don’t like to go any faster than a walk and maybe a slow trot. If you have a particularly lazy horse, you may be wondering if there is any way you can help them go any faster. No matter what you do, how many times you kick their sides or smack them with a crop, you just can’t get them to go!
Here are some ways you can make your lazy horse go faster:
- Rule out health issues in your horse that may be causing them to be lazy
- Evaluate yourself to make sure you’re communicating with the horse correctly
- Learn groundwork techniques to help teach your horse to be more responsive
- Practice transitions to help your horse be responsive and move forward
- Change up your routine to engage your horse’s mind
Riding a lazy horse is much harder than it seems and requires much more work. Many lazy horses seem to have attitude problems that must be addressed as well. I’ve ridden a few slow and ill-tempered horses in my day, and I’ve seen a real difference when the following steps are considered:
Rule Out Health Issues In Your Horse That May Be Causing Them To Be Lazy
First things first, if you notice that a horse is particularly lazy, you should get them examined by a veterinarian. When horses are in pain, they won’t want to move forward as they would if they were healthy. This may be the reason that your horse is being lazy.
There are multiple health issues that can contribute to laziness in horses. I’ve seen lively horses get Lymes Disease and become slow and moody. I’ve also seen horses with tender hooves move slower than others when the ground was harder and more uneven. Older horses with arthritis will also move more slow and stiff when being worked.
It’s better to diagnose a problem rather than ignore it and let it fester. A horse that is excessively lazy may be trying to communicate something else to you. While horses can’t speak directly to us, they’re constantly trying to communicate. Take time to notice what your horse is trying to get across.
Once you’re sure that your horse’s laziness isn’t due to health issues, then you can move to correct the problem in the right manner. The last thing you want to do is make your horse move more if they’re in pain and want to move less.
Evaluate Yourself To Make Sure You’re Communicating With the Horse Correctly
If you have difficulty getting your horse to go forward, always check yourself before blaming your horse. I’ve noticed that many times when a horse is doing something wrong, it’s usually due to the rider not communicating effectively and sending mixed signals. (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there 🤷♀️)
I remember being a young rider and getting frustrated because the lesson pony I was on wouldn’t go forward. I would smack him with the crop and nothing would change. Then my riding instructor pointed out that anytime I went to kick or use the crop, I would pull back on the reins, signaling the pony to back up. 🤦♀️
My fault is a perfect example of how we can confuse our horses without even knowing it. If you’re having difficulty getting your horse to move forward, ask an experienced horse person to watch you ride. They can point out whether or not you’re communicating well with your horse.
It’s great to get in the habit of examining yourself first any time your horse isn’t responding correctly. I’ve found that I can usually correct the problem simply by taking the time to ask the horse more efficiently or in a different way.
Learn Groundwork Techniques To Help Teach The Horse To Be More Responsive
Ahh, groundwork. If you have read any more of my articles, you’ve probably realized by now that I wholeheartedly believe that groundwork is key to just about anything when it comes to horses.
Groundwork is anything you do with your horse on the ground, but you’re probably the most familiar with it as a handler working a horse around them in a circle.
A lazy horse is one that doesn’t respond well to cues; it has become dull to any aid asking it to move forward. Groundwork will help your horse become more responsive to what you’re asking, both on the ground and in the saddle.
A great groundwork exercise to do with a lazy horse is to simply work it in a circle around you. Make the horse move forward using your body motion and the lunge whip. In the beginning, you’re really going to have to be assertive and show them that when you ask them to go, you mean go!
Another exercise you can do is get the horse to move its hind-end and front-end. Combine this exercise with putting your horse on a circle, and you’ll soon realize you have your horse’s full attention and willing response.
To learn how to do these groundwork exercises, check out our article, 5 Best Groundwork Exercises For Your Horse.
Practice Transitions To Help Your Horse Be Responsive And To Move Forward
A great way to help your horse learn to be more responsive to aids and move forward is to practice transitions. A good transition will require a horse to push themselves forward from the hind-end. This will also help your horse to develop the correct muscles.
I had a trainer who said that it’s better to ask your horse to do something with one firm kick rather than a bunch of tiny soft little nudges to their side. Obviously, if your horse responds well you’d use less pressure, but that’s not usually the case with lazy horses.
Practice asking your horse to transition to a trot from the walk. Ask them with one very firm kick communicating exactly what you want from them. If they don’t respond to that cue, use a crop on their shoulders or give another firm kick. When they respond correctly, praise them to let them know they’ve done right.
As you work on your transitions and your horse starts to understand your expectations of moving forward, you’ll notice that it will start taking less pressure to get them to move forward. When your horse can willfully move from a walk into a trot, then you can practice going from a trot to a canter.
Change Up Your Routine To Engage The Lazy Horse’s Mind
Have you ever noticed that lesson horses are some of the laziest horses in the world? This is probably due to the fact that they do the exact same thing almost every day, which is carrying around little kids in a simple circle. These horses have gotten lazy because their minds aren’t being engaged.
Horses are like humans in that they can get so into their routines that they don’t even have to think about it anymore. It’s at this point that most humans, and horses, start to get bored. If you have a lazy horse, try changing up your riding routine to include new challenges and exercises.
When I first start young horses, I change up the routine a lot for them. The last thing I want the horse to learn is that being under saddle is boring. If your horse seems to lack any spark of excitement, introduce them to something new. I can’t tell you how many lazy horses I’ve seen turn into alert and excited horses when introduced to barrel racing or trail riding!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Should I Use Spurs On My Horse?
I’ve seen many riders use spurs on their horses in order to help encourage the horse to move forward. If you have to use spurs on a horse to move them forward, it’s because the horse has become dull to leg pressure. A horse becoming dull to any aid is usually due to rider error and that aid being used even when it doesn’t need to be.
If your horse has become dull to your leg aid, then it will probably sooner or later become dull to the spurs. When that happens, you’ll have to get harsher spurs, and that’s how the problem will keep progressing. At some point, the horse will have to be bleeding at its sides in order to get it to move forward.
You can retrain a horse dull to aids simply by practicing the groundwork step and the transition step mentioned above. I usually see a dull horse bounce back within a few consistent sessions of those training techniques.
I hope this article has helped you see the sun after the storm when it comes to dealing with your lazy horse. I know just how difficult and frustrating it can be when you don’t know how to handle a situation.
Maybe you have a horse that’s willing to move forward but that isn’t really brave. You’d like to help your horse build more confidence but you don’t know how. Well, check out our article, Making Your Horse More Confident: Ultimate Guide!