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Dealing with the really lazy horse

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  • Dealing with the really lazy horse

    Ok, so we bred this boy, 6 yr old wb gelding, broke him in and he was always a tad piggy but quiet and normal re forward thinking.

    We sold him as a green 4yr old, and in the last year and a half he has been ridden in a markethabourer, and spurs but an in experienced 16yr old, experienced in the hack arena but not used to bigger moving wb's nor lazy ones.

    Fast fwd to now, he has had only 60 rides or so since we sold him and have now bought him back to be my new dressage mount as he is essentially quiet and I have lost my confidence.

    He is not happy with the dressage whip as it has been used as punishment to go fwd, so I have swapped to a jumping crop, I have to be really careful not to put my legs too far back as he kicks up at them (not that that worries me), he is really crooked, which I am working on but not harping on.

    He is not a sensitive horse as in he doesn't get upset or offended if ones gives him a crack with the whip when he decides to just stop when one puts ones legs on.

    Now I am 5ft nothing so my legs only come half way down his tummy, and this is where the spurs have left a mark so he is a tad grumpy at my legs.

    I have decided to take him out of the arena and work him in the jumping paddock (5acres) to see if I can get him fwd out there, the swap from the dressage whip to the jumping whip has been a hit, and the being cautious with my legs has also helped.

    but he is really crooked and really bendy in the neck especially the walk which I try to do very little of.

    Any suggestions?


  • #2
    I wouldn't be getting on him. He's clearly communicating that he lacks a clear understanding of the basics. I'd be ground driving him and double lunging til he trots at a cluck, canters on a kiss, and drops out of fair balanced with just whoa.
    If you can't get it on the ground, you won't get it in the saddle.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      It sounds like you have to go back to the beginning. Considering the pyramid it sounds like he has some serious training holes. Your options (IMO) are to use tools to fill the holes (whip, etc) or to go back and start from scratch and build a real foundation. My personal preference would be the latter.

      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


      • #4
        I agree about going back to the beginning on the ground. When they get so defensive and oppositional about the basic aids, I feel they need a "re-start".

        If his main issue is moving forward, I've had great success "re-training" this with something motivational. For most so called lazy horses, it's usually food. One way I've done it in the past is to lunge without side reins or anything like that. Ask him forward with whatever way you would usually, a cluck for instance. When he goes even microscopically more forward, it's "gooooood booooy" in a VERY happy voice and quickly bring him in for a food treat. Then back out, rinse, repeat. If they are REALLY oppositional about it, there's another way to go about it too. Hide cookies around the ring, set on barrels or feed pans, or frisbees--something that makes it easy to find. Leading, aim your horse towards a cookie. As they start getting closer, cluck and get him to the cookie. After a few tries, they usually really get the idea that the cluck means forward to the cookie. Then start usuing the cluck from further away from the cookie, until when you cluck, they trot off in search of the cookie. When they reach that point, I would go back to lunging with no extra gear like I described at first. Once they understand that, let them go longer and longer without a cookie treat--maybe exchanging the cookie for a scratch instead. Once they are going well on the lunge, switch back to riding. I'd probably do it without spurs at first. Same principal. Gentle leg, cluck, they go forward, put slack in the rein and scratch. Once they are "normal" about it, back to regularly scheduled dressage training. Like I said, I've had lots of luck doing it this way, but I don't mind training with lots of treats if its needed. I know some people don't like that, but in this situation, I think it would get you what you want without a lot of confrontation (you did mention you had lost some confidence which is why you wanted this particular horse back). I find that as long as I don't just dispense cookies upon demand by the horse, but only for what I want to reward on, the horses don't become "cookie monsters" and generally become quite happy, motivated souls.

        ETA--I just reread your OP, and wanted to mention that the "cookie training" as I call it, also helps with the straightness, since you had mentioned him being all over the place with his neck, particularly at the walk. I think that's fairly common in horses that don't want to go forward. They aren't thinking about anything other than how can I NOT do this forward thing. Once he's going forward, as long as you are riding with your body and legs not just hands, I would think the excessive crookedness will go away on its own.

        Last edited by Chestnut Run; Apr. 3, 2012, 10:25 AM. Reason: forgotten thought


        • #5
          Don't despair--sounds like a typical greenie who is a little ring-sour, and fixing the holes at this point is worthwhile and won't set you back at all. Sounds like you're on the right track. Do your groundwork and spend a week or whatever it takes hacking out and avoiding dressage and the ring. Go with a buddy if you can--amazingly they suddenly can and will do forward and straight if they are mimicking a lead horse across the field. Praise the dickens and take the pressure off when he does. Pop over a few low things, go up and down hills, see some new country. It won't take long for him to happily do forward. Straightness will come later (we can foil forward by insisting too much on straightness) and usually just blossoms from forward.
          At all times, we are either training or untraining.
          Flying Haflinger blog: http://flyinghaflinger.blogspot.com/ Flying Irish Draught blog: http://flyingirishredhead.blogspot.com/


          • #6
            honestly? find a good trainer to put a solid 30 or 60 days on him.

            these kinds of horses need firm leaders and clear concise direction.

            as for cookie training.... be very very careful how you reward - while you think you are rewarding for forward, your horse is thinking you are rewarding for stopping.... i have a food motivated pony and found that that is a very dangerous road to travel.

            OP good luck.


            • #7
              Horses aren't crooked because they lazy. They're crooked because they are horses, lol.

              It is not reasonable to think that a horse with only 60 rides over the course of a couple of years has the strength to be straight.

              Right now the issue is forward from driving aids (not spurs, spurs are for lateral work). For a green horse driving aids are legs (and voice if you have used that in your ground schooling). You must allow the horse to move off the legs and establish some balance before you think about straightness.
              See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


              • #8
                Originally posted by morpheous View Post
                .. He is not happy with the dressage whip ...

                He is not a sensitive horse ...
                Too funny.

                Sounds to me like it is up to the rider to decide if they are going to ride this horse, or not. It isn't going to be a push-button ride, some horses are tougher - but that's what horses are. That's what riding is. As opposed to being a passenger.

                When the rider makes up their mind they will teach this horse to move off the leg, using the correct natural and artificial aids fairly and consistently, he will. I suggest that the horse is not the lazy one.


                • #9
                  I feel your pain. I agree with doing groundwork/lungeing/double-lungeing. Get him used to vocal commands -- either spoken, a cluck or a kiss sound.

                  It will help you when you are mounted. Use leg and the vocal at the same time. Go all "Thelwell" on him if he doesn't listen to your legs and vocal commands at first. ("Going all Thelwell" is the term my trainer used when rehabituating a lazy gelding to the leg... think of the Thelwell Kids whapping mightily at their pony's sides with their tiny legs!)

                  Then go back and ask nicely for a transition -- with a lighter leg and the vocal.

                  Worked on that gelding. BTW, my coach is about 4'10"! She feels your pain, too.


                  • #10
                    ^^^ Yep. And the key to it is to IMMEDIATELY soften when you get forward from your Thelwell kick (we call it Pony Club kicking at my barn!). If your horse shoots forward or responds in any wonky way, you HAVE to soften and just go with it. Otherwise, you jeopardize punishing him for doing what you asked.

                    He's not sensitive...but you can only judiciously use the shorter crop?

                    Anyway, get him solid on the ground...then undersaddle, BE READY for any forward and reward it.


                    • #11
                      Oh, YEAH! What Oberon said! DO NOT give him a yank in the chops if he surprises you with a forward surge!!!


                      • #12
                        is he more than normal green horse crooked? Wondering if there is something physical going on with him.

                        Feed may be an issue too. I have the most difficult to motivate horse as my new lesson horse. Videos of him beings started show this is just how he is.

                        One easy thing that helped was adding a high fat food to his diet.

                        I do think that my horse is just so used to getting pushed, that he had started to shut down, so I have found thatwith this horse, threats work better than actually whipping. So me on the ground yelling like a mad person or threatening to throw rubber crumb at his bum while his rider asks for the transition quietly, is more effective than the rider spanking him. Having the rider wave the whip also helps, as he often quickens just as she gets ready to whack him, so planning to NOT hit him, makes him understand that if he reacts, he won't get the smack (most people can't stop the wack once started).

                        I am curious if trail riding will help my boy, but the weather isn't there yet!
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #13
                          I would trail ride this horse a lot, and if I do arena work I would go FORWARD, get off the mouth and GO....canter around in the half seat and keep out of the horses' way. Timing is everything with lazy horses.

                          And check for ulcers.....and if things get worse have the vet out. Horses that I have known who didn't go forward had among them: suspensory, SI issues, hock issues, navicular. (sounds like his is chronic but something to keep in mind).


                          • #14
                            I had a trainer tell me if you have to use spurs and whip on a young horse its useless to continue until you either get help or relearn how to train forward.

                            Get some ground help and eyes to help you quicken your aids... But I would pull the spurs and whip immediately and wade through the lack of response from there.

                            They CAN feel a fly and your leg even if it is short. If they choose to ignore it and whats next? They will ignore it all eventually or only respond half way with a comprimise.

                            That is not acceptably but you have to retrain their response and your aids. That is not done effectively with a whip unless it is used a few times and then put down same with the spurs... If you have to rely on them they are not being any benifit.

                            I pick it up tap tap at a halt or slow walk... THIS is what I want when the horse juts forward so I keep soft forward contact. After a few rounds I put the whip back and calfs are on gently pulsing the horse more forward or just relaxed but always connected.

                            There is connection to the hands, the seat, AND the leg... They should stick to all of these and if they are not falling back on "things" to aid you will not do any good.

                            This was greek to me at first but now having learned the proper way to look at it I am relieved that I dont rely on back up now.
                            ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for all your answers, probably should have made myself more clear in my post, I don't use spurs on this horse, the previous young rider did, and I have trained a few young horses so I am not going to send this one away, just never had one so lazy before, he is improving everyday and the sourness to the leg is slowly getting less and less, I have been using my voice to get the transitions as he now lunges really well word command, and its helping greatly especially in our canter transitions, he is too green and unfit to keep the canter for long but that is ok.

                              My biggest issue is where my leg sits as that is where the previous riders legs spur sat (he has two white spots where they must have drilled into him) so initially he was really narky about me asking with my legs and I only back it up with a whip if needed. I have worked out that I cannot put my leg back very far as that gets him narky, and when I say narky, just ears back and the odd prop rather than fwd from the aid, have been trying really hard to keep my legs neutral (not an easy task when ones leg is the length of a matchstick lol)

                              I am not concerned where his head is at the moment and make sure I don't block him in front, he tends to dive behind the bit so I just try and make sure he is up and out, I think previously he was kept 'contained' and slow so that the junior rider could ride him, though I believe she was unable to get him to canter, so we have our work cut out for us there, but I have been using more of a jumping position to get him cantering more fwd.

                              I have removed all things like the drop part of the noseband, only lunge him in a lunging cavesson, no side reins etc....

                              I have been doing a bit of ground work as well, ie leading stopping, tap with the whip if he doesn't walk and or trot when asked and that seems to be helping as well.

                              I agree that maybe just my legs and no whip as he has become a tad sour with previously being whacked constantly with it, hence why I dropped the dressage whip and picked up a less stingy jumping crop, however I may rid myself of that like suggested above, or keep it but don't use it unless absolutely necessary?

                              I have found that if I do pick up 'more' contact (have been faffing around a bit worried I was blocking him and so have tended to throw the contact away, but after watching me ride him on video I thought I would try giving him more direction), well it worked, much more responsive, but as he tends to dive behind the vertical, I have had to make sure I put enough leg on to get him back up and keeping the contact light.

                              anyway been great to toss ideas around, my other half rides as well (he breaks them in and broke this boy in before he was sold) so an eye on the ground is great, but he is not always here as he travels for work so just being able to bounce things around has helped me today.



                              • #16
                                He's trying to tell you that this isn't the job for him. You can't fit a circle into a square. That's like taking your average desk jockey, and making him lay bricks for a living. If he wanted a super physical job, he would have chosen to lay bricks.

                                This boy would be much happier hacking out on a trail on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

                                Find him a home that suits his personality and find yourself a horse who likes your sport as much as you do.



                                • Original Poster

                                  With all due respect neigh neigh, he is a purpose bred warmblood for dressage he would hate trail riding more than being a dressage horse as that requires going up and down hills and being out and ridden for well in excess of the 45 odd minutes he is required to work in the arena and or jumping paddock.

                                  He is physically capable, but if you had read my posts you would see that his previous training has in fact 'caused' his lazyiness as when we broke him in (we bred this horse so apart from the last year and a 1/2) know him well, he was/is very trainable and able to do the work asked, but if you had been put in a market harbourer, jammed up so you could do no more than a slow jog, yet consistently jabbed with spurs and or whacked with a whip, your desire to go fwd would be diminished. So its going to take a whole lot of patience and re training, I am up to my 13th ride since buying him back, so all is not lost And I am not in a hurry, he is only 6 and am prepared to put the time and work in, as I said above, he is improving every ride.

                                  Trail riding is not an option where I live, but we do have a lovely big jumping paddock, that I can get him fwd and hooning around in.

                                  I have no intention of selling this talented kind lovely horse to a trail rider, sheesh life worse than death, just wanted some ideas on getting him more fwd that I may not have thought of, and enjoy tossing ideas around with like minded people.

                                  And to be honest, most horses would prefer to be lazing around in the paddock, eating or if entire having sex.........


                                  • #18
                                    Fwiw, my comment about getting some help is that you have made some comments that make it sound like the horse is training you - not vice versa

                                    I pro would be able to would it all out in a ride or two and then you would be able to enjoy your horse.....

                                    Each comment you make where you are changing your riding to suit the horse is letting the horse train you..... And while that can work sometimes, it usually doesn’t.

                                    Horses need clear, definite boundaries and guidelines that are always the same day in and day out.

                                    A horse that learns he gets to dictate where the leg is or what whip is used is well on his way to never allowing a rider in completely.

                                    How do I know this? Because I have been the too sensitive rider who didn’t want to upset my horse so said horse(s) learned that they could dictate - this doesn’t work well once you want to start upping the ante work wise.

                                    Hence get a pro to help you. It will work and you will then have a lovely horse to enjoy


                                    • #19
                                      Op its silly talk anyway... Every other discipline needs the horse forward to a degree... You are not asking the horse for more than simple dressage work right now so I wouldnt worry about the career change people here are so eager to recommend

                                      Lazy is no different then hot and tense in that the horse is not on the Aids... Remember that you can work on a horse being there in hands and on your leg even at a walk and halt... No need to fly around hoping forward begets forward

                                      I think it sounds like you know what you are doing but a second opinion cat hurt that is actually there
                                      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by morpheous View Post
                                        I have trained a few young horses so I am not going to send this one away, just never had one so lazy before,
                                        This is not training a young horse anymore but rather re-educating a horse that has a series of responses that have been set over 2 years by an uneducated rider - the horse is NOT lazy, he is confused & has pain~memory issues.

                                        Perhaps your post is misleading but it rather sounds as if horse came back home & you went straight to riding within a couple days ...