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Push Ride vs. Pull Ride - Nature or Nurture?

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  • Push Ride vs. Pull Ride - Nature or Nurture?

    This is something I've been wondering about lately, and I thought it might make for some interesting discussion here.

    Are horses born either a "push" ride or a "pull" ride, or do we teach them to be one or the other?

    Montana is definitely a "pull" ride - he is quiet and obedient, but he naturally wants to go forward all the time. He is a very sensitive, light, responsive ride. I have been essentially his only regular rider for 10 years. I prefer a lighter, more forward ride. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    My green bean is most definitely a "push" ride. She is responsive and goes forward when asked, but everything about her is slower and "duller", for lack of a better term. This isn't a bad thing at all, and it makes her a much "easier" horse to ride. She is just as smart as Montana and learns quickly and really, really wants to please. I have also been her only regular rider. She is a cool horse and is going to be very talented, but I don't enjoy riding her as much because she just isn't the "type" of ride I prefer.

    So, can I teach the greenie to become a "pull" ride, or is it just in her nature to be a quieter/"push" ride? What has been your experience?

  • #2
    I don't even know what you're talking about!


    • #3
      When I first got my pony, she had been in the pasture for the first 7yrs of her life, backed once and halter broke. I personally prefer a forward ride but this pony was the complete opposite of that. I think that horses are born with a certain way of going, but can sometimes be molded into what you want. In the end, I think it mainly comes down to genetics.


      • #4
        I think that's a really interesting question. I have a feeling it mainly would boil down to genetics, just as there are lazy people and more active people (or cats, dogs, etc.) however I also feel like the horse's natural tendency could be influenced by training, or lack thereof.

        As an extreme example, a heavy-handed beginner who wasn't using their leg properly would likely cause a horse to become more of a push ride (amongst causing other problems!). On the flip side, horses can be trained to be very quick and light off the leg, which depending on the rider could be viewed as being a very forward or "pull" ride - others might just call it responsive! I think training can only do so much though, especially if the horse is "extreme" one way or the other.


        • #5
          I think a better way to describe what you are trying to say is the inherent differences with a "kick" ride and a "settle" ride. I don't like the verbage of "pull" because i don't think that's a correct way to handle a hot horse (just makes them worse). I like "settle"; it implies softening.

          And I do think it's a bit genetic in that some horses are more sensitive to environment (natural leaders in the wild) while others who are less sensitive to environment (natural followers in the wild). There are also different levels of confidence of horses which help make up the heirarchy...it takes all types to run the herd.

          In our domestic horses, I believe you can alter that natural instinct undersaddle through proper handling and riding.

          For example, my "settle" ride really is just a sensitive chicken who needs a leader. With the right rider, she is L.A.Z.Y. With the wrong leader, she is a super forward ride...as in a bit scary. Her sister is a dull easy going, total kick ride when most ride her. But I had a kid that got on her and she went nuts.

          Both horses showed the opposite of their "genetic personality" when ridden by certain riders.

          Hunters, Jumpers, & Welsh Ponies
          All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown


          • #6
            I would say mainly genetic


            • #7
              I am along the same lines as englishivy. We are breeders and can say that it's probably a little of both.

              We have some foals that just have the disposition that we know they are going to be laid back, maybe a bit lazy, not sensitive. Probably will be a kick ride. Then we have others that are more reactive, need less stimulation, and are not as laid back. Probably will be more of a forward ride.

              We also find with our investment horses that are going under saddle that many that are quick/forward are worried about people pulling on their face. It's not hyperness, it's nervous energy. These horses usually never have a bottom - you can lunge them into the dirt and they don't get any quieter, it's a fear induced adrenaline kick. If they are just fresh, they will bottom out and settle.

              People don't seem to understand this, so they bit the horse up with crazy strong bits, and the horse gets quicker, stronger and more nervous because now what he was initially worried about just got worse, now it hurts. Horses are flight animals, so they are going to run from what they are afraid of, so in this case they are running from the rider. The worst thing you can do to a horse is pull on it constantly and refuse to let it go forward.

              So, that being said, we've had natural kick rides that have been turned into quick balls of nervousness by terrible riders, and likewise, a horse that has the propensity to be worried and fast because of it, mellowed out and relaxed by a patient, kind and soft rider. Sometimes they can be fixed and sometimes they are too far gone. But, every horse on the farm goes in a Happy Mouth or Rubber snaffle. If they can't go in that, there is a training issue. We've had horses come in that were going in pelhams and twisted wires that we eventually get into mullen mouth rubber bits. How do you fix it? Get on with a rubber snaffle or even in a halter or hackamore (take the bit out of the equation) , let the horse run around or go as forward as he pleases, don't pull, loop the rein. Pet, pet, pet. Patience!!! Yes, it might be ugly and frantic. But, he will soon (some sooner than others) realize he has his head, there is no pain and no restriction and he will learn to settle and relax. Horses have a lot more emotion, feeling and sentiment than most realize .
              Signature Sporthorses


              • #8
                I have brought along several horses from scratch (either scratch-scratch or off the track scratch) and they've all come out differently. Some have been or are kick along types, some have been or are quite game and ready to roll. They've all been brought up in more or less the same programs and all have been generally nice horses with good work ethics. I think it is genetics and/or personality. Some horses are real "go-getters" while others prefer a stroll.


                • #9
                  yes, you can change a horse, but not every horse. i think there are some that are willing to change entirely and some arent. my pony was DEFINITELY a pull ride a long time ago, but now he's a push ride.

                  my current horse? definitely one that will never change, he's kind of in between--you can't really touch his mouth much, especially on course, or he'll just go faster. but you don't really need to push him forward (on course) either. just an extra squeeze at jump and then sit back and woah a little after the jump. he's actually a tough ride, though, learning to get out of his way so to speak.

                  i was thinking about this sort of thing today, actually. most beginners are given push rides, ponies that need a good kick to move an inch. i was thinking about how funny it is that the most advanced riding is learning to stay out of the way and let the horse do its job, while still being in 100% control, which we like to call "staying out of the way and do nothing" even though you're doing a lot, if that makes sense. yet we're tuaght in the beginning to always be doing everything to make the horse work. it's just a very interesting pattern! (but makes a ton of sense when you think about it)

                  Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                  • Original Poster

                    I like the discussion we have going here. I am also inclined to believe that this is primarily a "nature" issue that we can only somewhat shape with training. Montana is 15 years old and completely, totally "broke", but he is still forward and sensitive. Khali is only 3 and extremely green, but she is still a kick-along ride. Since she is a large pony and will eventually be ridden by kids, this is a GOOD thing, but it means I will probably end up selling her because it is not MY type of ride.

                    Perhaps, for those who have issue with my original terminology, we can use "whoa!" ride vs. "go!" ride or "settle" ride vs. "kick" ride.


                    • #11
                      LOL I love "whoa" vs. "go", that is super cute!!!

                      I do believe it begins as nature and then you can nuture it either to the positive or negative I have an 18 yo Appendix gelding I've had since 4, that was badly abused. It took me about year of walking to get him not to freak out. He was uber sensitive to any rider movement. After a few years of patience he was the best horse ever, but you still could never "kick" him. It was more "think go".

                      I am with Superpony - it's also funny the number of people who want "packers", but can't "do nothing" to be able to ride them. LOL They can't stay out of their way and seem to have to be involved... but then they say they want a packer so they can sit there?? LOL
                      Signature Sporthorses


                      • #12
                        I breed and break a lot of horses, not just my own. I think horses are born to be either a push or pull ride. Some babies like the feel of you in their mouths as a confidence boost and some are happy to go on a loopy rein and rely on your leg. Though you can make a push ride into a pull ride either with a) bad breaking/riding or b) race training since they are taught to lean on the bit. Great question to ask.

                        Facebook: Hilltop Farm VA


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Signature View Post
                          People don't seem to understand this, so they bit the horse up with crazy strong bits, and the horse gets quicker, stronger and more nervous because now what he was initially worried about just got worse, now it hurts. .
                          I think we have a whole generation of riders that missed out on the "leave them alone" ride. In another time you would call it the TB ride: the more you hang, the more they hate ... but I'm quite sure there are plenty of WBs that need that light touch as well, it's just they aren't the first choice for many hunter trainers, because let's face it, a horse that can safely ignore an annoying rider rather than one who reacts strongly will be your preferred choice for less than skilled clients you want in the show ring sooner rather than later.

                          I've only owned TBs so I freely admit I am lacking in the Go skillset of riding, but my youngster is clearly a seriously laid back kind of guy so we may need to have some nurture to help both of us out. To that end, when he is being worked, I make him think about a "9" in a trot and a 7 for a canter. I want him to be used to stepping out because I can tell his inclination is to settle from there. Hopefully he will "settle" a few clicks down which is exactly where I want him. My older horse naturally has an engine so I generally schooled him below where I wanted him to be at a show until he was a lot more seasoned.
                          Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                          • #14
                            I think it's really mostly a nature thing. They are what they are, though I'll agree that there's definitely some influence to be had on the part of the rider.

                            My gelding (bought at 4, now coming 11) is a 'settle' ride, very forward and prefers light to medium contact at all times; on course, on the trail, working dressage, etc.

                            My mare is a 'push' ride (bought at 3, now coming 6.) Left to her own devices, she'd have you think she's just a huge peanut rolling QH

                            My mom's gelding, who used to be MY large pony (bought at 10, now 22) is utterly a 'settle' ride to the end. He used to run away with me EVERY ride, until I learned what a half-halt was and how to put a horse 'on the bit.' He probably dumped me more than 50 times over my youth... We used to joke that at age 15 he'd be beginner safe - nope, still runs off and drops the shoulder. Then we said by 20 and after his knee surgeries... nope, my mom can only canter him on his 'good' days a lap or 2 of one direction, after that he gets too fresh and refuses to stop At 22 he's still going strong and will still take you for a ride. He will never be beginner safe, but that's okay because he has a forever home in my family.


                            • #15
                              I agree with the majority, I believe it is highly based on their natural instinct to be lazy or more forward or whatever. I do believe that you can train a horse to be more responsive in either settling or more responsive to your leg in order to make a push ride more forward - but I still don't think a lazy horse is every going to be forward, just more responsive.

                              Personally I love a push ride - I have had pull/settle rides such as my old large pony and while I loved her it took years of owning her before I was ever truly confident all the time on her back. I would so much rather kick around the ring and I think that I'm a little unusual in that preference, but I also have the uncanny knack for lighting up everything I sit on.
                              "to live is the rarest thing in the world, most people merely exist."


                              • #16
                                I think a great part about all the different types of horses is that there are different types of riders too. I hate to say the old "I like every type of horse" because it's so cliche, but I do. I really enjoy them all (well, 99% of them ), and I appreciate that each one can teach you something.

                                But I certainly prefer the more forward ones that, like DMK said, I settle below where I want them to be for a show (ie SLOW feet). So when I get in the show ring and the horse is naturally more forward, all I have to do is guide. So much easier that kickin all the time! But plenty of people would much rather have that steady mindframe from the start, and move it up all the time. That's cool too.

                                I just find comfort knowing that horses AND riders come in all shapes, sizes, and temperments....and all have a place somewhere.
                                Hunters, Jumpers, & Welsh Ponies
                                All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me any day. ~Author Unknown


                                • #17
                                  I also agree with the majority. Horses are born with a certain personality that is either run first and ask questions later or stop and look at it before expending energy to get away. I used to prefer the "go" rides but now I would like to have a little less go and a little more push. Unfortunately I have two go and whoa rides. Sometimes they are all "WHOA" and sometimes they are all "GO!". I'd like to say it is just a matter of them being fresh but a lot of it has to do with the way I ride them.

                                  My gelding is naturally forward, most of the time anyway. He's a TB who trained to race but broke down in training. Through the five years I've owned him he has really settled down into a lazy bum, but if I am not riding well he goes back to being super forward. (Except for trail rides. He LOVES trails and wants to do nothing less than trot and canter through the woods.)

                                  My mare is naturally very relaxed and calm. She is a WB/TB and doesn't usually expend extra energy if she can help it. Under saddle is a different story though. She had several rough handed riders before she came to me. When she isn't 100% confident in her rider she is like a speeding freight train. I've only had her for a year and I've given her a lot of time off to try to help her be more relaxed. It is still difficult to get her to relax but when I am riding her really well she visibly relaxes and then is a total kick ride.
                                  "But if you buy them as ponies aren't they cheaper?" - Favorite non-horse person quote.


                                  • #18
                                    We also have requests for "brain dead quiet" horses which unfortunately has apparently come to mean "a robot that will basically tolerate abuse". They shouldn't have to ignore ripping on their face and excess kicking... but people think of this as being "broke". ugh.
                                    Signature Sporthorses


                                    • #19
                                      IMO it is genetic unless they had too much bad training...then they are really just running scared and defensive, not being a forward ride.

                                      Sometimes you can get a slow one that is, really, just not healthy or has some pain somewhere-you fix them up over 6 months or so, you find you bought a rocket. Happened to me, happened to others around me a few times. Got a friend working through that right now, fed it, fixed it, not the same horse.

                                      IMO can't change their basic nature. Enhance it, maybe compensate a little, but they are the way they were born. Oh....some of them slow down in late teens, others are aways rockets.

                                      I get a little confused with the "leave completely alone/cannot touch mouth" statements though, you don't do that. It's light and subtle but they must be on the aids...how many threads do we get on here with horse that don't do transitions or change leads because they are "too sensitive" to put a leg on. They aren't that at all but you need to be a light and subtle rider to pull it off.

                                      Most beginners like a kick along ride and belong on one. Past that, matter of choice. I learned I would rather whoa down the lines then kick every other stride-hence I have a TB. Old. But still a TB but too smart to ever become a rocket and fully broke to the aids, long as you stay light with them.
                                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                      • #20
                                        My daughter's horse is definitely a 'pull' type horse. The funny thing is, before he was diagnosed with epsm, he was a push horse, very lazy, laid back kind of guy. Nothing else changed in his life, same trainer, same rider, same routine. This change in the gas pedal happened when he was 10 years old. Today, at 14, he is a full of 'p&v' lets go go go kind of guy.
                                        Proud owner of a very pretty but completely useless horse.