Four-star event rider Coral Keen provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to get her horse moving more forwards
Q: How to get a horse more forward: “During the summer I thought I’d cracked it with my mare, but she seems to have gone back into her super chilled mode. She likes cross-country and hacking but in the school, flat work and jumping, she does everything asked, but at the same time it’s like she can’t really be bothered! Do I need to rectify this through schooling alone? Do you think any of the following would help?
– Feed more heating mix
– Get her fitter (she’s not that fit but fine to do what’s asked of her as she’s an athletic thoroughbred type)
– Take her hunting
– Or anything else?
If schooling is the answer, what exercises can I try?”
A: My first thought is that your horse could be uncomfortable in the saddle and doesn’t want to go forward, so get this checked.
Then try to keep everything really interesting and keep your flatwork sessions short and sweet. Don’t be in there for hours, but set a couple of goals and give lots of praise. You are better off with 20 minutes of really productive work than half an hour of hard work with her not going forward.
Keep it really fresh so try and do some fun things in the school, like pole work and jumping, so that she does not associate the school with hard work. Also keep her fitter than she needs to be so that she doesn’t struggle with fatigue.
So short and sweet, improve her fitness and keep it fun.
There’s a great game I play with my students which is a bit like “Simon says.” Ask someone to come into the school with you to ask “Simon says” questions. For example: “Simon says are you ready to walk?”
If you say no, you need to get yourself ready. When they ask again, say yes if you’re ready. Then they will count to three, and by three you need to be in the new pace. They might ask: “Simon says are you ready for canter.” If you say yes, they will then count to three, and if they get to four, you know your horse is behind the leg and it has taken too long.
It’s a great way to enjoy your schooling and can be really good fun, which your horse should pick up on. It also makes you really ride your transitions because you want to get there before the three seconds, so it helps you to ride forwards.
You always want to keep your feed behind your workload. If your horse starts to drop weight consider upping the feed, but don’t feed for more than the work she is doing because it’s not good for a horse to have too much protein or starch in their diet that they’re not using. It can also make them too fresh and blow their minds.
Hunting is a great idea. I wouldn’t use it to replace flatwork but it might well keep her interested and enjoying life.