A laid-back horse is a great fit for people who want to share their horses with their families. There are also a number of disciplines for which a laid-back temperament is preferred. No matter what your reason is for getting a relaxed horse, an even-keel horse presents a number of challenges for training and competition success. But if you implement the right management techniques, a horse’s laid-back nature can be a fantastic asset.
Many cool-tempered horses are slow to the aids, taking a while to respond and requiring reminders to stay sensitive. There are other cool horses that are too sensitive to aids and need to reminded who is boss. It can also be difficult to keep a cold horse fit.
These horses may be sensitive to the aids, but this demeanor is learned rather than innate. If your horse is dull to the aids is it important that you raise the standards and insist that he respond immediately to the aid, even the tiniest aid. Here are a few exercises to set the bar higher and push your cool horse into gear:
This exercise is a subtle and forward aid. Start by walking your horse on a long, loose rein. Then gather the rain to working length and come to a halt. For the halt, you’ll want to lift yourself forward and barely out of the saddle, engaging your core. Imagine someone has just put a thumbtack on your saddle that you don’t want to sit on. This aid should move your horse forward. If your horse doesn’t respond, give him a quick kick or a touch with the whip. It may take three, four, or even five attempts to get your horse to respond. Your horse will soon learn that if he responds to the lightening of his rider’s seat, he will be spared the kick or touch with the whip.
This is an exercise for refined walk-trottransitions. Start off at medium walk and sit lightly. If your horse doesn’t immediately trot off, use the sharper aid of the leg or touch of the whip, just as in Exercise 1. If even this doesn’t get your horse to trot, continue kicking until he does. If you stay consistent, he will ultimately figure it out. Your horse needs to understand that if he doesn’t respond to the light touch of your aid, there will be worse consequences every time.
This exercise helps you refine the forward aids within the gaits. Start off in the canter by sitting normally through the short side of the arena. When you approach the long side, sit in the your light seat and softly ask your horse for medium canter. If your horse doesn’t respond immediately, use your aids in a clear and assertive way. Repeat this process until he takes you down the long side and associate the light seat with “Go! Now!” This will make your horse more sensitive to aids and also more self-motivated.
With the help of these exercises, your horse will become more responsive, more sensitive, and a pleasure to ride. Having a horse that is consistent and reliable in both his temperament and his training is a beautiful experience, and you’ll be thankful you did these exercises.