Forward Excerpt

You want forward in mind from the beginning of this process; both in the horse’s head and in yours. It is best to ask in a manner that allows the horse to move forward freely, quietly and in a relaxed manner. A click is sometimes the only aid that is needed. You do not want him exploding forward if you can help it but, if that happens, do not be concerned. Just carry on, and he will quiet down if you stay calm. (Adjusting the side rein might help with an excitable horse.) The horse’s temperament will dictate how much encouragement you need to give to move him forward. Sometimes a soft click is plenty. Take your cues from the horse.

When lunging the horse, use the aids of clicking the tongue and the whip rather than the words ‘trot’ or ‘canter.’ What you are looking for is a truly forward gait, and often a horse will move into a trot or canter at the spoken word in a manner that is not truly forward. There can be a big difference between the movement of a horse that steps into a gait because he has been taught to do so on command and one that moves into a gait in a forward manner. Often horses will stop or hesitate when they hear talking, so it is best to use aids that clearly mean forward to the horse. Clicking the tongue, as you apply the other forward aids, establishes a very natural and excellent forward aid. This will also be very useful when you begin work-in-hand and riding.

If the horse bucks or kicks when you first move him forward, concentrate on forward only. Let him buck, let him kick, making sure that you are gently applying the forward aids. With the lunge line hand, one can bring his head in so you are not kicked. Don’t give in to negative emotion or action. There is nothing going wrong here.

Sometimes the bucking and kicking is a bit of resistance on the horse’s part to moving in a forward manner. For this reason, the focus on forward movement is most important. Sometimes it is just exuberance; let him get it out of his system now. If he is really exuberant, make sure you stay on your feet. The very exuberant horse is sometimes the one you want to tighten the side rein on so that your arm does not get jerked too hard. Loosen it when he calms down. I’ve also seen horses use this time for working kinks out of their body by kicking and bucking. Good for them! In any event, just continue the aids making sure you do not get more forceful and that you stay out of harm’s way. When he settles down and begins working for you (and he will if you carry on calmly) say in a happy voice, “YES!” to the horse.



Say “YES!” often as you are working the horse. Horses love the sound of that word. Say it enthusiastically and loudly with a smile on your face. Say “YES!” immediately when he does something you’ve asked him to do. Say “YES!” when he is really trying. Say “YES!” for encouragement when he just can’t seem to get it. Say “YES!” when he is having a bad day and you cannot get him to do anything you want him to do. Say “YES!” when it looks like he is thinking about doing what you have asked. Say “YES!” when he just seems to need it.

Doing this encourages the horse to keep trying and also keeps you looking for and focused on the things that are going well. Appreciation of those little things goes much farther than trying to correct what seems to be going wrong. “Ask for much, be content with little, and reward often.” Captain Etienne Beudant, Dressage du Cheval de Selle, Editions Berger, 1938, Levrault, Paris.

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