'What's the Rush?'
Is your horse super-lazy on the lead line? Here’s how to get energy into his feet.
By Clinton Anderson With Jennifer Forsberg Meyer
A horse that leads well adjusts his pace to match yours, so that he stays next to you at all speeds. Some horses, however, have developed such a habit of moving slowly that they really hang back on the lead line. You find yourself practically having to drag them forward. If your horse is like this, your first goal is to wake up his feet, so that when you step briskly ahead of him, he follows you with equal quickness.
That’s what we’ll do with this month’s clinic horse, an 8-year-old Spotted Saddle Horse mare. Her quiet disposition and smooth, lateral gait (she paces instead of trots, as you’ll see) make her a great lesson horse for special-needs kids. But she does need to learn to be more responsive on the lead line.
I’ll ask her to follow me briskly when I trot ahead of her. When she resists, I’ll wake up her feet with some of my “longeing for respect,” which emphasizes changes of direction more than the repetitive circles of traditional longeing.
Longeing for respect is a terrific form of groundwork that’s useful for many purposes. For example, it’s a great way to prepare an overly keen horse before you ride him. It stimulates the thinking side of his brain (because of all the foot movement in the changes of direction), increases his respectfulness (because you’re directing the movement of his feet), and works off his excess energy.
But it’s also extremely useful for lazy horses. When you insist on prompt responses to your longeing requests to stop, turn, and move off in the new direction, you’re teaching the lazy horse that when you say “let’s go,” you really mean it. You’ll see how it works with this mare—after I wake up her feet with a bit of longeing for respect, she’ll be much more responsive on the lead line.
TO GET THE MOST FROM THIS CLINIC
Outfit your horse in a rope halter with a 14-foot lead. I prefer my own halters, which have extra knots on the noseband for improved responsiveness, but any of the stiffer rope halters will do. If you don’t have a training stick, you can make one of your own (using a sturdy, 4-foot-long stick), or else use a dressage whip.
Work in an enclosed area with good footing, such as a round pen or arena.
Make this exercise part of your daily routine until your horse consistently and automatically follows you willingly and with energy when you ask him to.