The Importance of “Forward” in Loading and Ridden Work

This blog is a summary and a recap of some of the main points of the December 2018 Webinar. The focus was on how important your horse’s response to the forward cue is in both loading and ridden work. Members can see the link to the webinar here; https://yourhorsemanship.com/chat/topic/december-webinar-can-be-viewed-here/


With loading, the key is straightness before forward, as you will not load a horse that is crooked to the ramp. I prefer using a whip instead of poll pressure (i.e. pulling on the halter).  A whip should be thought of as a conductor’s baton, used to orchestrate right, left and forward in your horse. Using a whip correctly, is definitely a skill worth learning.

Points to remember when loading:

  • The 3 second rule – aim to get a correct response or “try” within 3 seconds of giving the cue
  • When to stop asking for forward – this is equally as important as being prepared to get your horse to go forward, as they have to know when they have done the right thing
  • If your horse attempts to go forward, make sure you’re not in their way
  • Use the environment to encourage forward by making the right place easy and the wrong place difficult

The main problems I see with people loading are:

  • Releasing on an incorrect response
  • Not giving clear direction
  • Not enough motivation
  • Getting frustrated/ angry.

Ridden Work:

In my opinion, around 50% of ridden problems are a result of bad contact/hands not allowing the horse to travel “forward”.

There are 4 types of contacts, 3 are positive and 1 is not.

  1. Blocking: This is generally caused by fear and imbalance in the rider. It is not desirable, and can cause problems such as rearing.
  2. One Rein Controls: There is no contact apart from giving direction from one rein. It is important to ride like this when horse/rider are in flight mode.
  3. Contact with Rider being Elastic to Horse: This is when the rider gives with the hand in accordance with the horse’s movement and is one of the key skills for a good connection with your horse through the rein.
  4. Contact with Horse being Elastic to Rider: The ultimate goal, when your horse stays soft and accepts a consistent contact, even when asking for more energy.

Another big cause of lack of forward, is the rider not using their legs properly.

The sequence for a leg aid should be;

Upper leg Squeeze,

if no response

Lower leg Bump,

  if no response

Whip Tap by leg.

This sequence is important to maintain a calm and consistent forward aid. It is common to get an undesirable response just before you get a push forward, but you have to be prepared to keep going to get a response. Otherwise, you are just teaching your horse that they don’t have to listen.

A good tip to get your horse to go forward is to focus on something a way in front of you, in order to stay positive when riding.

As a final thought, please remember that above all, my mantra is: your safety, horse safety, then training. So, if you think the problem has got too big, please do get in touch!





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