I was having a nice ride on Cerise this morning until I asked her to bend and move forward at the same time. As a Fire horse personality, Cerise has her own ideas about how to do things and bending and moving off my leg is something she does not agree with.
It is not that she can’t do this easily but she does not think it is the best way. As a Fire horse personality she likes to move forward uninhibited and she considers bending something that hinders her forward motion. The problem is she does not want to get soft to my hands. I am not preventing her from moving forward I am just asking her to do it in a different way. After a brief tantrum on her part we came to a place of agreement and finished a fun ride.
Failure to move forward when asked is what causes many training challenges. Each horse personality has a different reason for not wanting to move forward when asked.
Fire horse personality: These horses love to move forward but will often resist any effort flex and bend though their ribs and jaw. An exercise where you ask the horse to move forward off your leg while you keep their head flexed around towards your knee. You do this by picking a spot you want to move towards and using your inside leg when your horse is headed that direction and taking your leg away when they are facing away. If your horse is soft and moves well off your leg it should take you no time at all to spiral to your target.
If your Fire horse is not soft you will need to increase leg pressure when when your horse resists and praise lavishly even 1 tiny step towards your destination with good bend. Be patient and politely insist. Quit with even a small effort from your Fire horse. You can build on this.
Earth horse personality: These horses tend to be a bit balky under the best of conditions so expect to have to use quite a bit of leg and maybe even a little crop to get them to go forward at a nice tempo. Once they realize that it is easier to do what you ask they will agree. The Earth horse personality is willing but not the most physically flexible so don’t ask them to work in deep collection early in training. As he gets more supple you can ask for more headset and collection.
When you Earth horse personality does well, reward him with a nice break from work.
Metal horse personality: These horses are the least physically flexible and they will tend to balk when they feel any pressure on their face. Like the Earth horse personality, you will need lots of leg but resist the temptation to reach for a crop until you are sure your Metal horse understands what you are asking. Ask for enough forward steps off you leg until you are sure your horse understood he did the right action then stop and let him process the new information.
Repeat the same cue several times until your Metal horse personality moves off your leg every time. Only when you are sure your horse understands the leg cue do you ask for him to get soft to your hands as you ask him to step off. It is very important to break exercises down for the Metal horse temperament but once they get them you will have few problems with future compliance. Reward the Metal horse personality with a pat or rub on the neck.
Water horse personality: Water horses are generally flexible and very willing to move forward. They must be taught to give to rein pressure while standing still or they will respond by going faster when they feel any pressure on their head. Trying to block their forward movement with more rein pressure will quickly result in a rear.
Teach the Water horse personality to accept the pressure by dropping the nose while standing and once the nose is dropped ask for a tiny forward step then release quickly. Continue to add more steps with softness as your Water horse trusts that you are not going to shut down his forward motion. Reward your Water horse personality with a kind word to build his confidence.
Wood Horse personality: These horses tend to have very sticky feet and often do not want to move off the leg with or without any pressure on the face. They also like to argue so don’t let yourself be drawn into a conflict over something as simple as stepping off from leg pressure.
The best plan with a Wood horse personality is to give him somewhere to go and a job to do. For example, use him to work another horse from the saddle and in the process of doing this job he will learn to move off your leg and follow your rein aids. If your Wood horse personality likes to jump set up a challenging course and use your leg and rein aids to help him with turning and rebalancing. Reward your Wood horse personality with quitting the exercise and moving on to something fun like a ride out.
Taking each personality and working with them individually will make your training sessions much more productive and safe. Madalyn