How can I get my Quarter Horse to walk forward after 3 1/2 years off?

Horses need time to remember the aids after time offQuestion: I have a 9 year old Quarter Horse who used to be a great trail horse and good around kids. We moved and had her boarded for about 4 years. We couldn’t go ride her because she was about 7 hours away. Now that we have her in the pasture the kids want to ride her. She hasn’t been ridden for about 3 1/2 years. She is not afraid of the saddle or anyone being on her but when you get on her, she won’t move one step unless someone is leading her. I really don’t want to sell her because the kids love her. What should I do?

Answer from April Reeves: You are merely steps away from having a really good horse again. When that amount of time is lost from riding a horse, they will forget the odd thing. If their training has been solid, they won’t come back with bad habits; just forgotten ones.

Let’s refresh her brain about how to move forward. Put someone on the mare with longer legs and ask her to gently use leg pressure (for a short momentary closure) at the same time you lead her forward. You will have to have a halter on under her bridle. The second the mare moves forward, release all leg pressure and halter pressure, and have the rider halt the horse. Repeat the above again and again, until the mare is moving forward from leg pressure easily. Take the lead rope off and have the rider ask without leading her. Make sure the rider is not holding on to the mare’s mouth. The rider must release the reins to allow the horse to move forward. Work on the “whoa and go” buttons for a day or two. Then gradually move into turns again, and add the trot into the process slowly.

As you halt, ask the rider to softly pull on the reins, and release the second the mare stops. Repeat over and over until the horse becomes use to this and is soft and responsive.

Make sure the riders all ride the horse in the same manner. Teach each of them to do this properly so the poor horse does not get confused. Once the horse moves forward, quit asking with the legs – this is very important to do consistently. Show them how to turn the horse and how to stop it, and show them how to do each of these techniques quietly and softly.

I find when too many kids get excited about riding ‘Fluffy’, they all bang at the horses sides and pull on their mouths until the horse either shuts down and won’t move or does the opposite: explodes. Safety is very important.

I suspect you don’t have to sell her, and probably have a really nice horse in there somewhere. Just start her back slowly, just to make sure she has no bad habits and that she is safe. Otherwise, 3-4 days of using the halter and two people working with her to remind her of her ‘former youth‘ and she should be back to normal or better.

If you have any problems email me back and I will help you through it. You can find some great basics on groundwork training on my site at: http://www.horsemansu.com/groundwork_series

Or you can find saddle basics at my blog at:
https://aprilreeveshorsetraining.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/groundwork-saddle-work-herd-bound-horse/

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