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Teaching Forward Movement

18 August 2011 No Comment

Teaching Forward Movement
By Cheryl McNamee-Sutor

True Definition of Forward : Whole-heartedly. Moving forward giving his best effort. When your horse is just rambling around, he is NOT moving “forward”.

How? Use These 3 Easy Steps:

1. Start off by asking your horse for a steady trot (this should be done in all gaits).

2. Close your legs lightly on your horse’s side for up to 3 seconds.

* If the horse does not make a good effort to really pick up the pace, start bumping him gently and steadily with both legs (1-2 kicks per second – with both legs) until he does move forward with effort.

* If he gives a whole-hearted response…praise him LOTS!
3. Once he has responded with effort, you relax for a couple seconds (rewarding him).

Be Sure To Do The Retest:

1. Now, close your legs lightly on your horse’s side again for up to 3 seconds.
2. If he doesn’t respond whole-heartedly, again repeat the series of gentle, steady bumps with both of your legs as described above.
3. Once he has responded with effort, you relax for a couple seconds (rewarding him).


This lesson is on forward movement, whole-hearted forward movement. While teaching this lesson to your horse, start at a trot and stay at the trot for the whole lesson. If you stay at the same gait, you are teaching your horse to respond to your request of moving more forward in the same gait…no transitions.

However, you may also use this lesson to teach a young or “green” horse transitions. Using the method above, start at a walk. Use the method above and you’ll end up trotting. With younger or “green” horses who don’t even know the leg cue yet, it may take a few days to get this concept through to them. I urge you to be as patient as you can!

Why Does This Work?

By the third or fourth time of doing this, your horse will soon realize that he must move forward off your light leg pressure to avoid the less comfortable, annoying kicks. Always start with light, delicate pressure. As your horse ignores your request, increase pressure and annoyance. The annoyance is what makes him decide to move forward wholeheartedly immediately the next time you ask lightly.

Practice this everyday, it is a GREAT warm-up for more advanced maneuvers and obedience. If you cannot get your horse to move forward whole-heartedly off your delicate leg cue, you will have difficulty in future situations such as flying lead changes, sliding stops, finding distances to jumps, passing other riders in a tight arena, and advanced dressage maneuvers such as the piaffe and passage.

The most important part of asking your horse to go forward is when he does not respond to your light cue, and you correct him…You MUST ask again after a few seconds. If you don’t ask again, he’ll become dull to your legs and will ignore your requests. When you ask again, use the same method above. If he moves forward instantly, give him a TON of praise.

To learn more about Cheryl McNamee-Sutor click here.

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