Move their feet!

Move their feet!

This is said commonly by horsemanship instructors when a horse gets nervous or resistant.

When a horse has energy, restraining them generally does not end well (as anyone who’s tried pulling a bolting horse back knows, or pulled on a horse who then reared), and does nothing to calm or educate the horse. Ability to move is the most important thing to a horse – when they feel threatened, their survival depends on the ability to get away.

Moving a horse’s feet can be productive, educational, and very helpful for keeping both horse and human out of trouble.

However, the important thing is that the work is working to calm the horse and use the energy productively. Letting a horse fly around on the lunge line to “tire out” does nothing but produce tension, teach poor posture, and teach the horse to run nervously til tired whenever they are bothered.

Similarly, some people resort to chasing them around in endless circles.

Forward movement should never be punishment, and “making the right thing easy and wrong thing hard” is often misinterpreted to focus on making the horse choose between exhaustion and standing still.

If I have a horse with some worry, or too much energy, I think about what a great opportunity to use that energy productively. I may make my circles smaller to help keep the horse mentally with me, but the focus is on balance, correct postural alignment, and getting them to the point where they can relax, not adding more fuel to the fire. In this way, you educate the horse to seek relaxation. Layering these moments in builds in the habit, mentally and physically, to seek relaxation.

They make be quick, out of balance, and upset. That’s ok. I just need to make sure I don’t enforce those things by accident in my attempt to help them choose a different path.

One thought on “Move their feet!

  1. As usual , quite correct in your thinking !!Ive gone for a whole lesson time slowing down the rider & horse & just walking exercises , then as soon as the horse sighs or snuffles they are allowed to stop & be stroked & talked or sung to & then walked on again with purpose but not hurried or fussed with !!giving them purpose with both their mind & their body makes a happy horse & not surprisingly it does the same for the rider !!


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