I’ve found the most important thing is not to shut them down from them get-go so keep the warm up on a stretchy/loose contact -depending on the horse. I find stuffy horses often like to pop onto a shoulder and go crooked and as a result cannot go forwards properly. I always aim to start straightening them up in the warm up, but again not in a way that will shut them down. Keep circles big, pop some transitions in etc, making sure they are turning from the shoulders and not drifting in and out. I do a bit of leg yield but always make sure I’m thinking more forwards than sideways. I sometimes will get off their back in the first couple of canters and let them free up a bit. Once I feel that they are straightening up, moving freely up and down transitions, I will start picking my contact up a bit and asking more from them.
Also, it’s so easy to get into the habit of nagging a stuffy horse, but you must make sure they move off a leg aid and then remain in the pace you’ve put them in. This can be tricky at first, but they do get the idea and they eventually realise the world is a much nicer place when they aren’t been badgered along constantly.
Millie arrived in June and she was stuffy, lazy and unmotivated. I remember sitting on her in the school in the first week, sweating like a pig (me, not her) and realising I had a big job on my hands. If anything now, she is generally on the hot side because I have got her fit and supple (and straight!) and suddenly she finds everything so much easier to do. Plus, the day she realised that I wasn’t going to clamp my legs around her sides every stride, she started to really open up. She’s still prone to occasional sluggish days, she doesn’t like two days on the run in the school really, but on the whole she is much, much hotter now, which I love.
Millie arrived in June and she was stuffy, lazy and unmotivated. I remember sitting on her in the school in the first week, sweating like a pig (me, not her) and realising I had a big job on my hands. If anything now, she is generally on the hot side because I have got her fit and supple (and straight!) and suddenly she finds everything so much easier to do. Plus, the day she realised that I wasn’t going to clamp my legs around her sides every stride, she started to really open up.
Totally agree with this, also clear aids, leg off, leg on if you don't get a reaction, make it sharper but don't nag and back up with a sharp tap if you still don't get the reaction you want but make sure you "give with your hands" as soon as you get a forward reaction. I'm rubbish at this but I know it works!
Never ever nag - if u ask for trot and u get a half hearted trot, go canter and if you don’t get a good canter go gallop for a few strides... and never ever punish a horse for going forward even if it’s a spook or being cheeky - reward every forwardness ... also transitions within the pace are good... half transitions (almost come back to walk and then go on again) - direct upwards transitions are great once you can do them... rise big in trot to get forward trot ... this is more curable than the other way tbh
For sticky horses I like to use walk to canter, halt to canter transitions, and really open them up at the start with loose canters around the arena. Also in canter pushing them down the long side, going in with my own energy levels high and really making the transitions sharp, so no gentle nagging.
I like to limit arena work, so I used to warm the horse up in the field or even on a hack, and then when they were forward going, bring them into the arena and do short concentrated bursts of schooling.
Its a weird one to figure out because stuffy horses are usually either unfit, bored with the work, shut down on some level, struggling with fitness or arena surface or think they can ignore the rider. When you figure out what the reason is then it's easier to cure. Once you find something fun they enjoy in the arena then you can usually unstick them on some level.
I hacked Rose today with a friend who's horse was a bit naughty. Good test for Rose though as she coped well, didn't get too wound up despite the other horse crashing into her, was prepared to go in front past the scary pony in a spotted rug running up and down the fence line and also dealt well with some really big farm machinery. I'm taking her to do a couple of UA tests tomorrow, trying a novice as we have to do that level for Quest, just to see how we go. Her canter is improving but she still needs a lot of leg and seat to keep it contained otherwise it's all a bit free! Saturday she's having off as she's had a very busy week then on Sunday I am doing a test riding clinic at Novice.
Good luck to everyone competing and have fun whatever you are doing. I might take my camera (if I can remember) to the clinic but otherwise no pics as Billy no mates has to go on her own!
If you can take the horse out for hack before your schooling session, and have a good canter, i find that helps get the horse “forward” in his mind ready for his schooling session.
Otherwise, once you’ve warmed up, an exercise I have found helps is to bring the horse back to walk just before the corner. Really bend the horse into the corner, and halt just after. Then use a halt to medium trot or even halt to canter - really get him forward in his mind. Bring back to walk for the next corner and repeat. My horse quickly starts to anticipate this and with that anticipation, his “forward” gear gets well and truly engaged.
My slightly sticky horse has a very lazy walk and trot and never really gets motivated until it's time to canter - which he finds easy and enjoys. So I tend to have a good 10 minute walk, if in daylight for a hack, then straight into canter in half seat in a nice long bendy frame - we do figures of 8 like this, balancing across the middle, then sending on round the bend after the change for a good 10 mins before I sit on his back and continue the same but incorporating leg yield after the change into the corner to engage the hind leg more - this is all in canter. We work on the trot for about 10 minutes after about 20/30 minutes canter work and by then he is ready to give me some good trot work and then a nice long rein to stretch and finish off.
You need to be very tacticle with your leg - never nag, always sharp aids and try use the lightest aid you can first, and if no reaction, follow up with a shock - I often use something random like shake my reins to really send them on, then repeat again with the light aid and you should get the reaction you're after