How to Ride a Lazy Horse

Three Methods:Using More AidsBeing an Assertive RiderEstablishing a Rhythm

Riding a lazy horse can be an unenjoyable experience, especially if you are a daredevil rider and your horse would rather plod along. It’s easy to become frustrated if your horse doesn’t respond to your aids, but don’t give up yet. There are many ways to motivate a lazy horse and become a better rider at the same time.

Method 1
Using More Aids

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    Wear a spur. Wearing and using spurs on a lazy horse can stimulate him to move faster. Do not, however, spur your horse every step. Use your spur sparingly and effectively. Put it on, get a result, and then take it off.
    • When your horse feels like he is slowing down or if you horse needs more motivation, turn your heel in so that the metal spur touches his side.
    • Do not spur him for a long period of time. Horses are better with quick, intense aids rather than dull, repetitive ones.[1]
    • Different horses need different amounts of spurring, but, if your horse becomes angry when you use your spur, you should try using a crop or voice to make him move faster.
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    Carry a crop. Do not smack your horse with the crop as soon as you get on. Instead, use the crop sparingly in places where your horse typically slows down. Many horses will slow down in the corners of the ring, easier parts of the trail, or when you move from the posting trot to the sitting trot. Use the crop quickly and assertively. Tap your horse behind your leg. Do not his his shoulder or his rump.[2]
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    Use your voice. If necessary, use voice commands that your horse understands. All horses have been trained a little bit differently, but most horses will understand a cluck as a sign to trot and a kiss as a sign to canter. You can also use a strong voice command like a growl or a deep “get!” However, don’t scare or spook your horse with your voice. It should be clear and commanding, not frightening.

Method 2
Being an Assertive Rider

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    Be persistent from the beginning. If your horse does not have the speed or impulsion you want from the beginning of the lesson, do not settle for a slower pace. Make a constant effort to make your horse move forward. Make it clear that you will not take “no” for an answer. Don’t be overly aggressive, but make sure that your horse knows exactly what you want. Do not kick aggressively, yell, or slap your horse with your crop too hard. Squeeze with your legs and keep light contact.
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    Start and stop on your terms. If you ask your horse to trot and he continues walking, do not stop asking for the trot until you get the trot. If you ask your horse to trot and he gets away with not trotting, he will know that he can get away with it further into your ride, too. Be persistent.
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    Provide clear cues to your horse. Make sure that you are asking for what you want correctly. Ask your trainer or a more experienced rider friend to watch you ride your lazy horse and evaluate your use of the aids. Are you using your leg correctly? Are you pulling his mouth too much?[3]
    • The use of aids differs for every discipline, so your use of the aids will be different depending on whether you ride hunt seat, dressage, or western.

Method 3
Establishing a Rhythm

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    Set up cavallettis. Ask your trainer to set up cavallettis, or small, slightly raised rails. Trot over the cavalettis. Your horse will have to stretch the length of his stride to make it over. This challenge can help improve a horse’s rhythm. You can also go over the cavellettis at the canter.[4] These do not have to relate to how much you jump or show; it's also good practice to make your horse pay attention to his feet and move with a bigger stride. If you don't want to use cavallettis, you can also put poles on the ground.
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    Practice transitions. Transition from walk to trot, trot to walk, trot to canter, canter to trot, walk to canter, and canter to walk. Make these transitions crisp and clear. Your horse will have to think constantly about what you want and will be more responsive to your aids. The horse won’t become dull and desensitized to your ride. He will instead be waiting for the next thing you ask for.[5]
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    Go for impulsion, not just speed. Speed is not the only indication that your horse is moving well and not lazily. Impulsion, or the horse’s movement from the hind legs, rather than from the front legs[6], depends on the horse moving from behind. Impulsion is, essentially, how well your horse moves and how much energy his stride has.
    • To get impulsion, you need to establish light contact with the horse’s mouth, keeping your hands above the withers.
    • Urge your horse’s hindquarters to come under his body by squeezing with your legs and maintaining contact. Let his head drop forward, more into your contact.[7]


  • Stay positive! It can be really frustrating to ride a lazy horse, but with time and patience, you can do it.


  • Sometimes using a crop or spurs can make your horse angry, and he will misbehave. Be on the lookout for warning signs that something is going wrong: bucking, snorting, taking off, and pinned ears.
  • If your horse inexplicably becomes lazy, ask a vet to check him out. It might be a medical issue rather than a laziness issue.

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Categories: Riding