How to Steer a Stubborn Horse

Four Parts:Closing the Door on Failure to TurnClosing the Door when TrottingMoving ForwardUsing Your External Riding Aids

Whether it is a freshly broken three year old or an 18 year old mare, a stubborn horse is a stubborn horse. Whether the horse just won't understand you signals or it's refusing to even leave the barn, steering the stubborn horse to where you want it to go is a useful skill to learn.

Part 1
Closing the Door on Failure to Turn

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    Use this method when your horse stops. The scenario is:
    • You're just going on your way, your horse is moving forward and suddenly it decides it doesn't want to go this way. It quickly spins back and starts walking back towards the barn.
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    Analyze what has happened. Most likely one side of your weight, direction or handling was not strong enough to hold the horse on the path. Especially for green horses, they need strong reminders from the rider as to where they are going.
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    Respond to stop the stubbornness. If you feel your horse beginning to turn to the right, immediately close the door to that direction by closing your right leg on its side and holding the right rein, as well as applying some supple support from the left rein. By holding your rein, you are just keeping a steady contact. Do not pull back, for to do so will confuse your horse.

Part 2
Closing the Door when Trotting

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    Use this method when your horse is trotting. The scenario is:
    • You're trotting in a straight line, but your horse needs work on its circles. You turn your horse to the left, but its nose comes to its shoulder, while it moves even more to the right.
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    Respond as for method one. At this point, you need to repeat what you would do in the above scenario. Close your outside leg and really hold with your inside rein. Do not release until the horse gives and move into a nice left turn.

Part 3
Moving Forward

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    Use this method if your horse gets stuck in circles. The scenario is:
    • Your horse is still trying to turn when you want to go straight again.
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    Kick the horse forward! Your horse will be much less likely to try to slow down to turn back if is is engaged in an active forward movement constantly being subtly reinforced with your leg, as well as a very clear blocking of your reins by maintaining steady contact.
    • The strength of the contact depends on your individual horse's needs and responsiveness to the riding aids.

Part 4
Using Your External Riding Aids

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    Use the riding aids to assist you in pushing a stubborn horse to do your bidding. Moving forward (the previous method) may only result in your horse jigging to the side at a faster pace. Here you need to maintain your leg and other bodily indicators, but your natural signals won't always work. Once you notice this, it is time to resort to the equipment:
    • If you have spurs, start to use them.
    • You can use a dressage whip to tap the horse's shoulder to try to move it into the turn.
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    Increase the intensity of using the riding aids as your horse requires. Sometimes, a horse may grow used to a bit the more you use it. Remember that with snaffles, they need to be flipped every now and then so that your horse doesn't get used to the feeling of it. The more you use a bit, the more a horse loses its responsiveness to it.
    • Different bits are effective on different parts of the horse. Ask your trainer or someone who is knowledgeable about bits to help you pick out a bit that is more likely to work with your horse.


  • Note that each horse is an individual. Not everything will be applicable for every horse. You will need to experiment to see what works for your horse, carefully and gently.


  • Some horses react badly to a strong hand and may rear or buck.

Article Info

Categories: Riding