Less is More: Don’t Nag Your Horse

Rio and I had our usual jump lesson on Sunday, and then I hung around to watch a few more lessons. Trainer Stacie definitely had one unifying theme going on during everyone’s rides: Do not nag your horse. Of course she said it much more eloquently then that, but you get what I mean.



Far from the first time I have heard this concept, it definitely didn’t hurt to get a good dose of reminding on Sunday. Trainer Stacie was really after all of us to stop helping our horses so much. With Rio, he struggles to maintain that perfect canter. When I ask Rio to shorten his stride and carry his step a bit more, he sometimes breaks to the trot. He KNOWS that isn’t want I want, it’s just easier. Knowing this, I often accept a flatter/longer canter, because I am scared that if I ask for too much, he’ll break.


This is a no-no, and I cannot let him do that. I need to give him the opportunity to make the mistake (break gait), and then make it very clear that that is NOT the correct answer. Allowing him to have a lesser quality canter because I feel like he *might* break is really not doing either of us any favors.

Trainer Stacie emphasized that by continually nagging your horse, and not making the correct/incorrect responses black and white, that we as the riders are not being very fair to our horses. We are conditioning them to think “Leg, leg, harder leg, spur” is a perfectly acceptable aide for canter nowish. Where as we should really nag less, and be very clear that “Leg” means canter NOW. Again, not a new concept to most riders, but definitely a good reminder.


My desire to ride well means that I end up doing MORE to get Rio doing what I want. More hand to support him, more and more leg, more constance guidance guidance. When you take all of that extra effort on the part of the rider away, he can act like he doesn’t know what to do and fall apart. It’s my job to CLEARLY ask for what I want, then give him the opportunity to do it. If he offers up the wrong response, I have to very clearly correct him. It really is the only way he will continue to progress, and become the type of ride I want him to be.


Who else falls into the trap of ‘doing more’ in an effort to help out your equine partner? Are you slowly doing more and more work to get the desired response? When I hack tonight I am going to try really hard to keep this lesson in mind, and do LESS, even it it means allowing mistakes to happen.


Also- the new bit arrived in the mail yesterday (the metal mullen mouth with light tongue relief), and the Sealtex. I wrapped it up and I plan to try it tonight. I’ll report back with how it goes!



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  1. I hate having to nag for a forward or lateral response. Stampede and P were both super tuned in and responsive so it’s been an adjustment with Maestro. Maestro has the added thing of almost being insulted if you keep asking? It’s very weird but if he feels like he’s preparing for a transition to canter for example and I think he takes too long and demand he can get more backwards. I’m hoping it’s some balance or strength thing because at the same time he can also give me a nice sharp transition. Interestingly, my transitions are better bareback though so maybe it’s me, lol. Always more to improve on!

    1. I also HATE nagging for more forward. I didn’t feel like I was falling in that trap with Rio (he isn’t a super lazy push ride) but I realized I am doing it in other ways (constantly tip toeing the line of asking for a smaller step and fearing he will break if I ask too much). Rio also tricks me into supporting him too much with my hand. I need to set him up, and LET GO, and allow him to fall apart so I can then correct him again. I like to try to help too much.

  2. Guilty! I constantly want to help and do all the things and my horses think that’s great because they don’t have to work nearly as hard! Trainer on the other hand, has to work super hard to make me stop doing that… I’m not sure I’ll ever learn this lesson fully. But here’s to trying!

  3. Ooh, I’m totally struggling right now with letting Opie get away with a lesser canter because I don’t want him to break when I ask him for more. Sneaky ponies know how to con their riders into getting what they want!

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