Don’t Be So Wishy-Washy! by Troy Green
Q. Hi Troy. I’m experiencing a problem in the show pen with my HUS horse. When we go to the walk she gets a little funny and gets wishy washy beneath me and starts to arch her head and walks really really slow. How do I correct this? This doesn’t really happen other than the wishy washy-ness of her body outside of the pen. Which I’m not sure how to correct either. I cluck to get her moving but that doesn’t correct it.
A. Hi Jodee! Sounds like you know the root of the problem is a lack of forward motion at the walk, and that’s what creates the side-to-side “wishy-washy” motion you’re talking about. Your mare needs to drive into the bridle at the walk the same way she should at the trot and canter. We like our under saddle horses to take up the slack out of the reins and softly “hang” on the bit. There’s a fine line between hanging heavy on your hands or not having enough contact. I would practice at home and in the practice pen, using both of your feet to drive her on. Take the slack out of your reins by drawing back so you can direct the forward motion that you’ll be asking for. Fan or tap your feet and she should move on as well as find the contact with your hands and lower her neck. Every time she gives you a little bit of what you’re looking for (a forward step and proper head and neck position) reward her with a moment of release. You’ll just stop asking with your feet and soften your pull even if it’s only for a step or two at a time. Then you’ll come back in and ask for the same thing again…horses learn by repitition. You’ll get in and out with a rhythm like waves on the beach, and your hands and feet should always work in unison. In the beginning you may be bumping your feet on her quite a bit. We’ll double tap with our feet at the walk sometimes to establish a good rhythm with the huntseaters. As she gets more consistent you’ll get softer and be able to maintain the walk with a much more subtle feel that’s not as visible to somebody watching. You mentioned that you cluck to her. That’s fine to do as long as she responds. Cluck to her and make her move on as I described, but always get a response. Then when you go to show, that cluck is just another tool or a backup cue to remind her what is expected of her. An audible aid like a cluck or kiss is good, but they become ineffective if used all the time or without very specific purpose. Like anything else with horses, it’s all about consistency and repitition. Show her what it is you want until it’s no longer a question but a learned routine. Ride her in the show pen like you do in the warm up and at home and even if you have to school the walk a couple times when you show, if it makes her better in the long run and eliminates the behavior you’re getting now, then you’ve accomplished something.
Thanks and best of luck with your mare,
Troy Green is a firm believer in the importance of a good foundation for every horse with balance, rhythm, and self-carriage being key. A good foundation equals longevity in the show pen. Troy has won over two dozen All American Quarter Horse Congress Championships in western pleasure, versatility, reining, halter and western riding, and has coached clients to over 50 Congress championships. Troy has three AQHA World Championships and two National Championships under his belt, and has won at all major futurities. He spent three years on the national board of the NSBA.
Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses.
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