How can I make my pony stop leaning on the forehand and become lighter in the mouth? International Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Joanna Fisher shares her thoughts on this question.
A couple of checks first…
There are two ways to go about this and combining both would probably be the best way, but not totally necessary. First we need to be sure that the leaning isn’t caused by an uncomfortable mouth. Check that your pony’s teeth are not sharp, I would normally get my horse dentist in at least once every 6 months, ideally 4 months to keep all the edges smooth.
Next point- if you are using a loose ring snaffle, be sure the rings haven’t rubbed the bit and become sharp, when old they can be rather dangerous and can catch the corner of the mouth with a nut cracker action.
When you are sure this is all correct, your first option is to work on the lunge. I don’t use elasticated reins as this is the easiest way for horses to learn to lean and rest on the elastic. I use leather reins or even my riding reins and attach them directly to the lunge girth or saddle. I will make sure I stay on a large circle and the trot or canter is forward. I will have them in a soft round contact, not too tight. If they lean- they lean against themselves and that is no fun- so it quickly stops! I would only lunge once or twice… lunging is hard on the legs, and remember to change direction… otherwise you will be as dizzy as the horse!
Back to Basics
My next call of duty is on board and I would bring it back to basics. I would practise and repeat my walk trot transitions using my seat/body weight and voice as in previous questions I have dealt with. Forward motion for forward and sitting back and lowering hands for the downward transition. This repetitive exercise is absolutely the best for heavy horses and ponies, as it brings the hind legs underneath and the front end becomes lighter.
Repeat repeat repeat! Horses learn from repetition! And don’t forget your voice- it’s a free aid and horses listen very well!
Be patient, it takes days or even weeks but the end result will be more than worth it.
Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.
It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: www.stablegossip.com