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4 Exercises to Help Calm a Hot Horse

If there is anyone that can talk about hot horses on a hack, it is me.  My horse Shandy was a complete nightmare on hacks.  He would attem...

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

How to easily get your horse's focus

I feel you.  Recently I went from riding Shandy in the indoor school all winter to riding him in the outdoor one day last week.  He is so focused and well behaved in the indoor now.  I was expecting the same outside.  

Nope.  He didn't listen to a thing I asked him and when I tried to refocus him, he would spook or rear and spin around (Shandy's go to when he doesn't want to do something).  I worked with him for an hour and got him listening again but it got me thinking.  

If someone isn't used to working with an unfocused horse, would they know what to do?   

A chestnut horse's head and neck wearing a bridle looking into the distance.

Re-start the session

The first thing I do if I cannot get my horse's attention is to completely restart my ride.  I start riding as though I am warming up. 

First of all, I allow the horse to walk around on a long rein to look at everything he is interested in.  Then I move onto my warm up.  I mostly do the same things in walk trot and canter.  

I work on bending, flexing and moving away from my leg.  I also do a little bit of lengthening and shortening.  Lots of transitions are essential for keeping concentration.   

A grey horse 'on the bit' being ridden in an outdoor school

Half Halt

It is so important that your horse is trained the half halt.  Without it, you have no 'listen up' aid.  Even when your horse has the half halt, he may choose to ignore it.  That is when I start the following exercise.  

I start by doing some of transitions.  Walk-canter, canter-halt, halt-trot etc.   Then, when he is expecting a transition, I do a half halt.  This really throws him off, so he has no idea what you're going to ask next.  This is the key to the horse's focus.  

Up close of a bay horse wearing a bridle with trees in the background


An un-focused horse NEEDS breaks every 5-10 minutes.  Let your horse stand still and look around to rest for a few minutes.  When your horse is having an off day, there is no point in working and working him.  It will only frustrate him and he will continue to be unfocused.  

I never allow my horse to walk around during this break, I want him to understand when he is having a break and when he is working.  

A grey horse with a rider on standing still in a grass field


I am not a horse trainer or any other equestrian professional.  I only give advice on horsey topics that I have experience as a horse owner in.  Please don't follow my advice without contacting a relevant equestrian professional.  


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