It Takes Two
We’ve all ridden horses that put their entire weight on the bit. Frustrating as it is, it’s not only their fault. You can’t lean on anything that isn’t solid. Neither can they.
Your horse leans because he’s unbalanced. Too much of his weight is on his shoulders. He uses you to stop himself tipping onto his nose. You need to rebalance him. Put his weight onto his hocks. Then he can carry himself.
To do this you have to sit back. When you think you’re upright lean back an extra inch. You’ll feel as if you’re leaning over backwards but if you check in a mirror you’ll be upright. Now look straight ahead not at the floor ten metres ahead of you. Lift your hands, keep your elbows bent and use plenty of leg to push his hocks under his body.
Ride through your paces and pay attention to your position and your hands. If you keep your wrists straight and your fingers moving on the reins then you’ll give him nothing to lean on.
Still think it’s his fault? Put your reins through your hands the wrong way or lay your whip down his shoulder and ride with it there. Both methods stop you rounding your wrists and fixing on him. It might feel odd but he won’t be leaning. He can’t if you don’t set against him. Now you have something to work towards.
It’s not the solution that’s difficult, it’s keeping it up. Your horse will still try to lean. He’s got used to it. It’s easier than carrying himself. After the initial ten minutes of enthusiasm you could well slip your reins a bit longer, start looking at the floor, drop your shoulders forward or even forget to move your fingers on the reins. All these things have one end result. They put his weight on his shoulders and he’s back to leaning on you.
Sometimes schooling can be harder on you than it is on your horse. Nag at yourself. Sit up, look up and keep your hands up. Keep trying and you’ll soon have a horse that will carry himself.
It does takes two to lean but the good news is that it only takes one to break the habit. The bad news is it won’t be him! Stay calm, stay consistent and don’t give in.
Check out these schooling guides which will help to improve your position and your horse’s responsiveness – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/shop/syh-books/get-started-2/