My horse is leaning on my hands. He’s over 17hh so it’s hard to hold him up! Any ideas?

Posted by in leaning, leaning on the bit, Q & A on Apr 23, 2016

“Dressage judges always comment that my horse tends to lean – especially in canter. He’s a big horse and I’m struggling to get him to stop. Have you got any ideas?!

Your horse is obviously a big lad and there’s a lot of horse to ride! Don’t be put off – there are some changes you can make that will make a huge difference straight away.

He needs to rebalance his weight further back onto his hocks – at the moment he’s just tipping onto his front end and that’s what you’ll be feeling on the end of your reins.

It’s easier to sort problems out from the start (so get it right in walk before you trot and trot before you canter) rather than work on it in canter when you’ll both get tired and be more likely to find it difficult. Once you get it right in walk you’ll be surprised how much better his trot and canter feel.

Check out this post – – because it will really help you to change your position which will change his.

(Having seen your video) it looks like you’re getting tipped forward off your seat which is making your seat less effective – and that’s making you look down. In halt pull up through your spine and then lean back until you feel your stomach muscles start to pull. Look directly ahead of you – not at the ground twenty metres away (so easy to do!) so you look above the school fence and up and around every corner or turn you make. It’s a difficult thing to do consistently so you’ll have to nag at yourself – try reminding yourself every time you pass A. C or X.

Looking up like that will put your whole weight back onto your seat and onto his back giving you a good base to hold your position; so if he tries to tip onto his shoulders you’ll be able to push him on from your legs and drive his hocks under him rather than pushing on and pushing his weight (and yours) onto his shoulders.

When you’re in that upright position you’ll find that your reins will be too long but when you shorten them up it’s going to feel as if your arms are miles out in front of you! This is normal – and correct. Your hands should stay above or slightly in front of his withers so your arms will still bend at the elbow but have less of an angle. If you can touch his withers with your little finger if you point it down your hands are too low. Also check out this post which will give you a really simple way to stop him bracing against your hand –

This way of riding does take some getting used to but it’s going to make so much difference to his balance and stop him leaning on you. Have you read about using your knee and thigh to help you keep your horse together? It stops you needing your reins as a slowing down aid. Check it out here if you haven’t already because it’s a great way for us lightweight riders to really ride bigger horses.

Just a final thing about your canter – make sure you sit into the third beat of the canter stride. Watch that video and you’ll see you just tip out of the saddle for the third beat and then sit again. This is the point that you’ll lose him and let him lean on your hands. Sit back and push down when you feel yourself coming up off the saddle.

Changing your position can be difficult if you don’t have anyone on the ground to help you. If you’ve got a phone that can video you a really handy way to watch yourself riding is to stick it on the fence at A and leave it running when you ride. You might not see everything but it will give you an idea if you’re getting things right.

Best of luck and I hope this all makes sense!

If you have a question about your horse do get in touch. You can find me on Twitter (@pollson) or on Facebook, or email me at


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