Question: I have an Arabian mare that will trot so fast! I tried your circling routine, but she is not getting it, although she did slow down to a fairly fast trot from a race trot, and she does go the same speed now without me nagging her. Is there anything else I can do, along with the circling, to help her understand I want her to go slower? I don’t want to use the reins. Thank you so much!
Answer from April Reeves: I do have another little exercise that you can use to get her slower. I do find the odd horse (and it’s usually an Arabian) that trots like their tail is on fire. This exercise is a big help.
As you are trotting along the fence line, and your mare speeds up into the ‘fire’ trot, turn her into the fence and go the opposite way. When you turn her, do not crank her head around fast or smash her into the fence. Ask her to follow a feel and change direction, still at the trot. The turn itself will be uncomfortable enough. Soon she will begin to know when that turn is coming, and as you drop your hand down the rein to turn, you will feel her slow her own tempo down. When she does begin to do that, praise her, as mares really get the praise idea. When she completes the turn, keep your reins loose as always, and let her trot off until she speeds up again. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you find the response you want. You need to ride to the place where the horse begins to understand the purpose of the exercise before you quit. Many riders quit too early, thinking that an exercise just doesn’t work for them. It’s all in the patience.
You are not looking for collection, flexion, or anything else but speed control. Always remember what the single lesson is. Once they start to think about this lesson, you can call it a day and try again tomorrow. Keep this exercise up and she will come around. Have patience. Lots of it.
The trick is to not give the horse any rein to pull and resist against. The turn will do the teaching. You set up the timing.
One thing I don’t like to see is turning in complete circles to slow a horse down. After a few times around, I don’t believe the horse remembers why he had to circle so much. Some horses get even more excited and come bolting out of the circle, like a coiled spring. I don’t find that it works as efficiently as fencing, therefore taking longer to achieve the result. I also don’t like the stress on the legs over time.
I prefer to use the turn to the fence. It has helped me win this battle for many years, and it’s easy on me.