PROBLEM #1: HOW MUCH LEG?
The biggest problem is that they are USING TOO MUCH LEG! Unlike riding the feisty thoroughbreds where you need to have all leg, all the time to give them a squeeze of reassurance, these more deliberate, unhurried athletes require a lot more leg CONTROL!
That's right, control not strength!
You can't kick a leisurely horse forward - and often they will actually slow down at the audacity. They want specific cues, at specific times; a subtle prompt instead of a full leg whomp. They don't want to be nagged, they don't want to be over cued, they want a timely and purposeful communication.
What this means is that they need you to be able to hold your leg to them with a gentle contact. This means you need to have stabilize your leg holding it in AND out at the same time. You can't just death grip onto these slower horses and call it good!
You also need to be able to manipulate different parts of your legs to cue different things, understanding how to get support from your upper thigh, yields from your calf, and momentum from your heel - AND USE THEM INDEPENDENTLY! Keep in mind that often:
- heels mean go,
- kicks mean sass, or a mental shut down!
- calves mean leg yields, but not go!
You'll also find that people who "toe out" in their riding tend to be better at riding slower horses. This is because their heels are the point of contact and they don't have the full leg contact that can feel nagging to horses.
Am I saying to ride with your knees out like a frog and your toes pointed out like a ballerina? NO! I'm saying that you need more control of your leg so you know if you're putting pressure on the calf (leg yield, support) or on your heels (go button!).
It is no surprise that often these steady horses are more fond of being ridden with spurs - and I mean properly with spurs not prodding them with them! Leg flexibility of riders is just one of the reasons these horses tend to do better being ridden with spurs (even just bumper spurs) because they are heel extenders for when you just can't get your leg to bend quite around that way. But more specifically, spurs can localize cues more specifically than an entire blunt foot.
PROBLEM #2: MISREPRESENTATION OF SLOWER HORSES The main obstacle to get over with slower moving horses is changing vocabulary.
Descriptive but not accurate vocabulary: Slow, Lazy, Plodding, Sluggish these words are more appropriate for describing day to day changes in a horse's behavior, not the overall speed of a horse.
More accurate vocabulary for non-forward horses: unhurried, deliberate, leisurely, unrushed, steady, measured, relaxed, cool-headed
Once you change your vocabulary you realize that you can more easily appreciate the horse's personality and understand how to work with them! I mean, who doesn't want to work with a relaxed and deliberate companion?!
PROBLEM #3: CHECK YOUR SEAT
Often these more deliberate companions are also more in tune with a rider's balance and seat. They make the best bridle-less companions as a result because they will respond to the slightest adjustment of your weight.
Thinking that speed comes only from legs is a huge problem for many of these horses. If you're kicking with all your might but your seat is dead and heavy, they will more likely listen to the breaks in your bottom than the momentum in your heels!