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Moiya with a Loose Rein

Counter Intuitive

The temperature dropped here in Central Ohio this week, in addition to getting a little bit of snow. Lessons were cancelled, so I’ve spent some extra time mulling over a few recent rides on Moiya. I’ve come to the conclusion that Moiya is a counter-intuitive ride, which is one of the things that makes her so difficult. Well, that and the fact that she’s sensitive and opinionated. But today I want to focus on some of the things that I’ve learned over the last few months about riding Moiya that seem… well… the opposite of what I would first think to do.

Moiya Trot on the Forehand

Add Leg

One of Moiya’s evasions is rooting: where she puts her head and practically lays her head and neck on the bit. It has the effect of pulling the rider forward and makes me want to pull her back up with my hands. But instead, what works is adding more leg. If I push her forward, she picks her head up on her own and we go on as if nothing happened.

Sometimes Moiya comes out a little hot and spooky. Know what works great to get her to focus on me instead of everything else? You guessed it: adding leg. Making her walk and trot correctly, stretching over back and pushing from her hind end really holds her attention well and also tires her out faster so she’s more agreeable to what I’m asking. You know, it’s like when you get an AWESOME PACKAGE in the mail and you can’t wait to open it, so you totally miss what your husband was saying about work. I’m just too damn excited to listen. Moiya gets like that too.

Moiya Rooting
Rooting is NOT an attractive look, Moiya

Let Go

Moiya spooks by tucking her ass and running. Sometimes she celebrates after a course by taking an impromptu victory gallop. When this happens I want to pull back and/or curl up into the fetal position. Neither of which are helpful for both staying on the horse OR getting her to stop. What does help is if I just stretch up and let go of the reins. Cause if we’re in a pulling match, I’m never going to win.

Along similar lines, I always have to be first to let go. When I half halt, I pull back, release the tension and THEN Moiya slows down. You always have to be the one to trust first… she won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. But if you’re willing to say “I know you know, so go ahead” then later, she’s willing to say “Oh, you did that wrong, but it’s okay.” Ah, the minds of mares!

Moiya with a Loose Rein
Floppy reins = happy Moiya

Be Firm

I talked a little bit about this before, but Moiya is a sensitive and opinionated horse. I used to think that meant I needed to be as “quiet” as possible with my aids, and try to stay out of her way. While that’s certainly true when Moiya is behaving and focused on what I’m on asking, she’s not always that way; sometimes she ignores me. Sometimes she doubts what I want, almost as if she’s asking “are you sure?” And then I need to be firm. I need to be definite. Sometimes that means I don’t whisper. But she never gets mad about it, as long as it’s done at the right time.


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

17 thoughts to “Counter Intuitive”

  1. Good post! It’s amazing how a lot of times what we want to do when we naturally react has the opposite effect. Nibbles is the same way when she’s fussy in the contact. I naturally want to fiddle with her face because that’s where the “problem is.” But that’s not it at all. In reality, she’s strung out behind and dropping her back – I need to address her hind end by adding leg. Crazy!

  2. I can definitely relate to this. I feel like I often get “tricked” into taking leg off but what I really need to do is keep my leg on and then offer a release then Annie ends up reaching into the bridle softly instead of rooting or pulling. 🙂

  3. I think that mares tend to be the master teachers of everything you mentioned above. Most horses are, but mares tend to be a bit more extreme about it. Indy and other mares I have owned/ridden sound a lot like Moira. I’m glad that she is teaching you so much!

  4. Lol she sounds a LOT like Holly, truly mare behaviors I guess. Most of what you say to do is what my trainer is constantly telling at me to do. Although sometimes we do a sharp upward rein and / or backup when she’s really trying to drag me downward with that head. Reminds her she has her whole back half to carry weight too.

  5. Those are such hard lessons to learn but very much the gateway to being a rider vs a passenger! My little pony Finn is the same way (I think he’s a mare trapped in a gelding’s body) and if you take your leg off he gets worse instead of better. It’s a hard lesson to learn but so glad you have such a great partner with Mioya to work with 🙂

  6. The running joke at my barn is that my solution to every problem is “more leg”! Horse is heavy in the contact? More leg! Horse is above the bit? More leg! Horse is bucking? More leg! Horse is running away from you? More leg! The kids who ride Moe and Gina hear me yell “MORE LEG” at them constantly. 😛

    Sounds like Moiya is doing a great job as a teacher!

  7. Honestly, most of that is how horses SHOULD go! Although when Jampy runs away with me (which he thinks is great fun and tries often) I do need to pull back. But not in the fetal position. More in the my-head-may-be-touching-his-tail sort of way… But when he’s a little odd and runs away with his head in the air, not pulling on me. Oh horses….
    Sounds like Moiya is a great teacher! I bet you’re seeing a big difference in how you ride Miles just from all the time you’re spending with Moiya.

  8. Knight used to be a bad “rooter,” especially going to the right. He’s getting more consistent in the contact, but it’s still a workout to keep him together. Who needs those adductor and abductor weight machines at the gym?!?! Surely not us equestrians!

  9. ha i love it! she sounds a little similar to my mare in some ways, and adding leg + letting go is definitely not always my first reaction… but it works better than anything else!

  10. Great ideas. My Appendix QH is super spooky and sensitive. Those types of horses will teach you the most so hang in there! Make sure you loosen up and don’t get stiff, you want to move with the horse when they tend to spook at random things. If they act spooky and fresh, I’ve found that counter bending at the walk and trot really make the horse listen to you because it’s a bit difficult for a horse to do and it gets them moving. Sensitive horses are great learners. Use it to your advantage and make sure you have a big difference between contact and no contact, and when they give and become soft a good release comes in handy. 🙂 Sounds like you have a good game plan so keep it up!

  11. Oh Moiya. Silly mare! When in doubt add more leg. I love that you’ve had the opportunity to ride/lease her. Your posts now seem so much different. It’s very clear that your confidence has grown.

  12. Mares! I once rode my sisters mare at a one day event, and if you have any contact on cross country she just braces against you and bolts. You have to just leave her be and she picks her own pace.
    So embarrassing going around that course at full speed just flying at jumps unable to stop/turn circle or anything. I was so red in the face for two reasons: I was tired and we looked like out of control hoon-dogs haha!

    I’ll stick to geldings! Good on you for figuring out them tricky females!

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