Horse Training: What is Nagging and Over-Correcting?

By Karen Lee

I teach a lot and I had a student say she did not want to nag her horse. What is the difference between nagging and correcting your horse?

Nagging is a funny word, not one I usually use. I usually say the hardest working rider is the one that corrects just under the amount required to make a change in the horse. This is usually done by someone who is a little more sensitive than their horse. Once the rider understands that the sensitivity of the ride is determined by the sensitivity of the horse, they usually increase their correction to an appropriate level.

Over-correcting is a problem with some riders as well. This is the rider who wants respect and they want it now. There is no discussion and that is final. The problem is that the horse will do what is asked of him or her but they end up looking mechanical and dead in their eyes. That is not really what we are after either.

The rider who makes appropriate corrections is the rider who uses enough correction to get the job done but does it in a conversational way. Basically telling the horse he or she is not trying enough and they should consider using themselves a little more. For example an assertive rider will touch lightly with the whip and if no response is felt will go to a medium touch before going further up the scale.  In this way the horse knows he or she needs to try harder but is not afraid of the rider.

Sometimes we see very skilled riders coming in with very hard corrections. When they do this most of the time and their horses look mechanical at best. If the rider is very skilled. they may do the requirements very well but their horse never seems to enjoy their job.  The advanced riders have a huge responsibility to correct in a proper amount. The beginning and intermediate riders copy your behavior.

Have a great ride every time – both rider and the horse!


Karen Lee has trained and shown dressage horses for over 25 years. She is a USDF bronze and silver medalist and is comfortable teaching all levels of riders. Karen has taught from beginner Pony Club and 4-H youth all the way up to beginner and advanced adults. Visit her blog http://hayriverdressage.blogspot.com,