Episode 41: True Forward Motion in a Horse

“When we took our horses trail riding, they would go through the mud and the stream. These horses had learned true forward motion.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

When we become very familiar with a term, it can sometimes lose meaning. When I talk about a horse having a lack of forward motion or needing more forward motion what I’m actually talking about is the horses first response without resistance.

Symptoms of not having forward motion would be a sluggish walk and a sluggish upward transition from walk to trot or from trot to lope. It can also manifest itself in the horse refusing to cross mud or being hesitant to load in the trailer. It can even be not going over a tarp, entering an arena, or not leading down a trail.

This episode is all about forward motion with definitions and examples. Then I talk about how learning something hard can make things easier. In my segment with Dr. Monty, we mention the unmentionables.  

“Teaching a horse how to collect can be good for him physically and mentally, because he's learning how to use his body in a balanced way.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Show Notes:

[03:03] An example is a horse not walking into an arena. This is why it’s important to teach a horse to lope over a tarp. This helps overcome the resistance of doing something that might be a little bit uncomfortable. 

[04:04] I also got an email about a horse backing up when not appropriate.

[06:23] When we took our horses trail riding, they would go through the mud and the stream. These horses had learned true forward motion. 

[09:07] The horses trusted the work done in the arena, so they were confident to move forward on the trail.

[10:03] I want my horses to be purposeful and thoughtful, but still apply forward motion.

[11:06] Another example is horses that won’t enter an arena. These fast horses didn’t understand forward motion. 

[12:17] Hot horses don’t truly understand leg pressure and forward motion, because they don’t practice it very often. 

[15:22] When you avoid making contact and pressure on the reins, the horse doesn’t get a chance to learn higher level thinking. There’s no place for a horse to work on balancing their body if you don’t work on collection with them.

[19:06] A horse that isn’t allowed to learn might lean against the rider’s leg and not be truly forward. 

[21:53] Collection is taught through connection with the reins and the legs of the rider. 

[23:19] Teaching forward motion isn’t complicated. 

[29:07] When a rider becomes willing to make a connection with the reins, he can move forward under pressure with the horse. 

[31:11] Your horse can learn to go forward and become better for it. 

[32:36] You can teach a horse to become confident and overcome pressure. Teaching a horse to handle pressure might seem hard, but it makes their life easier in the end.

[33:52] Sheath and udder cleaning is our mystery subject with Dr. Monty. 

[35:04] Moisture buildup can lead to infection. These areas need to be cleaned to prevent infection. 

[36:54] Over cleaning can also cause irritation. You can use too many soaps and cleaners. 

[37:23] Dr. Monty doesn’t recommend using soap regularly. He recommends a product called Excalibur. 

[38:01] It’s not a bad idea to have a professional help with this or at least have an exam to see what is needed. 

“Horses become stronger and braver and more confident when taught higher-level concepts.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet 

Links and Resources:

Episode 38: Rewarding Physical and Mental Changes in Your Horse


Tennessee Equine Hospital



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If you want to learn more about this you can visit https://stacywestfall.com/live/ for more information!


  1. Cheyenne E Bramble on February 5, 2021 at 1:44 am

    I’m currently training a youngster- he will be 2 in a few months. I am trying to get him just to walk forward on a lead rope. I hate the idea of yanking on his poor face and it’s gotten to the point where I can push him from side to side but that is it. Is it disrespect for me? I’ve been told I baby him and thought this may be the case. Can I get some help?

  2. charlie renken on August 29, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I get really bored in the arena and my horses certainly pick up on it. I’m 56 (female ) do not show and work full time. I am the cofounder of RanchCritters.org and have very limited time with training. However, we now have so many oldies we’ve become a sanctuary which means I can spend more time on my few personal ones. I really would love to start showing in western Dressage and have enjoyed following you. I have all your videos!!! Look forward to learning more about the balanced and collected horse. I hope one day to meet you! I came in to horses late in life and I thank God he showed me Stacy Westfall first!! One day you might come to Texas so I can learn hands on from you….. ????

  3. charlie renken on August 29, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Stacy, you’re the BEST at explaining the whys horses do what they do how we can train them to understand.
    My question :
    Now that you are riding your horses in trails more often , are you balancing the training from arena / trail and if so what are the differences you are seeing now that you have accessibility to trails. Has it changed how you are training ?

    • Stacy Westfall on August 29, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad you can follow along with my thinking!
      I’ve been documenting the trail/arena balance in some of my episodes but I think it might deserve a ‘recap’ at the end of the year. I know that around October I will be mostly driven inside by rain, then hunting season, then snow.
      I love doing both and both have certain strengths. If I want to have a ‘fitness’ day I often go to the trails (weather permitting). I also go out there for fun. When I need to really focus I stay in the arena. When I need the footing to be very consistent for something I stay in the arena.
      I believe that the two are more closely related than many think…yet they both still have pros and cons.
      I can do WAY more training on the trail now that I have experience than I ever did in my youth.
      Weather permitting I take students on the trail and they are always blown away at the amount of opportunities there are to train.
      Probably the biggest thing the trail has given me is a way to build their fitness without going in so many circles. It’s hard to ride around and around for an hour at a walk in the arena. But I can go walk for two hours on the trail and never get bored. For building a base…the trail is awesome. Also, I’m spoiled with the amount of nice hills I have. Also great for fitness.
      Plus it is so fun!
      But…I would be seriously hindered without my arena…
      I love them both!

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