When I first get on any horse, I would much rather him be a little hot than lazy. A lazy horse is actually much more prone to have a blow up because they have a dull mindset. These type horses are less able to handle pressure, so when you ask them to do something, it really goes against their grain. These tips will help you know how to change a lazy horse into a horse with life and desire.

Horses Live What They Learn

Many horses are TAUGHT to be lazy (among with many other bad habits). When the rider has a lazy riding technique, the horse tends to match that. The good news is, with the proper approach, a lazy horse can be livened up pretty quickly.

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I’m doing a free online training webinar covering the top 8 ways to screw up your horse. I’ll go over the things people do that hinder their horse’s confidence, willingness, and ability to learn.

Liven Up Yourself

Any time you are riding your horse, keep some life in your body. Even if you’re just walking along, don’t sit up there like a sack of potatoes. This will ruin a horse in a hurry. Move with your horse and don’t be a lazy horse rider. If you want him to walk faster, don’t sit on your pockets and pedal your horse with your legs. That will just frustrate you and your horse. Instead, really increase the life in YOUR body….your seat, your hands, your legs, and your reins. Your horse should walk along with his ears forward and the mindset that he has somewhere to go and something to do. If increasing your life does not increase his, then you need to show him what that means.

Give The Lazy Horse A Reason

Anytime you ask your horse to do something, first ask yourself, “What is his reason for responding to this cue?” If you are not giving him a reason to respond, then you should really not expect him to change what he is doing. 

Have you considered using spurs on your lazy or dull horse? Is that a good idea? Find out here: Do Spurs Hurt Horses?

Eliminate The Lazy Grey

If your horse doesn’t acknowledge this increase of life in your body and remains lazy and dull, then you need to give him a better reason to respond. To be fair to your horse, the light request always, always comes first. But if that is ignored, quickly increase the pressure with your legs and maybe use a spanker to help him know what this increase of life means. This is an example of being black and white and eliminating the grey areas. This is the best way to bring up the life in a lazy horse. The horse will not get lighter from you remaining to be light. He will only get lighter when you are willing to get heavy, in a fair way, so that he can actually understand what he needs to do.

Click here to learn more about proper timing, when to be light, and when to get heavy.

Heaviness Brings Lightness In A Lazy Horse

After a few times of increasing the pressure, the horse will begin to respond to the lighter request. With good and consistent timing, the horse will start to immediately make a change from the first light cue. He will beat you to the increased pressure so that it is no longer necessary. 

Eliminate The Lazy Horse Trot

The same principle would apply when you want the horse to transition from a walk to a trot. First extend the walk like we talked about already, and then ask for more. Don’t settle for a lazy horse with a dull, delayed response. Doing this will not simply teach the horse to physically speed up. It will also really help his mentality and attitude. You are creating impulsion in his body and his mind. When he does speed up, be sure to not get in his way with your reins. Allow him to freely move out and go somewhere. Ride your horse. Make sure the life in your body increases with his speed and vice versa. 

More details about extending the trot here: The Value Of An Extended Trot

His Life Matches Your Life

If you and your horse can get to the place where the life in his body matches the life in your body, then slowing down and stopping will become very easy. When the life in your body decreases, the horse will learn to match that and come down to a walk. If that doesn’t happen, then tip his nose with a rein until the feet slow. The instant the feet do slow, give it back to him and let him travel freely. Get in his way and then get out of his way. Continue to do that and you will soon find that he is aware of when your body speeds up and when it slows down. 


A great exercise for a lazy horse is up/down speed transitions. Slow walk, fast walk, slow trot, extended trot, slow lope, fast lope and then back to a walk. Change the gait and speed of each gait often.  But make sure the transitions are not dull and lagging. Expect the life to come up immediately when you ask for it. When you ask him to slow back down or stop, you will never jerk on the horse. Present a light feel and, if that is ignored, go from one ounce to ten pounds of pressure smoothly and quickly to show him what you mean. 

Backs And Turns

You can also use the same concept to bring up the life when your horse is backing or turning so that he is no longer lazy about either one. When the horse’s lazy mindset is changed to a lively mindset, it carries over to everything he does.

Backing your horse is one of the best exercises there is for building strength and balance.

It’s Never Too Late

Teaching your horse to have a ‘go somewhere’ mindset will be one of the most important lessons he will learn. It should be built into them from the first ride on a colt, but if your horse has lived with a lazy mindset for years, it’s never too late to change that around.

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.