How do we get our horses supple?

We all hear about horses being soft and supple, but what does this mean?

With our horses we are looking for a horse that follows our lead without resistance and stiffness. Softness is when the horse gives to the bit with the lightest pressure. He is willing to follow your direction from the bit. Suppleness is when you can shape your horse and move their body without resistance. So how do we achieve this goal? Through patience and repetition we can achieve this goal!

So the first question that I ask myself is “what am I asking my horse to do?”

If I can answer this question then I know we can achieve our goal. Am I asking to turn right, turn left, stop, backup, move his ribs, move his forequarters, move his hindquarters? When I know what I’m asking for then I can decide what cue I want to use to get that body part to move. I then apply that cue and when he moves that body part I release that cue. The reward is that the pressure goes away. Remember horses learn from the release of pressure NOT from the pressure itself. Let the horse have a minute then ask him again. Use the same method and rewarding when he
finds the correct answer. With repetition he will learn to move this body part more easily and with more cadence and suppleness. In the beginning your horse will feel stiff and not want to move well, but as you continue repeating the lesson he will get more practice and softer. So the hard part is patience and making sure you are rewarding your horse at the correct time!!! We want to reward the slightest try and keep working towards our end goal.

Training tips:

When your horse shows you an improvement in an exercise that he is struggling with then you want to reward him. So break up the training session and go for a little walk to another part of the arena or field. Then ask again until you get a small improvement . Then move again and repeat. You don’t want to work on an exercise you are teaching for more than 15 min at a time. If you get stuck find some improvement, then move on to something else, and come back later to repeat your exercise.


1 % improvement in your horses softness and suppleness with the body part you are working on. This adds up over time and you will find your horse will try to give you even more once they understand the exercise. Remember training takes time. Good horses don’t come that way, they are made through good leadership. So be patient and reward their try. Be specific with your goals and through repetition your horse will become more soft and supple.


Dawn Chambers
Chambers Horsemanship
Multiple World and National Gypsy Championships in Open and Youth Divisions
Follow us on FB at Chambers Horsemanship

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