How do you know if your horse is dull to your riding aids?
If it takes more than a quarter of a lap around the arena for your horse to respond to your request most likely your horse is dull to your riding aids.
How did my horse become dull to my riding aids?
We've all experienced in life where we ask for something and nothing happens. We continue to ask and still nothing happens. At some point we give up and stop asking. With horses, we either give up, get distracted, or get so frustrated we have to give up so as not to get into a fight with our horse. Over time the horse learns that by ignoring the rider the horse doesn't have to do what the rider asks.
So how do I get my horse to respond to my cues again?
The magic words in natural horsemanship are "use the least amount to get the most response." Well, sometimes you need to "kick" your horse to get a response out of him. Do you do this all the time? Absolutely not! Each time you work with a progression of cues to get the desired response. If you always work with a progression, then pretty soon you'll find that you need less and less cueing to get the desired result. Your progression of cues should take seconds, not laps around the arena. Consider it like dance steps: one, two, three, four. Perhaps it takes up to eight before your horse will trot. Next time, see if he will trot by six or seven and continue to raise the expectation from your horse. If you are consistent in your cueing, and don't give up, no matter how tired you become, then your horse will learn to respect and listen to your cues. And pretty soon your horse will be trotting by step four or even two.
In working to improve your horse's response to your riding aids, if you are very clear about what you want, you're solid in your request, then you'll see your horse improve with time to your riding aids. You can always go back to groundwork to re-establish your leadership role in the relationship.
First and foremost - ensure your horse is physically sound and capable of doing what you are asking him to do. If not, consult your veterinarian. If so, incorporate your intention and visualization into your riding aids and communication with your horse to enhance your partnership and results.