Steering problems on XC course?

It’s about time that I’ve gotten opinions on current things with my horse, so here we go 😂 I took my horse out on the cross country course yesterday. He’s always good on his trail rides out there where we just walk around and hang out, etc. Yesterday was the first time I’d ever jumped him out there (we did some little intro logs) and he did really well for a horse who hasn’t really done much jumping recently, or at all. I had no doubts that he couldn’t do it but I knew he might not be the greatest at it, so he kind of exceeded my expectations and took care of me.

However, when we were out there we started having some steering issues similar to what he used to do in the arena before my trainer helped me work through it (my trainer is currently out of town). For example- he’d bend his neck one way and proceed to trot or canter the other way (think like a c-shape). I tried to bend his head back around and straighten him out with my outside leg and rein, but it didn’t help - though I’ll admit, I should’ve been more assertive.

I was wondering if maybe the issue was that he wanted to go home as when he started to ignore me, it was as we were passing the horses and pasture he usually is in. Another time was by the exit of the cross country course.

Could be just a coincidence. Does anyone have any tips for working on this? I’ll consult my trainer but I just wanted some opinions first. I was thinking to maybe take him to the other end of the course where he’s got no specific reason like going home to “act out” and work on steering with circles, serpentines, etc - making sure he’s paying attention to me. Could this possibly help?

*note: he went straight over the jumps until he started doing this. After he started ignoring me he tried to go to the side of the jump. Eventually I got him to go over straight but we still had some problems by his paddock and the XC entry/exit. We didn’t have problems anywhere else except for a few instances, where he’d start to canter sideways off the track.

I’m also thinking stronger leg in general.

More leg, and a better response to that leg. You need to learn to take your leg off, and return it with a bump, so there is no question of what you want.

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There’s a sign in our barn, “More leg is always the answer.” He probably just had some “new exciting thing” jitters. It’s always easier to school when they’re game but just need brought back down to earth a little - like you said, schooling exercises to get his attention back to you. My guy is a little like that; he goes flat in a loose ring and jumps in a full cheek - it just gives a little extra stability and guidance with steering.

If he wants to go sideways, send him forward. That doesn’t mean go FAST forward. Think of riding dressage when this happens, put him on the bit a little and ride his whole body not just trying to steer his neck.

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Carry a stick and crack him on the shoulder when he does that. He’s ignoring you. More leg will just move his body over-you want to keep him straight and for that his shoulders need to be square.


When I have a horse doing these things, I just keep asking until they comply - recently attempting to turn a horse left and she was worried about life so thought that was a bad idea - head turned left, basically sidepassing right. I just kept the pressure on until she gave in and turned left. We were in the indoor so the wall helped.

If I have a horse start to not listen to me out and about, I will often do dressage work, specifically bending/figure 8’s until they listen. I will use jumps and other obstacles (trees and bushes come to mind) to help imitate what the indoor wall does in the above scenario.

I also agree with sending him forward - don’t try to pull and fight, but send forward and so what if you are going sideways for a bit - if he trips because he isn’t listening to you maybe he will listen better next time.

Funny story, I was starting a 2 year old without any arena at all. We had a round pen but had gotten past the round pen stage and were doing some trot work in this flat area near a creek. Well, I told her to turn right, she disagreed and a few strides later fell right down the small hill into the creek. She never argued with me again.

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More leg. Mine does this when he gets distracted. Sometimes is like galloping a squirrel. If he doesn’t respond to leg, a little "hey, I’m up here’ tap on the should with the crop. If that doesn’t work, grab mane and pop him once behind the leg or on the butt. Send him forward and put him to work.

Most likely totally had to do with wanting to go to the safety of familiar for him…barn, paddock and the gate he knows is the exit. VERY common. But it really doesn’t matter why. You have to get him not to ignore you by being more assertive. Leg…stick on shoulder he is popping out…same things you probably had to do in the arena before. Working out there with a buddy and/or your trainer will help.

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Like bfne says - - It IS a relatively common reaction, but no fun to ride a horse going in a ‘c’.

Like a horse suddenly spinning on a trail to go home - it’s an evasion and they will get over it - sort of like page 3 of the horsey training manual.

Break everything into tiny bits and not expect too much until he gets it. Do you have anybody to go out with - pretty soon
he will be so keen, instead of worried, and then you have a worse problem, so don’t hurry it.

Flatwork is the answer to everything. Stick is to back up leg - not to hit or frighten.

I don’t usually offer advice - but this is something I’ve come across with green horses and pretty soon they are going like hunters, whoa and go.

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ROFL!!! This is such a great young horse shenanigan! I think of all the bushes/trees/barns I’ve been drug through on a baby because steering is hard. It’s like they have this lightbulb moment that, “I can turn my head this way, but then my feet can go THIS way!! I’m a genius!” And we have to gently explain that the shoulder, and even the rest of their body, must also turn as directed. 😂

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