One topic always turns back in my clinics, that is how to ride a horse forward without riding fast.
So what is it about riding slow but forward? Use the forward thinking but don't hold the horse back, but keep it slow. Most of you probably have heard one of those sentences.
For me this forward drive is the positive working attitude in a horse. If you have to push every step out of a horse without any initiative from the horse it gets hard to communicate with light aids. Which is the goal after all.
But how do you get that? So many horses just go fast, or slow, run away from aides, get stressed or even ignore their rider. Forward doesn't mean running uncontrollable fast and not be able to have any influence, but a happy energetic horse that moves after his ability with lightness.
For me forward thinking has to do with the over all attitude of the horse towards his rider and what he is asking. So as differently the horses are, as different are the problems and their solutions.
In my mind it starts with our own attitude towards the horse and what we expect from it. So if we acknowledge every attempt of the horse to react the way we expect, it should be rewarded. That way the horse will try harder to understand our aids and we stay alert on reading the reactions and see improvements or where we have to train the horse better.
One possibility to check if your horse thinks forward without stress, is to slow down out of a faster gait to a slower gait and lengthen the reins. If the horse looses all impulse it is not yet thinking forward enough while it is also not the right forward if the horse rushes right back into the fast gait. In my training I try to achieve that a horse can stretch evenly into the rein connection while stepping active but relaxed.
Talking about forward riding we may never forget that every horse has a different energy level and speed range. So what is energetic fast forward for one horse is slow and energy less for an other.