Dealing with a Nappy Horse or Pony - Stop Napping

A nappy horse is one that will not move freely forwards in the direction that you require. Once he has stopped at a given point he may run backwards, spin round or even rear.

There may be a genuine reason for the problem of napping, or the horse or pony may simply be disodedient and "trying it on".

Napping in horses and ponies can take many forms:

  • Refusing to leave the stable yard without another horse for company
  • A horse may go some distance then stop dead and refuse to go forward
  • The horse or pony may stop then rear, buck or run backwards and turn for home
  • When ridden in a field or manege the horse may persistently nap towards the gate or stable.
  • Often a nappy horse will go anywhere as long as another horse accompanies him - but will refuse to go out alone or to leave his companion

Whatever variation of equine napping you have to cope with, a nappy horse can be frustrating, dangerous and unpleasant to ride. But with patience it is possible to cure this problem and stop your horse napping.


  • Ill fitting tack can cause discomfort or even pain causing him to nap.
  • Check that your horse is sound - imagine how you would feel if you had to walk or run with a stone in your shoe or blister on your heel.
  • The horse or pony may be trying to tell you something. Does he only nap when you try to go into a field that you use for jumping or schooling? You may be asking too much of your horse for his level of training. 
  • Lack of confidence. It is possible that a horse has never been asked to go out on his own before and is genuinely scared. 
  • Confusion - you may be telling you horse one thing with your hands and another with you legs - causing him to nap. Try not to block forward movement with your hands. 
  • Danger - Your horse or pony may have scented real danger ahead and stopping is his way of preserving his safety - and yours!

If you can discount all the above reasons and your horse still won't go where you want him to without arguments, then he is probably being disobedient - but possibly as a result of bad training or a rider previously ignoring the above conditions.


If you are a nervous or novice rider, get a more experienced rider to ride your horse a few times. If they do not have the same problems as you it would be worth having regular lessons on your horse to find out what you are doing wrong and put it right

  • If your horse lacks the confidence to hack out alone, ride out with a companion to help him to gain confidence and get over this.
    Ask your horse to stop while your friend rides on ahead for 20 yards or so before stopping. Then ride up to your friend and go past before stopping further along and allow your companion to catch up.
    Continue this leapfrogging - making the distances longer each time.
    When you first try to turn your horse in a different direction from his companions, turn him towards home while his friends continue. If he will not leave them - make him stand still while they leave him.
  • Ride more determinedly to get the message across that you will not tolerate disobedience. Confident riding from you will create confidence in the horse - don't flap and fuss! Horses hate this and will take advantage of a weak ineffective rider.
  • If there is a place where your horse naps regularly take a firm hold of him before you get there and have him concerntrating on you. A light slap down the shoulder can show him that you are ready for him - although some horses will resent this and slam the brakes on immediately. You must get to know your horse and treat him as an individual.
  • Turn your horse's head away from the object it is napping from and use your outside leg strongly behind the girth, backed up with your stick if necessary.
  • Sometimes if your horse or pony stops dead at an imaginary horror, you can fool him into passing it by turning him around and backing him past it. However this is not advisable if your horse has a tendency to rear.
  • Another tactic to try if your horse refuses to go forward for no good reason is to turn him quickly in very small circles. This will distract him. After a few turns ride him on strongly - and remember to reward him and make a lot of fuss if he does go forward.
  • Some horses are better ridden quietly and tactfully. If they stop, sometimes the only cure is to sit and wait until they get bored and are ready to go forward. This may take some time - even hours. But many horses once subjected to this a couple of times will often never try napping again.
  • If your horse naps and won't go forwards, asking for reinback and then repeating the request to go on may inspire obedience.


When riding a nappy horse tip the odds in your favour as much as possible:

  • Pick your route to avoid heavy traffic, slippery roads, deep ditches and barbed wire.
  • Don't ride your horse at the time it is usually fed.
  • Spurs may help. But only use them if you can control your legs - and your temper.
  • Don't start a battle with your horse unless you are confident of seeing it through.

Advice about managing a nappy horse that will not move freely forwards.
Actions to take to prevent napping in a horse or pony