Resistance in horses can be a habit of poor behavior. Your horse may not be intentionally resistant or ignoring your commands. It doesn't matter what event or activity you're engaged in, if you feel like your horse is locked into a line you don't like or going a direction you haven't asked for, it's time to get busy. Get him busy with a productive distraction.
Change something. Change everything.
I love to slow things down (in this type of situation) and start turning using rollbacks, small circles, multiple direction changes, gate changes, speed changes, and body position changes.
Recently, WPH hosted two flag work classes and had two great groups of people come in. These classes were intended to use a mechanical flag (cow) to help build more responsive horses. One of the mares in the group had been mostly trained as a barrel horse and was pretty intense.
We started off just moving the flag, slowly, and showing this horse how to move with it both directions and stop with it. In cutting it's all about the relationship between horse and cow.
Every time this horse came to a stop she would slam to the stop, drop her hocks, slam her chin to her chest, and drop her shoulders, ignoring the "cow" (flag) completely. We'd have to restart the relationship with the cow all over again after every stop. It was time to get busy. She needed a productive distraction.
I told the rider to keep her horse's nose toward the cow. I was running the button, so I kept her and her horse moving. The rider would point her horse to face the cow and step forward. I'd start the cow; the rider would start her horse and go left or right without hesitation - back and forth they went. We tried to break every routine the horse had been getting locked into by using different distances and speeds.
After just a few minutes of this distraction, her horse started getting curious about what might be next. She continued to use her hocks like she had been, but she stopped slamming her face and chin down. She would look at the cow as she stopped, keeping her head up where she could see it. She got willing to take back up steps and make the crossover steps in her rollbacks. She would look for the cow and what it would do next. In short, she got better.
If you're "flat riding" a flag isn't an option, but keeping your horse busy is. Get creative and keep them thinking. Move your horse, turn them, change directions, change speeds, ride small circles, pull them left and right; get your horse to "wait" on your commands.
Using productive distractions helps to refocus your horse's mind on you. Each situation can be different and can require different "distractions". Choosing a specific exercise can be a good start to refocusing your horse, but don't get stuck on a one-track option. Keep your horse busy and use the space you have around you, keeping in mind that you are looking for your horse to wait on your cues and respond smartly.
For more training tips and insights, sign up for WPH emails and be first to know about upcoming classes.