Movement Routine 9 – Fence as Focus

Photo: changing direction by targeting shoulder-to-hand.


This routine combines quite a sophisticated series of tasks. Putting it together encourages the handler to make signals are as clear as possible. It encourages the horse to be mentally alert and as physically adept as possible. It wasn’t possible to do warm-up activities with Boots before my videographer was available for the first video clip. Doing general warm-up first is always recommended.


To link a series of tasks into a sequence: stand together politely, back away from handler, recall, target shoulder to hand, lateral movement, walk-on signals from behind the withers.


  1. ‘Walk on’ and ‘halt’ transitions staying shoulder-to-shoulder. (Smooth Walk and Halt transitions:
  2. Horse and Handler have developed good table manners standing quietly together. ‘Zero Intent’ and ‘Intent’:
  3. Horse and handler agree on a back-up signal when face-to-face. This clip is in my ‘Backing Up’ playlist. March 2018 Challenge: Backing Up Part 1;
  4. Horse and handler agree on a recall signal.
  5. The horse understands targeting the shoulder to your hand. Target Shoulder to Hand:
  6. Horse understands bringing hip toward hand while moving forward. Targeting Hindquarters to Our Hand;
  7. Horse and handler have a ‘move away from me please’ signal paired with a ‘whoa’ signal while behind the horse. #213 HorseGym with Boots: Send & Halt;
  8. Triple Treat: #16 HorseGym with Boots:


  • A work area where the horse is relaxed and confident.
  • Ideally, the horse can see his buddies, but they can’t interfere.
  • The horse is not hungry.
  • Halter and lead at least 3m (12′) long. I find using light cord works well, or a cut down light lunge line.
  • A safe fence or similar barrier.


#205 HorseGym with Boots: Routine 9: Fence as Focus;


#206 HorseGym with Boots: Routine 9: Fence at Liberty;


  1. Ensure confidence with each task before starting to link them together. If things don’t go to plan, do a quiet reset and start again.
  2. Link pairs of tasks at first, then add the first pair to the second pair, and so on.
  3. First, memorize the sequence of events by walking the pattern without the horse or ask a person to stand in for the horse.
  4. Use a rate of reinforcement (how often you click&treat) that keeps your horse being continually successful as much as possible. As he learns the routine, ask for a bit more before the next click&treat but always be prepared to click&treat more often if the horse needs you to clarify your intent.


  1. Walk along shoulder-to-shoulder with the horse nearest the fence.
  2. Halt and stand together quietly for up to ten seconds before the click&treat.
  3. Step around to face the front of the horse and ask for several steps of backing up and halt. Eventually aim for ten steps back while you keep your own feet still. When first teaching this, go to the horse to deliver a click&treat for the backing, then return to where you were.
  4. Ask the horse to ‘wait’ for up to ten seconds while he is away from you. Increase the time gradually, going to him to deliver a click&treat during the teaching stage.
  5. Ask for a recall. Click&treat when he reaches you. Eventually you will be able to do tasks 3, 4 and 5 with only one click&treat after the recall, but to begin with these are three distinct tasks.
  6. Move in front of the horse to face him, ask him to walk forward toward you as you walk backwards, then use your ‘hindquarters toward me’ signal to ask for lateral movement toward you as you step backwards. Be happy with a few steps at first. Gradually ask for more steps as the horse develops these muscles over time.
  7. After the click&treat for 6, ask the horse to change direction by targeting his shoulder to your hand.
  8. Repeat 6 in the opposite direction.
  9. Relax and lead the horse to line up next to the fence. Halt with the horse nearest the fence and the handler standing just behind the horse’s withers.
  10. Ask the horse to ‘walk on’ away from you with a voice signal and/or a touch signal behind the withers. The idea is not to move your own feet. Celebrate even one step forward away from you. Gradually, over multiple sessions ask for more steps, one step at a time. I like to teach an auxiliary touch signal on the rump for ‘walk on’, which is useful for long-reining or driving. See Prerequisite 7.
  11. Celebrate the end of the sequence with a Triple Treat or jackpot.


  • Practice in different venues if you can.
  • When it is super smooth with rope and halter, play at liberty.
  • Move away from the fence to do the routine.
  • Chain the tasks in a different order.



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