RECALL & BACK UP IN RHYTHM

INTRODUCTION

Having smooth ways of asking a horse to back away from us and to come toward us on request is worth its weight in gold. We teach each of these separately and then meld them together into rhythmic dance steps to use as a suppling exercise.

AIM

The horse distinguishes clearly between our signals for backing up and coming toward us (recall) and readily repeats a few steps of each in a rhythmic fashion.

PREREQUISITES

  1. Horse has learned a solid WAIT. See Number 65 in my Blog Contents List at https://herthamuddyhorse.com/2020/12/16/the-wait-game/
  2. Handler has developed clear, consistent back-up signals so the horse backs up readily when face-to-face with the handler. See Number 40 in my Blog Contents List for details about teaching backing up. https://herthamuddyhorse.com/2020/02/02/finesse-back-up/

VIDEO

#271 HorseGym with Boots: Recall & Back with Rhythm. https://youtu.be/7TVgr6_oXlI

The next clip puts together the first four slow-dancing moves we’ve worked on: Bow, Line Dance in position, Do-si-do to change sides, Rhythmic back-up and recall.

MATERIALS AND ENVIRONMENT

  • Handler in a relaxed frame of mind.
  • Two or more rails. Low markers at the ends of the rails can be helpful at the beginning. A safe fence is also helpful to keep the horse straight.
  • Halter 12′ (4m) long, light lead during the teaching process.

NOTES

  1. Before starting this task, we need a solid WAIT (Prerequisite 1).
  2. We first teach a solid face-to-face back-up in a variety of situations using a high rate of reinforcement, so it becomes a favorite task for the horse. Ideally, we do a little bit every time we are with the horse (Prerequisite 2).
  3. The slices in this training plan outline teaching the recall and then putting the recall and back-up together in a rhythmic way.
  4. Teach everything on both sides of the horse.
  5. Use a rate of reinforcement that keeps the horse continually successful.
  6. Essential to keep a float (smile) in the rope unless using it momentarily to clarify our intent for the horse.
  7. Keep sessions short in among other things you are doing with the horse.

SLICES

  1. Set up your rails (or hose or rope) as in the photo in the Introduction. Use a fence on one side if you can.
  2. Walk the horse parallel to the ground rails furthest from the fence, while you walk between the rails and the fence. At the end of the rails, ask him to make a U-turn toward the fence and step into the lane created by the fence and rails. Walk backwards to draw the horse to you. Click&treat when he reaches you. The fence will encourage him to make a precise U-turn rather than a loose and sloppy one. Set the width of the gap to suit the horse’s current flexibility.
  3. Gradually send him around the end of the rail from further away, as illustrated in the video clip, until you can stay with your feet stationary at one end of a rail.
  4. As he makes each U-turn, add a consistent voice signal. I say “Around” for the turn.
  5. As he begins to come toward you, develop a clear, consistent body language signal and a voice signal. I say “Come In” for the recall and bring both arms forward and down to make a round shape with my arms.
  6. When it all feels smooth, use a pair of rails away from a fence.
  7. When 6 is ho-hum, use just one rail.
  8. When 7 is ho-hum, use just a low marker to send the horse ‘around’.
  9. Now we want to tidy up our WAIT task so we can ask the horse to stay parked while we walk away – so we can recall him (Prerequisite 1).
  10. Once the recall is solid in lots of situations, we want to either teach or polish our back-up while we are face-to-face with the horse (Prerequisite 2).
  11. Once we have clear, consistent back-up body language and voice signals established, and the horse responds willingly, we can begin to put the back-up and the recall together in a rhythmic fashion.
  12. Set up two parallel rails about a meter apart. Ask the horse to wait at one end of the rails; click&treat. Then ask him to recall between the rails; click&treat. Walk a loop together and repeat a couple of times.
  13. Ask the horse to walk between the rails and halt between the rails. Then ask him to back up a step or two; click&treat. Then another step or two; click&treat. Then recall him forward again, between the rails. Walk a loop and reset a couple of times.
  14. When it feels right, ask for a recall; click&treat, then ask for a back-up; click&treat. Work with just a few steps at first. As the horse becomes more adept, gradually increase the number of steps, but stay within the horse’s ability.
  15. Ask the horse to walk with you almost all the way through the lane of rails so you can ask for the back-up first; click&treat. Then recall; click&treat.
  16. Once 15 is smooth, chain together one back-up and one recall before the click&treat (or one recall and one back-up).
  17. Work toward chaining two repeats of back and recall. Then maybe three repeats before the click&treat. But always stay within the horse’s capability. Rushing will wreck things.
  18. When it is ho-hum using the parallel rails, do the task without them. Go back to Slice 14 and work forward from there.

GENERALIZATION

  1. Play with it in different venues.
  2. Play on a slope.
  3. Add one or more rails which the horse crosses during the recall and back-up.

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