This is a fun task we often teach our dogs. We call the horse toward us, then ask him to walk past our side, turn 180 degrees behind us and slot into the ‘heel’ position on our opposite side.
In the photo above, Boots has walked toward me, passed my left shoulder and is about to slot herself into position standing beside my right shoulder.
In the photo below, Boots has walked toward me, passed my right shoulder and is about to slot herself into position standing beside my left shoulder.
The horse walks to us, then past us, turning behind us to end up standing beside our shoulder.
- Horse and handler have developed a good WAIT. Number 65 in my Blog Contents List which you reach via the tab at the top of the home page.
- Horse responds readily to handler’s ‘recall’ signal. See Number 90 in my Blog Contents List: Recall and Back Up in Rhythm.
- Horse understands ‘walk on’ voice and gesture signals. See Number 16: Smooth ‘Walk On’ and ‘Halt’ Transitions and Number 68 in my Blog Contents List: 20 Steps Exercise. We want this in place so we can ask the horse to walk past us and around, rather than coming to halt in front of us.
- Horse has perfected the 180-degree turn. See Number 23 in my Blog Contents List: 180 Degree Turns.
- Horse and handler have developed clear WHOA signals in a variety of situations. See Number 33 in my Blog Contents List: Willing Response to a Voice Halt Signal.
#274 HorseGym with Boots: Recall to Heel. https://youtu.be/Giut6wim9KE
MATERIALS AND ENVIRONMENT
- A training area where the horse is relaxed and ideally can see his buddies, but they can’t interfere.
- Horse is not hungry.
- Horse and Handler are clicker savvy.
- Horse in a learning frame of mind.
- Halter and 12′ (4m) light lead-rope to start with.
- * Have the horse warmed up before asking for 180-degree turns.
- * You can also teach this using a target, but as is often the case, phasing out the target can present its own challenges if the horse’s mind is fixated on following the target. I prefer to teach with gesture, body language and voice signals, helped at first with a lead rope.
- * Check that your WAIT is in good shape.
- * Check that your RECALL is in good shape.
- * Check that your WALK ON gesture and voice signals are in good shape.
- * Check that your WHOA is in good shape.
- * Check that your 180-degree turns are in good shape and the horse knows your voice signal for turning (I use “Around”).
- * Devise a signal for asking the horse to walk on past you rather than halt in front of you. Practice this with another person standing in for the horse so you can get it fluent. I adapt my WALK ON arm/hand gesture that I use for walking on when we are shoulder-to-shoulder and that seems to work okay.
- * I use a halter and lead to initially teach things like this. I can use the lead rope to indicate that I want the horse to walk past me and then turn behind me. That means he never gets confused about what will earn his next click&treat. Once the horse realizes that the click&treat happens when he shows up on my other side, the lead rope is no longer necessary.
- Halter and light lead on the horse.
- Ask the horse to WAIT while you walk a few steps away in front of him. Turn, pause, then ask for a RECALL.
- Before the horse reaches you, signal with gesture and voice that you’d like him to walk on past you. As he does, step forward so it is easy for him to make a U-turn behind you. Then walk a couple of steps forward to draw him into a nice position alongside your opposite shoulder: click&treat.
- Teach it consistently on one side and when that is smooth, teach again from the beginning on the other side.
- As the horse gets fluid with this task, you can gradually not step forward as he comes around. But if he gets lost, always resume stepping forward so he is not ‘wrong’.
- Work at liberty.
- Work in new venues.
- Work on a slope.
- Recall across rails or through a gap/tunnel or over a tarp.
- Teach moving into the heel position after a recall without stepping around behind the handler.