In the photo above I am doing my twirl at the same time as Boots is doing her twirl. She is always careful to keep an eye and ear back so she knows where I am. As soon as she comes around to face me again she earns a click&treat.
The ‘twirl’ in this context is a turn on the forequarters. A ‘spin’ usually describes a turn on the hindquarters.
It’s great fun to recall our horse and ask him to do a twirl as he comes in. Once Boots knew this task, she enjoyed showing it off, at walk and trot.
The Twirl is the last task of the dance sequence we worked on for the year. Now we can chain all the tasks together. At first we did the tasks in the same order each time. Eventually we could mix them up.
- To have the horse able to remain calm and connected when we touch a rope to his legs and wrap a rope around his body.
- As the horse recalls at liberty, we have a signal for the horse to do one or more twirls during his approach.
- As usual, we must have each of the prerequisites in excellent shape so we can smoothly build this multi-part task.
- Horse is relaxed with a long rope moved along and wrapped around his body and tossed over his head. #22 HorseGym with Boots: Rope Relaxation. https://youtu.be/6Y34VlUk0Iw. And #121 HorseGym with Boots: Stick & String Confidence. https://youtu.be/WIpsT4PPiXo
- Horse and handler have developed a good WAIT. Number 65 in my Blog Contents List. (The link to this is at the top of the page).
- Horse responds readily to handler’s ‘recall’ signal. Number 90 in my Blog Contents List. This training plan details mainly teaching the recall. https://herthamuddyhorse.com/2022/05/01/recall-back-up-in-rhythm/. Also: Simple Recall Part 1 at https://youtu.be/XuBo07q8g24. And #240 HorseGym with Boots: Wait and Recall. https://youtu.be/_gxXZ7J7eAE
#256 HorseGym with Boots: Teaching the Twirl. https://youtu.be/tenhwp6tQmI
MATERIALS AND ENVIRONMENT for THE TWIRL
- 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.
- Handler is relaxed.
- Halter and long lunge line or similar, long enough to wrap right around the horse.
- As with all our training, this is a task to build up slowly over time, so the horse looks forward to it because it results in a click&treat that he enjoys.
- Two or three repeats each training session is plenty. Over weeks and months, it will become a solid part of your repertoire.
- If things don’t go well, work out which of the prerequisites needs more development. Complex interactions with our horse simply consist of the basics done really well.
- The beginning of video #256 shows a fun way of doing a twirl using a food lure. But I don’t recommend this. To teach a twirl while the horse is moving toward us, or even from a halt standing in front of us, it is much easier for the horse to understand if food only appears at the end of the twirl via a regular click&treat.
- Often the most recent thing we are working with becomes the horse’s favorite thing to show off. Be aware that your horse may want to show off his twirl when you are not prepared for it, especially if other people are nearby. He can run his butt into you without meaning to. Also, other people might be threatened when the horse offers to move his butt this way. In other words, be prompt about putting the twirl ‘on signal’ or ‘on cue’. Don’t reward it unless you’ve asked for it.
- Once the horse is comfortable with a rope touching him all over his body (Prerequisite 1), attach one end to his halter and bring the rope around behind him and along his other side as shown in the video clip.
- Ask the horse to wait with the rope around him. Click&treat staying at zero intent, starting with one second and building up to about five seconds.
- Face the horse and introduce an arm/hand gesture and a voice signal as you apply a halter touch signal via the rope to cause the horse to turn away from you and turn on the forehand until he faces you again. Click&teat (major celebration).
- Each session with the horse, repeat 3 above two or three times. As the horse begins to recognize your arm/hand and voice signals, ease off on the halter pressure via the rope until you no longer need to use it.
- Ensure that your basic RECALL is smooth (Prerequisite 3).
- When 4 above is smooth, play without the lead rope and slot in a little recall before you ask for the twirl. If it falls apart, simply and quietly reset to using the wraparound lead rope again, as lightly as possible. Horses learn at different rates and handler skills are variable. Usually if we strive hard to perfect our own skill with giving clear, consistent signals, the horse magically improves.
- Play in different venues.
- Play on a slope.
- If the horse keenly recalls at a trot, ask for a twirl before he reaches you. Boots would happily fit in two or three twirls, one after the other, before reaching me.
- Do half a twirl and morph it into a back-up. This was an interesting Horse Agility challenge from www.thehorseagilityclub.com. Here is the clip:
The Whole Sequence Clip
#281 HorseGym with Boots: All the Slow Dancing Tasks https://youtu.be/mDjUAH6jzbA