This task continues the attention we gave the ‘halt’ and ‘walk on’. We also add a ‘back up’ and pay a bit more attention to ‘wait time’.
There are five different tasks, but since we do them in the horse’s left and right eyes, they are actually ten tasks. Then we consolidate the tasks by doing them in two directions, so we have a total of 20 tasks, or 10 tasks which each have two variations.
Once all the tasks are going smoothly, we can mix them up in any order, which teaches us to be crystal clear for the horse and has the horse watch us carefully to pick up our next signal.
When confusion arises, it is because we are not clear enough. Horses working for a food reward are usually super-observant of all our body language as well as carefully taught voice and gesture signals.
When we use our less dominant side, it’s common for our body language and gesture signals to be less clear until we become more conscious of what we are doing. If you haven’t usually done much on your horse’s right side, there will be a lot of learning going on.
- Horse leads smoothly beside the handler’s shoulder. (See Additional Resource 1 at the end of the post.)
- Handler and horse agree on clear ‘walk on’ and ‘halt’ signals. (See Additional Resource 2 at the end of the post.)
- Horse and handler agree on a ‘back up’ signal. (See Additional Resources 3 & 4 at the end of the post.)
ENVIRONMENT & MATERIALS:
- A work area where the horse is relaxed and confident.
- Horse is not hungry.
- Ideally, the horse can see his buddies, but they can’t interfere.
- Halter and lead or liberty.
- A rail. I use a round rail in the clip, but using a half-round rail that doesn’t roll is ideal to teach this. Or we can put blocks under a round rail. In the clip, I put my foot on it to stop it rolling.
- One or two of these tasks during one segment of a training session is plenty. If it’s all done quietly with no fuss or drilling, the horse will think on it and remember what behaviors will earn a click&treat. It works best to do a little bit often.
- Handler works on smooth ‘walk on’, ‘halt’ and ‘back up’ signals using a single rail as a focal point.
- Handler builds small pauses into the work to encourage the horse to relax while waiting for the next set of signals.
- Horse develops confidence with standing over a rail under his belly.
- Horse has practice to place his feet carefully in response to handler signals.
With halter and lead:
- In the video clip, I change between left eye and right eye for each task. An option is to teach them all smoothly with the handler on one side of the horse and then teach them again from the other side.
- I didn’t film the tasks using a mat destination between repeats of the task, but when first beginning to teach the tasks, it can help to have a familiar mat some distance from the rail and head to it for an extra click&treat between repeats.
- For challenges like this with multiple parts, I find it useful to carry a written memo card in my pocket.
- Walk right over the rail, halt a few paces beyond the rail (or at a destination mat/target), click&treat.
- Halt with the rail under the horse’s belly, click&treat; pause, walk on forward over the rail.
- Halt before stepping over the rail, click&treat; pause, walk on over the rail.
- Halt after all four feet have stepped over the rail, click&treat; pause, walk on.
- Halt with the rail under the horse’s belly, click&treat. Pause, ask the horse to back his front feet over the rail, click&treat; pause, walk on forward over the rail. If you have not taught backing up, add this slice later when the horse already backs confidently in different situations.
- Approach the rail from different directions.
- Put the rail in different venues.
- Use different rails.
- Do it at liberty or add halter and lead if you taught at liberty.
- Work on a slope.
- Use a similar exercise to get a horse comfortable with stepping into and out of a hoop on the ground with front feet, then with back feet.
- Video clips: #29 HorseGym with Boots: Leading Position 3 with a Circle of Markers: https://youtu.be/jtTnlvn0SjE. #85 HorseGym with Boots: Walk On, Halt, Back Up: https://youtu.be/PS01zopa6J0. #30 HorseGym with Boots: Leading Position 3 Duration Exercise: https://youtu.be/kjH2pS1Kfr8
- Blog & video: Smooth ‘Walk On’ and ‘Halt’ Transitions: https://wp.me/p4VYHH-5TT
- Video clip: #41 HorseGym with Boots: Back Up Standing in Front of the Horse: https://youtu.be/AtTCA85e8l4
- Video clip: Shoulder-to-Shoulder Back Up: https://youtu.be/wZ7hnFSkxUU