How I taught my horse to nicker at me

I’ve always wanted a horse that called me. The nicker**)  they use is often so heartwarming and soft. A warm welcome to their human. My first pony Sholto whinnied to me in the field when he came cantering to me. Here is a video of Sholto cantering and whinnying when I wistle to call him. 

Kyra never whinnied or nickered to me, until recently.

How did I teach her to call me? It was accidental, to be honest. In hindsight it took quite a lot of patience if I had to teach her on purpose. How did I set it up for success?

Kyra’s stall is in the back of the barn. I have a certain routine that starts with saying ‘Hello’ to Kyra and petting her a few moments. Then I open my tack locker and start the rest of the routine.

This winter I ran into my barn fellows and started to talk. And talk. And talk. If you have a horse, you know how this goes. If you’re talking about horses, it’s hard to stop.

Kyra couldn’t see me but she could hear me talking. That happened a few times.  Of course she wanted to communicate to me that I had to come. Since we couldn’t see each other she had to use a sound. I am happy that she is never been reinforced for kicking the boards.

So one night, while I was being held up in the front of the barn, she nickered to me. Of course I ran over and gave her a lot of attention.

A few weeks later, the same thing happened: I ran into my friend and we talked and talked and Kyra could hear me, but couldn’t see me. So she called me again. I captured the behaviour by bridging and giving treats. And of course my full attention. Jackpot!

It didn’t take long for her to figure out that if she is in the pasture, that she now has a way to let me come over to her. I reinforce it, because I like it.


**) See this list [-> click here <-] of all horse behaviour sounds to learn the difference between a nicker and a whinny

Sandra Poppema