Empowering Equestrians to Train their own horse with 100% Force Free & Horse Friendly methods

Posts tagged ‘backing up’

Key lessons: head lowering & backing

In my previous post I talked about the key lessons safe behaviour around food and taking the horses’ emotions into account during training.

Today’s two key lessons are natural behaviours and therefor easy to put on cue: head lowering and backing.

Head lowering as key lesson
Although it is not proven that lowering the head calms a horse down, it still is an indicator if the horse is relaxed or not. How? A nervous horse keeps its head up, if a horse is startled the first thing he does is lift up his head, if a horse hears a strange sound he will… yes, lift his head up to listen. Horses always lift their heads up just before they run. So in a way it is an indicator for nervous behaviour.

__keylesson_head_low_clickertraining_1

Teaching a horse to lower his head on cue comes in handy if you have a tall horse to halter or bridle. If a horse is scared by an object on the ground, you can ask your horse to lower his head in order to invite him to investigate the object. If a tall horse has to lower his head in order to prevent bumping it, it is handy if you have this on cue. There are so many situations in which it is handy to ask your horse to lower his head.

Head lowering can also help during medical care, like eye care or inspecting ears or during deworming. Head lowering is also a good exercise under saddle in all gaits. Head lowering can also help in teaching your horse a specific cue to graze during a trail ride or while hand grazing your horse.

Head lowering as default behaviour
Head lowering is a good behaviour to allow as ‘default behaviour’. A default behaviour is a behaviour you can teach your horse to do whenever he doesn’t know what to do or if he wants your attention. Head lowering is a safe behaviour. You can establish a default behaviour by reinforcing the behaviour with and without a cue.

Key lesson Backing
Backing is a behaviour that helps increase the safety in many ways. If you can ask your horse to backup he can’t reach you, so he can’t bite, step on your toes or push you around.

_ keylesson backing hippologic clickertraining

Backing is a valuable exercise in safe food handling skills: if you teach your horse to backup if you (hand) feed him, he can’t get the food out of your pocket or dive into the bucket your holding.

If you teach your horse to backup first if you open the stall door, he will wait for the bridge and reward instead of pushing you over and walking out of his stall. What about unloading your horse from a trailer? Backing is essential in some trailers.

Last but not least, backing is also a good exercise to help your horse become more athletic, in hand and under saddle.

Links to other key lessons

Thank you for reading. Let me know how what your favourite key lesson is and why.

Sandra Poppema
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4 Reasons to start trailer loading today

_trailer loading_hippologicIs your horse a happy traveller? Wouldn’t it be a comforting thought if your horse would be ok being in a trailer? Every time and under all circumstances?

There are many reasons why people don’t practise trailer loading. I’ve heard: my horse is too old, my horse is too nervous, I am not going anywhere with my horse, I don’t have a trailer, I will never sell my horse, my horse is OK in a trailer so I don’t have to practise…

Fun places
Some day you might want to take your horse to fun places like new trails, a demo, a competition, a clinic or take your horse with you on vacation. Or you decide you want to breed a foal and you need to take your mare to a stud.

Moving
You never know if you have to move your horse some day. Your horse can live in the best boarding facility, but things change. That’s life.

Maybe your horse lives at your own place, you never know_corridor_hippologic if you have to sell him or due to changing circumstances he has to be transported. Or you want to take your horse to a pasture a few kilometres away and the road is too dangerous to ride or lead him there.

Emergency
In case of emergency you might have to trailer your horse to go to a clinic. Imagine that you and your horse are already stressed out due to a colic or a severe injury and then you remember your horse doesn’t like the trailer. Or your horse only wants to go in with his companion and refuses to go in alone.

If your horse is not an experienced and happy traveller, trailer loading increases the stress in an emergency situations. I’ve seen this happen. As you know, in an emergency there are always people “happy to help” (force) your horse into that trailer. Emergencies are not situations you want to start practising.

Challenge
If you don’t want or have to go places with your horse, trailer loading can be a fun challenge in your training. Especially for horses who are very nervous in narrow spaces. Consider it another training goal.

A few days of practising and rew_Keylessonmatwork2arding your horse for stepping outside his comfort zone can do wonders. It builds trust you need in other scary situations. Train to test how much your horse trusts you and how good he is in following your directions in unfamiliar situations.

Increase the challenge and ask your horse to self load. If your horse is OK with trailers, but you never travel with him, it can’t hurt to check once in a while if he’s is still comfortable travelling by trailer.

But I don’t have a trailer…
To prepare your horse to trailer load you can train the building blocks of that behaviour separately. Teach your horse to:

    • follow your lead
    • teach him to step onto unfamiliar surfaces (mats, plywood, bridges, water)
    • back-up over poles or back-up from a pedestal (step down)
    • enter a narrow corridor
    • walk under under a tarp
    •  accept the feel of a chain/rope against hindquarters.

I bet you can think of many, many more preparations that can help you prepare your horse to travel in a trailer.

Sandra Poppema

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