As positive reinforcement trainer you always want to train the opposite behaviour as well. So after writing a post about getting your horse out of the field (effortlessly), it’s time to write about bring your back to the field (safely).
How to bring a horse to the field
Some horses are very excited to be back in the field and take off immediately. Some horses do this bucking and bolting. This can be dangerous but is very easy to prevent.
Bringing your horse back to the pasture in a safe way requires a few steps. You can train and reinforce each step separately. The steps are similar to getting your horse out of the pasture, but in the opposite order.
To graze or not to graze
The greenest grass always grows outside the pasture. A lot of horses take the opportunity to have a juicy bite of grass while the handler is opening the gate.
You can teach your horse to stop grazing/lift his head with positive reinforcement. He has to wait patiently until you have unlocked the gate.
I always teach my horses to turn around on cue, so I can close the gate safely. I don’t want horses to escape and I don’t want my horse to run off before I say so.
Prevent running off
If you turn your horse around before unleashing him or before you take the halter off, he is facing the fence. This will help prevent him from running off immediately.
Make sure your horse wants to stay with you after you set him free. Simply reward him for staying and not taking off. I click and reinforce my horse for waiting. I usually reward this with a desired reward like a treat.
Reward the desired behaviour
In the beginning you might need to click and reinforce your horse just after going through the gate and turning around. Now you have his attention.
Take the halter off and click and reinforce immediately for waiting patiently. Then you can leave the field.
You might want to click and reinforce again for ‘waiting’. A few freshly picked dandelions or some grass will do. Horses learn very quickly that staying with you for a few moments after you’ve left the field can be very rewarding.
After you have left the pasture you can give your horse the ‘end-of-session’ signal. Your horse now knows there are no more treats to earn. Your horse will probably not run off, but even if he does, you’re not in danger of being knocked over.
After he no longer has the urge to go running off when you set him free, you can fade the clicks out slowly. Sometimes I just ask Kyra to perform a simple trick after I have left the pasture. She really likes that.
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