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

Posts tagged ‘pasture’

How to … bring your horse to the pasture (safely)

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.

Turning around

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.

End-of-session signal

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.

Sandra Poppema
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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

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