Standing Still cont

If a horse is walking off he is telling you one of a few things; he is insecure and nervous; couldn’t give a hoot what you think; is in a highly excitable state or is moving into too much pressure on the bit! Often a combination of the above come into play especially when riders take up all the slack in the reins and pull while they are getting on. The horse’s natural instinct will be to go forward straight into the pressure. There is a difference between having your reins collected so it is easy for you to pick up contact before asking the horse to move off and pulling like crazy as you are getting on. Have you ever noticed how in a line up at a show so many riders end up circling or allowing the horse to move (especially when the judge isn’t watching)? Why you may ask? Well most often than not that particular horse will throw a huge tantrum if the rider insists it does stand still so the horse is allowed to do what it wants thus reinforcing the behaviour of not standing still for judging. This behaviour is not to be fixed in the show ring; it begins at home by going back to basics.

How does one re-train, train or fix this. Well simply by being consistent and determined that you are not going to progress to the next step until you have the basics of standing still well established will put you on the right track. Also remember you get what you ask for, so if you accept the walking off you are effectively getting what you asked for. When you start a session ensure you have no time limit and simply ask your horse to stand still on the ground.

Next step is asking it to stand still on a loose rein while you put one foot in the stirrup, if it moves take your foot out and back or circle the horse. Repeat the step again. If the horse moves you go back to getting on his case and making him move!

And so you continue. Remember to keep a gentle contact on the reins and not be pulling; the horse needs to understand the concept that it must stand still until asked to move off.

Once you have your horse standing still once you are mounted move on to the next step of just sitting there, standing still for a few minutes without moving off. If the horse moves pick up one rein and circle sharply or pick up both and make it back up. Ask again for it to stand still. The instant it stands still you need to reward by releasing the amount of pressure and sitting still! The timing is of the release of pressure is vitally important.

Then once you have the stand still sorted out when you mount start doing it in other areas like the arena or out on the trail. Just be constant and once you have asked for the stand still insist on the stand still until you get it. Some excitable or young horses are only able to give you an initial stand of a few seconds, accept this and keep aiming at improving your goal.

Remember not to pull back hard on both reins unless your horse knows how to back out of the pressure otherwise you may end up making your horse rear. If it does not know how to back up use the one rein principle and do tight circles until the horse would rather stand still. Standing still is one behaviour all horses need to understand and accept willingly especially when you consider all the circumstances it is used during the horses life e.g. waiting for traffic, opening gates, boxing, standing in the show ring, waiting and many many more. Go back to basics every now and again! The benefits will be tremendously beneficial in the long term.