'Gotta Move'

Is your horse fidgety on the lead line? Here’s how to get him to stand still and respect your personal space.
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Is your horse fidgety on the lead line? Here’s how to get him to stand still and respect your personal space.
When I ask this mare to stand still, she looks around, moves her feet, and leans into me. If your horse fidgets on the lead line, this month’s clinic will give you the tools you need to teach him to stand obediently.

When I ask this mare to stand still, she looks around, moves her feet, and leans into me. If your horse fidgets on the lead line, this month’s clinic will give you the tools you need to teach him to stand obediently.

Last month, I showed you how to wake up the feet of a horse that’s lazy on the lead line. This month, I’ll show you how to deal with one that’s fidgety when you ask him to stand.

A horse that moves around and invades your personal space is demonstrating a lack of respect. He’s a nuisance to work around and can even be a safety hazard, as he might step on you or knock you over.

Think of your personal space as a large, imaginary Hula Hoop™ whose edge is about 6 feet away from you in every direction. When you ask your horse to stand, you want him to remain still, beyond that imaginary line. He shouldn’t come into your “hula hoop” space unless you invite him to.

This 10-year-old part-Arabian Pinto mare needs to learn that lesson. I’ll calm her fidgetiness and command her attention using my “longeing for respect.” (To review those lessons, go to HorseandRider.com.) Then I’ll back her up, away from me, to teach her the meaning of my personal space, or “hula-hoop.”

Though this sort of lead-line problem isn’t something you can cure completely in a day, you’ll see how much better this mare responds after just one training session.

LEFT: I’m asking this fidgety mare to stand, but she’s not listening to me at all. Her busy feet and swishing tail tell me she’s setting her own agenda rather than following mine. That needs to change. 

HORP-080900-CLINTON-02_fuss_fidget

RIGHT: Here, in addition to refusing to stand, she’s using her head to invade my personal space—a common and serious lead-line no-no that spells disrespect and can easily result in nipping or shoving.

 LEFT: My first goal is simply to get this mare’s attention as I “wake up” the thinking side of her brain with some of my longeing for respect. Here, I point with my lead hand to show her the way to go, while using the end of the lead, as need be, to send her on around me. 

HORP-080900-CLINTON-04_longeing

RIGHT: The key in longeing is to move your horse briskly and, as you learned last month, to provide frequent changes of direction. As you control the speed and direction of your horse’s feet, you’re commanding his respect and establishing yourself as his leader.

 LEFT: After several moments of longeing, I’m once again asking the mare to stand. Although she’s beginning to pay more attention to me, she’s still crowding my personal space. So to teach her to stay out of my “hula hoop” (that imaginary circle around me, 6 feet out)… 

HORP-080900-CLINTON-06_backing

RIGHT: …I wiggle the lead line and step toward her to back her briskly away from me. Each time I stop, I look for a willingness to stand obediently at the end of the line. If she tries to step toward me instead, I back her up again, continuing like this until she understands.

 LEFT: And here’s the result—she stays put on her own, away from me, at the end of the line. I’ve been praising her with my voice each time she stands still, and by the look on her face, she’s processing the information and beginning to understand. To test her compliance, I simply stand and wait… 

HORP-080900-CLINTON-08_standing

RIGHT: …and so does she, even lowering her head and relaxing. This photo was taken several minutes after the previous one, and she’s still standing quietly in place. She’ll need ongoing reinforcement over time to cement what she’s learned, but this is a great start—and a good place to stop for today.