Teaching your horse new skills is always a positive. Your horse learns the skill in question, plus you increase your understanding of how best to communicate with him. That’s where a book like 3-Minute Horsemanship, by Vanessa Bee, comes in handy. It’s focused on useful skills you can teach your horse in short bits of training time. One I’ll share now is training your horse to stand still on command.
First, decide what your command for stand still will be. Whoa gets your horse to stop, but you need a different command for “stand completely still until I say otherwise.” It could be a verbal command, such as wait or stand, or a hand signal. Just be sure to use exactly the same command every time. The author doesn’t mention this, but I’d think dropping the lead rope, as in ground-tying, could also serve as the cue.
Lead your haltered horse to a spot where he might reasonably want to keep going, such as halfway to the turnout pen or the pasture. Then stop and give him the command to stand still. If he starts to move, give the command again, watching for the slightest indication he understands what you want, then reward him with your voice and/or a pat. (Be sure to reward him only while he’s standing still, if only for a moment, not when he’s started to move off again.)
In the beginning, don’t expect him to stand still for long periods. Start with a few moments, then build over time and repetition of the exercise to several minutes or more.
Timing and consistency are critically important, as they are in all training. If you always ask your horse the same way, then consistently catch his smallest response and reward him at that moment, he’ll learn surprisingly quickly what he’s supposed to do—in this case, chill.
The bonus of this training is it reinforces to your horse that “being with you” is a calm place to be. This can be handy the next time you take him someplace unfamiliar and exciting.
Review related training tips here: