Teaching a horse to come when called?

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Teaching a horse to come when called?

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  • When a horse comes to you from across the pasture when he sees you
  • Teach horse come to call

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    09-16-2010, 07:56 PM
Teaching a horse to come when called?

I would like to teach Berdi to come when she is called. It would be nice when she is far out in the field I could just call her rather than go get her. Do your horses come when called, and if so how did you teach them? Any tips would be appreciated! Thank-you!
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    09-16-2010, 08:19 PM
I'm lucky that Scout is naturally a "come to see you" horse, but I did do a little work with him to solidify a sort of "come" cue.

Start in a small enclosure, like a roundpen or perhaps even a stall. Make it easy, and no distractions. If you plan on taking this to any extreme distance, use a coach's whistle. My own whistling has served me well enough, but the pitch has to be consistent. I've also seen people just give a sharp, sort of barked "HERE!" of "HEH!".

Stand close to her, within arms length, and whistle. Within three seconds, reward her. This is getting her to associate the cue with being close to you and getting some lovin'. If she's very food motivated that can work to your advantage, but you may need someone to keep her out of your pockets between "calls". When she starts looking your way and searching for a reward after your cue, start adding some distance to the equation, say 5 feet at a time. Take the lessons slow and steady; consistency is key. If she starts just following you around, as before, you may need a helper, or perhaps move to a grassy enclosure so that she isn't quite as motivated to reward-grub between calls. If she starts ignoring, close the distance back down until she understands that nothing fundamental to the exercise has changed.

With time, Scout started coming from fair distances. I can stand at the corner of my barn, whistle, and Scout's head pops up in the air over in his pasture and he trots down to the gate, ready for his lovin's.

I keep up on the cue, too. Whenever he comes, I reward, either a horse cookie or a rub behind the ears and a "good boy". Don't confine the rewarding to teaching sessions and stop rewarding in "real world" practice.

Good luck!
SammysMom likes this.
    09-16-2010, 08:22 PM
I taught my horses with treats ....Carrots or a walk across the road to the GREEN patch of grass .These things they LOVE!!!

They come running to my whistle :)
    09-16-2010, 08:27 PM
Green Broke
With Lady, it was treat motivation, but all I have to do now is kiss and say hup! Like "up". Or I pat my legs and say come on. She will come trotting if I keep it up. Its nice because if she is far out I don't have to go way out to her.
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    09-16-2010, 09:24 PM
Thank-you for the replies! She is very food motivated so I will use treats to get her used to coming when I call.
    09-16-2010, 10:39 PM
Agree with Scoutrider & others, that the best way to get them to come when called is to ensure they see you as a Good Thing in their life, by rewarding them well when they do come.

I don't think the cue's that important ~ my first horse responded to a whistle or "c'mon!", then I went through a clapping phase() ~ lost my voice, so would clap to 'call' them. I tend to just call my 2 current horses by name, although when they're in a certain paddock that I have to drive around to get to, I toot the horn & they're waiting at the gate by the time I get out. ...Sometimes I toot when driving along the road past them, just to confuse them.... The primary 'cue' is them seeing me come to visit, so I've found whatever other 'cues' I use are more like attention grabbers.

The important thing is to associate whatever cue with the behaviour you want first. Eg. Start in a manner that you're highly likely to get the desired response regardless, such as Scout has described. I would just start out rewarding her for looking my way, attaching the cue as she does & as you reward her. Once you've done a fair few repetitions of that & she's eagerly looking towards you for a treat, then begin giving the cue before the behaviour, when she's looking away. If it instantly causes her to turn to you, great! Reinforce that & repeat a number of times before asking for a little more/further, etc. If she doesn't respond to the cue, go back to the primary lesson & reinforce the basic association with the cue to the behaviour some more. Do this any time during training; if she doesn't respond, retreat to a previous successful distance/difficulty level & repeat before carrying on more gradually.

You should also strive to reward her *at the time of* the behaviour(eg. As she turns to you, she finds the treat and hears the cue), as even 3 seconds later makes it more difficult for a horse to associate cause with effect. Obviously as you progress & increase the distance, it becomes impossible to reward her instantly or within a few seconds, but by that stage, after progressing gradually, the behaviour should be well enough established that it isn't an issue.

Once the behaviour is well established, I also teach them a 'hurry up about it' cue. Eg. If you want them to run & they're dawdling to you, or if they take their time to respond or such. Again, I start up close, set up in a manner that makes the Right thing the easiest most likely behaviour ~ on line. It is effectively refining the yielding to implied pressure of a stick or rope behind them, such as in lunging. When they understand your signals of 'speed up' on the lunge, start using that cue(vocal, if that's what you've associated with the behaviour, backing it up if/when need be by waving the whip out behind them) Start cuing this when asking them to come in to you faster(obviously this is a different position & if you're in front you'll be waving the whip beside them rather than behind. Then, again as previously described, gradually increase the level of difficulty as with repetition the horse becomes solid with easier degrees.

Originally Posted by Scoutrider    
you may need someone to keep her out of your pockets between "calls".... If she starts just following you around, as before, you may need a helper, or perhaps move to a grassy enclosure so that she isn't quite as motivated to reward-grub between calls.
That is something that I teach first & foremost when training a horse ~ manners & basic 'rules of play', before I teach anything else. I will have already taught the horse that staying out of my personal space & being 'polite' is what works, and that 'mugging' me or otherwise being 'rude' *never* works to get a reward. Even when that's just after doing something Right.
    09-16-2010, 11:59 PM
I always bring them something nice at the gate. Every time I step out of the barn, I'll call my mare just by name but string it out so Bella becomes Bell-ah, but really long and light and then when I walk to the paddock, I always have at least one treat for her. Now, she'll come to me anywhere. The funny thing was my gelding started learning to come when I called her, so then I took a few times to teach him his name as well lol.

With repetition, they both have learned that standing politely at the gate gets them a reward, and then lowering their head for their halter gets a reward. Pretty much the only time I give my horses cookies, and they're aware of that fact so there is no mugging or being pushy :)
    09-17-2010, 01:22 AM
I always whistle the same way to Citrus. I also usually let him graze for a few bites once I get him outside the pasture. This has gotten him interested in coming to me/us when we show up.... now he walks in most of the time :)
    09-17-2010, 10:12 AM
Originally Posted by loosie    
That is something that I teach first & foremost when training a horse ~ manners & basic 'rules of play', before I teach anything else. I will have already taught the horse that staying out of my personal space & being 'polite' is what works, and that 'mugging' me or otherwise being 'rude' *never* works to get a reward. Even when that's just after doing something Right.
Agreed. I should have worded myself better. Mugging and space invasion is absolutely not allowed, ever. My point is that some horses get "too good" at coming, and it's difficult to practice and get them to associate the reward with hearing the call, covering ground, and then getting a reward, if they always hang close enough to not have to cover ground.

Of course, as long as the horse isn't invading your space and simply follows at a respectful distance, the odds are good that he'll come when he sees/hears you anyway, cue or not. Most horses that see their human as a herd leader do this anyway, without a great deal of "extra" training.
    09-17-2010, 11:18 AM
Treats/food - are fine.

I think the biggest thing though is to change up why you want them. All of ours come 98% of the time when called. Couple even stop to poop and pee on the way in so they are ready for anything we may do. Sometimes they get fed and turned back out, sometimes worked, farrier, etc.

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