Teaching your horse to stand square - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 12-21-2008, 03:50 AM Thread Starter
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Teaching your horse to stand square

How on earth do you teach your horse to stand square whilst being lead? I'm planning to take my mare in some halter and showmanship competitions and I've read that the horse needs to be able to square up. How do I teach her to do this?

& also to pivvot?
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post #2 of 8 Old 12-21-2008, 05:49 AM
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Smile Squaring Up

When you stop your horse and he doesnt square up simply just lift his feet up with your hands and put them in the correct spot. Insist he stays there for a few seconds and reward him. Continue this and he will learn to square up on his own.

As for pivots ... I would not have a clue.

Hope that helps!


"If you act like you've only got fifteen minutes, it'll take all day. Act like you've got all day and it'll take fifteen minutes." - Monty Roberts
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post #3 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 07:13 PM
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I'm working on getting my horse to square up right now too, so I've been reading a lot and asking everyone for advice. Here's how I've been doing things so far (from the ground):

1. Walk straight, eyes up, straight line.
2. Ask for a halt with your body language first, then either rein or voice aid if needed.
3. Turn 180 degrees and look where her back feet are. If they are square, then cheer!
4. If not square, then observe how far apart they are. If they are a whole stride (step) apart, then ask her to step forward. If they are a short distance apart, then ask her to back. "1 step forward, 1/2 step back" is what I've been told, and I've found it true that my horse takes shorter steps backwards than forwards.
5. Now that her back feet are square (or square-ish) check out the fronts.
6. Again, "1 step forward, or 1/2 step back." Most likely, it'll be 1/2 step back.
7. Now that she's all squared up (or close enough) give lots of praise!

-Don't drill on getting square for hours. Just do a little, then maybe work on those pivots or something else for a while.
-After you get the backs square, while working on the fronts, she might move her backs again. No worries. Either start over (walk straight forward a little, halt, etc) or just focus on those back feet again, make them square, then return to the fronts.
-Don't be a perfectionist! If she's never been trained to square up, then give praise for the slightest attempt. Just moving the foot you were asking to move, in the right direction, is a success! She'll get more precise over time.
-Square up all the time! Bringing her to the cross ties for grooming? Square up! Having her stand at the mounting block? Square up! Putting her in her stall for dinner? Square up! Whenever you ask her to stop, ask her to square so it becomes natural.
-Remember, less is more! Don't yank on your mare's bit for her to back a tiny step. Just lean towards her a bit, and stare at that foot that you want her to move. Maybe take a baby step with your foot like you want her to do with her foot. While learning this new task, she'll probably be paying very close attention to your body language!

For showmanship you'll also need to learn to back straight and trot in-hand in addition to standing square and pivoting. Remember to practice these too! You may think backing is easy, but it better be straight! Try to back your horse straight through obstacles (cones, barrels, well behaved dogs ) so that she'll still back straight in the excitement of a show!

Monte - 15 year old Paint/TB
Auric - 13 year old Arab
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post #4 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 09:15 PM
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I agree with Equina's directions. If you always place their feet for them they will not learn to square themselves.
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post #5 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 09:31 PM
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Sorry for the double post but it was too late to edit my previous one
For pivots you will first need to decide which rear foot you would like your horse to plant. Horses naturally plant their left foot to turn clockwise like you will be doing in showmanship. In the US at the Quarter horse, Paint, Pinto, Appy ect. shows the right foot is the preferred foot to plant for turning clockwise in showmanship. Your first step will be to get your horse to move his shoulder away from you as you walk towards him. A dressage whip can be a useful tool for teaching this but do not get aggressive with the whip. Use it as a barrier between you and you horse and tap him lightly if you move towards him and he doesn't move away. After you teach them to move thier shoulder a lot of your work is done. If they are moving their shoulder properly there will not be a lot of movement out of their rear hooves. When you get the shoulder movement down start to focus on the rear legs. If you are going to have your horse plant his left foot you can kind of push their weight back onto that foot for your turn because the right foot is going to back around the left foot. If you are going to turn on the right foot you will need to slightly pull them ahead because their left foot will need to walk forward around their right foot. Start by only taking one step at a time and eventually increase the legth of your turns. This can be a very frustrating process so please take your time and be very patient with your horse. Also, if you get a chance practice your turning with a horse that already knows how to pivot, you will learn a lot.
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post #6 of 8 Old 12-23-2008, 01:08 AM
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I definitely need to work owith my horse on this =)
Those are some GREAT directions

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post #7 of 8 Old 12-23-2008, 01:41 AM
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To teach mine I have just tugged really lightly on the halter/lead rope to guide him where to go and he'd begin to move slightly and when he squares up I praise him. He learned really fast that way.

TM Tardy's Chick "Hunter" - 13 yo Paint
Remmy - 18 yo Morgan/QH cross
Gunner 3/31/11, Heidi 7/2009 Miniature Sicilian donkey
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post #8 of 8 Old 12-23-2008, 10:17 PM
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Great post everyone. I have been wanting to teach Cobalt to do that. Something good to know and have him do on his own. He's pretty good already but need to start drilling him with it while he's a little guy.

Promoting the beautiful Canadian Horse
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