Voice Command Training an Equine
A very wise horseperson once told me, "You can not voice command train a horse". This person was a credible trainer with many techniques that I still think about and use today. This person also exposed me to many techniques that are now labeled as "Natural Horsemanship" but I understood as just "Good Ground Manners." I also gained a better understanding of how to explain, why I was doing some of the things that I did naturally (no pun intended, but when thrown in a field of baby horses one does tend to pick up a thing or two) to others who had less experience than I did. But now I have had years to reflect on the statements she has made and this one still calls a question in my mind, "Can you voice command train a horse?" Let me define voice command trained, A command that when stated over a microphone BY ANYBODY a horse will obey. A fairly well trained dog would be seriously inclined to sit when the word is stated over a loud speaker. This person never denied that vocal cues can reinforce a behavior but never dictate it solely, and demonstrated with the example that a horse that had been trained to whinny to a whistle, still had to be in sight of the trainer, due to subtle cues from bodylanguage. My own experience had been with the Whoa! command and I have found that if the tone remains the same and the word changes the effectiveness is still undeniable. So is voice command training about what I say or the way I say it? Has anyone truely voice command trained a horse? What could be the consequences? If I was riding and someone outside the ring said whoa could my horse suddenly stop or do voice commands only reinforce body language cues? Body language is a horse thing and talking is a human thing, does that mean voice command trained horses are human whisperers? :wink:
Yes horses can totally be trained with voice commands. Yes it takes a bit for them to be trained in such a way, but it is very possible.
My horse knows what the words whoa, walk, trot, and canter are without any body cues or hand motions.
During shows when they tell you to walk, trot... etc... my horse sometimes will get ahead of me and go into whatever the announcer says (Which I have to be careful because the judges are watching haha).
Really? I would love to see it! We had someone in the group say the same thing but when it came time to test, they didn't pass. What if you replace the word with something else? Like Saunter instead of Canter? That's still pretty close, I just know I can say peanuts instead of whoa when they know it's getting about time to stop. Curious to see sometime. Anyways, long story short, someone brought a horse that supposedly did the same thing, but if the girl didn't move with her body when the trainer said trot, the horse just moseyed, even whoa didn't work over a megaphone.
Go watch a show. Very often, horses hear the announcement of a new command (trot, canter, ect) and will do it right then and there, before the rider asks ;)
Hmmm, as for horses reacting to the announcer, I'm wondering if it's a combination of the announcing and the rider's body language. Even if the riders don't realize it, they may be tensing up or shifting their body ever so slightly in preparation for the command. We're pretty oblivious as to our body language compared to animals.
I have noticed that during lessons as well, horses will react to what the trainer says before the rider clearly asks for anything. However, once again, I'm wondering again if it's just the rider giving unnoticeable body language.
Doesn't seem too far-fetched to have horses that are completely voice-commanded, though.
I know that my horses know walk, trot, canter, whoa, back up, scoot over, quit it, stand, and a whole slew of other voice commands.
However, I don't know if they would respond to someone over a loud speaker. I have never tried.
I know that these voice cues are essential to teaching lessons - if a child is asking a horse to do something with his or her body, and they are just learning, the horse sometimes doesn't understand, and I can ask the horse to stop or back or walk from a distance on the ground.
They are great for lunging, or when navigating through a crowded barn (i.e. "scoot over" to a tied horse when I am leading another horse.) But perhaps my horses read my body language and my tone as well as hear the words. I am honestly not sure.
I have noticed that horses at horse shows do respond to announcements before their riders ask, very often.
I think it depends on the horse and the person, and the language they understand each other in best.
Along that line, my TB knows the word "stand." One day at a barrel race he got loose and was trotting off toward the road. I was behind him as he was going away from me, he was kinda far but not too far, I yelled "STAND" and he stopped and stood.
Very interesting question. I know when riding, if I say whoa Vida will stop. If she was at liberty out in the pasture and I yelled "WHOA" at her would she stop what she is doing? I doubt it :lol:
I like to think she knows her name when I call her. Maybe its just human vanity that makes me want to think so :?
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