Getting my horse listening to "Whoa" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 04:54 AM Thread Starter
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Getting my horse listening to "Whoa"

Okay, so some 5 or 6 months ago I bought my first horse. He was advertised as very quiet and easy to do everything with. Stupidly I believed everything I was told about him (should have suspected something when they had him tacked up already for me when I went to see him!). After delivering him to the place I was to keep him, they kindly added that he's difficult to bridle. They suggested that I could unbuckle the bit on one side, place the headstall on his head, then bring the bit round into his mouth before buckling it back into place. As well as that, turned out he was very pushy at feeding time. This happened from day 1, and it was the thing that really knocked my confidence, so much so that I was planning on selling him on. Basically I didn't do anything with him for the first few months as I became quite nervous around him, but after getting a bit of help with groundwork and ideas on how to gain is respect, things got heaps better to where I am now.

He's much more polite at dinner time, and I'm no longer nervous going into his paddock with food, I've also worked with him on the bridling issue, and with some patience and perseverance have got to the stage where I can bridle him with minimum head tossing. I've ridden him a few times, but only at walk.

Today when I rode him I went in the paddock rather than the roundyard as the family I agist with had left horses in the paddock outside of the roundyard, and I thought they might be distracting. Well they must have been distracting, because from the moment I mounted, my horse, Biscuit, just wanted to go to the gate. He wouldn't stop, he'd turn but then just turn straight back towards the gate, and when I tried to get him to stop by turning he'd just keep turning round in circles. He's been fine to stop in the roundyard before this, and I only try to use light rein aids. He was a riding school horse, so I wonder if he was used to heavier aids, but I'm reluctant to add any pressure, I was already using a little more than I'd really like to. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get him listening? I understand that I've had some pretty serious respect issues with him, that that's probably got a lot to do with it, though I did feel like I'd made headway there. I'll be going back to doing some lunging. He's never really responded to whoa at all with me, though he will slow down/stop if I say "good boy" in a soothing tone which is really frustrating! It's continually been 1 step forward and 2 back with this horse! Any ideas would be appreciated!

Also he is very lazy, and I never expected "whoa" to be an issue, he's so lazy that he'll get grumpy if I push him on the lunge and sometimes buck and kick, so it makes me a little anxious about pushing him under saddle, as I'm not sure what his reaction might be.
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post #2 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 05:12 AM
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Don't worry about getting stronger with the reins than you think you should . If the horse is nit stopping at a soft ask, then " begging him with your voice is no good. You will only get as strong with the reins as is needed to get hin to answer, and if that is strong, then the horse is not listening and he needs you to be "louder ".
Then, when he is responding, you can offer hin the light rein .

It's like this ;

You offer him the "good deal", which means he can respond to a light rein and the pressure will be all gone , so easy. But, you do not give in until he answers, and if that means being firm, so be it! The horse chooses.

Then, after he has finally responded with a stop, the next time you ask fir a stop, offer that good deal , that light rein, and see if he doesn't respond there, without needing you to be firmer.

Just don't let fear of being too strong on his mouth mean you stop asking when he is still resisting, because that teaches him that resisting is the right choice.
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post #3 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 05:22 AM
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If he's not listening to your light aids, you need to get stronger. Nobody wants to hurt their horse, but at the same time you need to get control of the situation because you don't want to get hurt by your horse either if anything were to happen!

Over time, if you consistently ask first with your ideal amount of pressure and then get stronger every moment that he does not listen, he should catch on and will choose to redoing to your light pressure rather than wait for you to get "tougher".

If he was a school horse he may have learned some bad habits that he's testing you out with to see if he can get away with it. He also is likely a bit less sensitive to heavy handed reins, but you can change that with consistently offering soft cues first to give him the choice.

"If you act like you've only got fifteen minutes, it will take all day. Act like you've got all day, it will take fifteen minutes."
-Monty Roberts
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post #4 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 09:06 AM
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Hi & welcome,

It sounds like you don't have much experience and don't have much support, to me? I really think it sounds like a trainer would be a good idea, to teach you how to be effective & fair.

As for his behaviour when you got him, aside from the bridling thing, it's possible he could have been perfectly 'respectful' to others, but just worked out straight away he was the one who could call the shots with you. They pick up on our feelings so well...

If you've only used gentle pressure on him, great! If it gets the job done. & if in a roundpen, something's seriously wrong if you need a lot. But if you aren't being effective, the horse will learn to resist more, to ignore you. You end up 'nagging', being annoying without getting a result. Be as gentle as possible BUT as firm as necessary. They learn from instant association, consequences to their actions.
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post #5 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 09:09 AM
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Something I'm going to quote - and it's a long quote, related to this and other training issues, because I couldn't say it better myself. It's from a basic manual on training young horses, but is pertinent to this and similar situations as well.

TRAINING PROCEDURES:


That will profit you” - “That will profit you not”
Quiet persistence”
End-of-Lesson”, what it means
Old Hat”
Use of voice in training


Few people who set out to train and educate a young horse give any thought to the great difficulties that face the horse.

How many of us setting out to teach him have given serious thought or study of HOW to teach him: how to establish a system of signals or aids that most riders grow up with and accept as being natural, but of which the horse has no knowledge whatsoever?

I am going to ask you a question, and before you read on I would like you to answer it clearly – to yourself.

Question: “Why does a horse stop or go slower if you pull on the reins?” If you answer, “Because it hurts the mouth,” I am sorry to have to break the news to you – you have failed.

But no, I'll give you another chance: “Why do you jump up instantly if you sit on an upturned tack or drawing pin?”

If you answer again: “Because it hurts” - you really do need to read every word in this book!

The horse stops – and you jump up – not just because it hurts, but to stop it hurting. By no means the same thing.

And there isn't any doubt: if jumping up didn't stop the pain, you would try doing something else. So, too, eventually, does the horse. These are not trick questions. If you really believe in and act on the answer you gave to the first, then you think that all you have to do is to hurt your horse's mouth and he will stop.

On the contrary, the important thing is to let him know – to teach him – how, by doing what you want of him, he can avoid any pain, irritation, inconvenience and discomfort the bit (or whip or spur) might otherwise cause. Good trainers do everything they possibly can to avoid hurting the horse or even letting him hurt himself. Our real goal should be never to have to hurt our horse.

Reward and punishment is often cited as the secret of successful horse training and undoubtedly both rewards and punishments have their place. But – we should seldom, if ever, resort to punishment when teaching our horse anything new. Punishment, when we use it, should be reserved for exceptional occasions. Don't think “Reward and Punishment.”

Encourage and discourage is a better guide, as it drops the term “punishment.” When riding a young horse we alternate from encourage to discourage very frequently and quite often change from discourage to encourage several times in a matter of seconds.

But the term “discourage” still has the drawback that it can include punishment; and we should discard any term that could include punishment as a normal training procedure. Punishment and teaching are “divorced.”

It is to avoid using any expression that could possibly include punishment as a normal teaching procedure that I suggest you think in the terms:

That will profit you – that will profit you not.”

These terms mean exactly – exactly – what they say.

To Profit” is to benefit or gain: to be better off. The profit to the horse can be any reward or encouragement the trainer may think his pupil should receive – and it must, of course, be available to give.

To Profit Not” means that the horse will gain or benefit not at all. Just that. It certainly does not mean that he will suffer a loss or be worse off – as he would be if he were punished.

This is what is so important about these expressions – and why I use them. By no stretch of the imagination can “Profit you not” be construed as punishment.

It consists of withholding any gain, reward, encouragement and profit. That, and only that.


Quiet Persistence

“It will profit you not” means that the horse will not be encouraged to follow a line of conduct other than what we have in mind for him. We withhold any gain – which means we quietly continue with our demands, whatever they may be.

We persist. We quietly persist with our demands.

This gentle discouragement of “quiet persistence” is something that horse seem to find irresistible. Whenever you are in doubt as to what course to follow, mounted or dismounted, revert to “Quiet Persistence.” Your quiet persistence is the real “That will profit you not.” It discourages the horse without punishing him.

Punishment does have its place in the training scheme, with some horses more clearly than with others – but even then it should be used only occasionally. Do not revert to punishment when you are trying to teach the horse something new. It upsets the horse and destroys the calmness so essential to his taking-in a new lesson. So punishments are “out” when teaching any new lesson.


End of Lesson

End of Lesson is the best, most effective and most convenient of all rewards and encouragements.

What End of Lesson means:
When teaching a horse almost anything at all – no matter what it is, “End of Lesson” means a pause, a break, a rest for a while – or even, on some occasions, completely finishing the work for the day at the moment the horse has made or is making progress in a lesson.

At the very instant of the action that constitutes progress, the teacher ends the lesson – for a while, at least.

Ending a lesson constitutes a reward, an encouragement, an incentive to the horse to try to follow and understand what is being taught to him.

The End-of-Lesson procedure is probably the most important procedure in the scheme of horse training.

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post #6 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 09:22 AM
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The aim is to use only the smallest amount of pressure required to get what you want. This means you use increasing pressure stopping only when you get the behaviour you want (or until it becomes dangerous). If you ask for a stop ask softly with your seat, then your hands and you apply the aid until you get the response you want, even if it's messy and hard. As soon as you get what you want for just one moment - release.

There are a few things to remember, always start with small pressure and work up. Increase or maintain pressure until you get what you want. Release immediately once desired results is achieved.

I know you want him to respond to voice aids - but it often doesn't start that way. You have to demand what you want. Remember his stopping and aids are only as good as his training. Most horses aren't trained to stop when turned in a circle or just saying whoa. I'd work in the roundyard some more until you start getting good stop first try every time, then look at going out. It will take time, but if you're regular and consistent it will come.
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post #7 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 09:28 AM
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We use the End-of-Lesson technique from the first day our young horse is yarded and continue using it to the last day of his schooling.

End-of-Lesson is always available for use.

Because it is easy for the horse to understand, it keeps him calm and so leads to the greatest progress. When the horse is calm, the most permanent impressions are made on his mind.

End-of-Lesson is of equal value to the trainer. It keeps him looking for and recognising progress as the horse tries first one thing and then another. He looks for progress to encourage – rather than “stupidity” to punish.


Old Hat”

“Old Hat” is another expression I will repeatedly use to indicate the horse's attitude to a previous experience. He (I pretend) says: “Old Hat!” whenever he is asked to do, again, something he has already proved to be not objectionable.

The “Old Hat” technique is literally used in hundreds of ways – as you will read later on. It means we do something (or get the horse to do something) new – and then before anything can go wrong or he becomes upset, we “End-the-Lesson.”

Next time he is in a similar position, he remembers nothing unpleasant resulted from the first occasion, and he remains calm. A few repetitions and he accepts it (whatever it is) as “Old Hat.”

An instance: we separate a foal from its dam for a few moments. Before the foal has time to become very excited at finding itself alone, we put them together again. Tomorrow or on some other occasion, we separate them again and once more put them together after a short period. We do this several times and after a while the foal ceases to worry. “It's 'Old Hat' - nothing to worry about, we'll get together again later on!” seems to be the reaction.

This is a characteristic of the horse. Recognise it and keep it in mind. From it we learn to repeat lessons rather than to prolong them – particularly if what we are doing or getting the horse to do is exciting or frightening to him.


Use of the Voice in Teaching (excerpt)

The use of the voice can be very useful at times to let the horse know when he is on the right track, particularly in the early dismounted work. There are scores of things you do not want him to do on any occasion and he may try quite a number of them. To each attempt you gently say “No,” “No,” and you quietly and gently persist with your demands.

Think and act gently and kindly – for he is trying. Say , “No,” “No,” gently and quietly, but in a manner he could not possibly confuse with your “Purring” (pleasant tone of voice for reinforcing correct behaviour, “That's right, clever boy...” etc).

The voice can convey to him “Approved” or “Not Approved” almost simultaneously with his action, and under all circumstances – mounted or dismounted.

There's no end to the number of things you do NOT want him to do and he may try out a few of them or all of them. To each attempt you should gently indicate to him: “Not that,” “Not that.” Or better still, think, “Not that, Boy;” think gently, think kindly; he is trying.

Most important of all, when he does show the slightest tendency to do the ONE thing you do want, you must instantly change your “tune” and substitute, “That's right,” or “That's better, clever Boy...clever Boy.” Then “End of Lesson” - have a rest.

The really important thing is your ability to show approval or disapproval instantly.

Two seconds later will be too late. Sometimes the youngster will have tried so many things that if your approval is late he will have difficulty in knowing what did please you.

If you use the same purring tone always – and instantly – and only to show approval, you will find he relaxes the instant you begin to use it. When mounted you can FEEL him relax under you, and you'll be able to imagine him thinking: “That's good! Struck it at last. Now, exactly what DID I do to please the man?”


A LESSON IS ANYTHING YOU TEACH YOUR HORSE – GOOD OR BAD

Every experience the young horse has becomes a lesson. If what he learns is useful to us, we like to call it “training”or “education.” But if what he learns is a nuisance or dangerous, we often brand it a “vice.”


This is just the very beginning of a text from Australian horseman Tom Roberts, born in 1900, who educated horses and riders even at a time in history where horses were serious business, rather than mostly recreational. It is a shame that systematic reading of substantial texts like that is no longer widely considered a vital part of learning horsemanship, as it was when I went through riding school as a child (kind of like you can't fly an aeroplane without doing oodles of theory). The reason I cited this excerpt is because communication difficulties between handler and horse have more causes than the commonly cited "lack of respect" that assumes the horse knows exactly what is wanted from him. Even if a horse has had a good education, often confusion ensues when they work with a novice handler, and so it is useful for newish horse people to understand some of the basic principles behind horse training.
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post #8 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 10:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muppets View Post
Okay, so some 5 or 6 months ago I bought my first horse. He was advertised as very quiet and easy to do everything with. Stupidly I believed everything I was told about him (should have suspected something when they had him tacked up already for me when I went to see him!). After delivering him to the place I was to keep him, they kindly added that he's difficult to bridle. They suggested that I could unbuckle the bit on one side, place the headstall on his head, then bring the bit round into his mouth before buckling it back into place. As well as that, turned out he was very pushy at feeding time. This happened from day 1, and it was the thing that really knocked my confidence, so much so that I was planning on selling him on. Basically I didn't do anything with him for the first few months as I became quite nervous around him, but after getting a bit of help with groundwork and ideas on how to gain is respect, things got heaps better to where I am now.

He's much more polite at dinner time, and I'm no longer nervous going into his paddock with food, I've also worked with him on the bridling issue, and with some patience and perseverance have got to the stage where I can bridle him with minimum head tossing. I've ridden him a few times, but only at walk.

Today when I rode him I went in the paddock rather than the roundyard as the family I agist with had left horses in the paddock outside of the roundyard, and I thought they might be distracting. Well they must have been distracting, because from the moment I mounted, my horse, Biscuit, just wanted to go to the gate. He wouldn't stop, he'd turn but then just turn straight back towards the gate, and when I tried to get him to stop by turning he'd just keep turning round in circles. He's been fine to stop in the roundyard before this, and I only try to use light rein aids. He was a riding school horse, so I wonder if he was used to heavier aids, but I'm reluctant to add any pressure, I was already using a little more than I'd really like to. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get him listening? I understand that I've had some pretty serious respect issues with him, that that's probably got a lot to do with it, though I did feel like I'd made headway there. I'll be going back to doing some lunging. He's never really responded to whoa at all with me, though he will slow down/stop if I say "good boy" in a soothing tone which is really frustrating! It's continually been 1 step forward and 2 back with this horse! Any ideas would be appreciated!

Also he is very lazy, and I never expected "whoa" to be an issue, he's so lazy that he'll get grumpy if I push him on the lunge and sometimes buck and kick, so it makes me a little anxious about pushing him under saddle, as I'm not sure what his reaction might be.
Your post presents a number of issues. I will address two of them.

First, regarding the other horses that your horse showed interested in. If I were you, I would have taken my horse over to meet the other horses. Horses are curious animals. While skittish, they like to investigate new things. When I take a horse into a riding area, I begin by letting the horse walk around on a loose rein. I generally try to keep it moving to warm up its joints – as I become older, I appreciate more the benefit of this – but I often let the horse wander a bit and sniff any manure that might be laying around. If he shows interest in meeting another horse, I will let him if the other rider is comfortable with this – always being ready to correct an attempt to nip. After becoming acquainted with its surroundings, a horse is generally less fascinated by them and more ready to pay attention to me.

Second, work on stopping should begin long before riding ever begins. When walking a horse in halter with a lead rope. Stop your own movement and say, “Whoa.” When using verbal cues, it is important to realize that volume and inflection are as important as the word itself. Horses generally equate soft volume to comfort and reward whereas a loud volume would indicate reprimand or danger. Saying, “WHOA!” might have the same effect as saying, “Go!” Saying, “Whoa,” slowly in a calm voice has a calming effect. As a side note, “whoa” is almost always said in the same fashion whereas “trot” may be said differently when going from a walk to a trot than from a canter to a trot.

Occasionally tying the horse’s lead line to an immovable object can also prove useful in developing an understanding of stopping. The horse learns that, if he reaches the end of his rope and incurs resistance, the resistance will stop increasing if he stops.

I encourage riders to consider not pulling their hands toward their body when stopping. Instead, I advise them to stop the forward movement of their hands and let the horse move their body closer to their hands. This may look the same to someone watching just the horse and rider. It may even feel the same to the rider. However, there is a subtle difference which the horse will soon realize. If the rider pulls his hands toward his body, he is applying the pressure, determining how quickly it is applied and its intensity. If the rider simply stops the forward motion of his hands, the horse determines how quickly pressure is applied and the intensity of that pressure. Thus, the rider should not feel bad if the pressure becomes greater than he would like. The intensity of the pressure is being determined by the horse, and the horse has the choice of stopping the pressure from increasing.

There are many more things I could discuss about stopping a horse, but these seem most important right now.
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post #9 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 10:22 AM
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I really should look for my Tom Roberts books again. Those bits were a good read, thanks! Just that Sue, the term 'Old Hat' mightn't mean much even to a lot of younger Aussies, let alone the rest of the world! What ever happened to that thread on terms & slang in different places...
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post #10 of 21 Old 08-12-2014, 10:37 AM
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Oh, you have them too? You know, this is why I kind of steer away from answering training questions much of the time - because it's like trying to explain quantum physics in one little post, and it's better for an interested person in that case to do a hell of a lot of systematic reading, along with their practical sessions!

As to the "Old Hat" - I think reading that in context makes it "Old Hat"!
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