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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is an extremely curiosity-related question, lol!

I just can't figure out how horses are trained to go forward when they are kick/squeezed, and how they are trained to respond to clicks. For some reason, this question has been bothering my brain for quite a while and I can find no info on the topic!

Thanks!
 

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I use both negative reinforcement and praise. Recently I taught my horse I am starting that leg cues mean to move forward.

First, I desensitize, meaning I teach her to ignore random pressure on her sides. Otherwise she might get scared when she feels my legs on her.

Next, when I am sitting on her, I have someone lead us. I cue with my legs and when she follows the cues from the handler to walk, I praise her and take off the leg cue (negative reinforcement).

The first several times without the handler, it will be coincidence that she walks forward, but I will praise her and release the cues. Soon she will associate the fact that I give the cue until she walks, and release it after.

With clicks and verbal cues, the horse learns by association. It helps to teach the cues when leading or lunging first. In the saddle, you give the cue, and then praise the horse when they respond correctly. They quickly learn what response you desire.

Of course, what you teach is up to you. I use kiss to canter, and some friends kiss to "move along" at any gait. So they would kiss and their horses would walk faster, but my horse would try to pick up a canter.
 

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@gottatrot explains it well, but even before you teach a horse to be ridden, they have usually learned to move away from pressure (pressing with your legs is another form of pressure). Horses should be halter trained when they are babies, first being led next to their mothers. The basic concept of moving away from pressure lays down the groundwork for a lot of future training. So when you pull on a lead rope, the young horse feels pressure on his poll, and to relieve that pressure, it must move forward. Verbal cues can easily be added by giving the cue, then adding the physical pressure, and the horse moves forward, therefore relieving the pressure. So eventually, the horse moves on cue since the verbal cue is interpreted as a warning that pressure is coming so if they want to avoid it, they move forward.
 

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Horses are very perceptive and trainable. Groundwork is the real forward teacher in my opinion. I like to teach the pressure from the ground to an extent. Before I am on, they know that pressure on their body is something they move away from. Forward pressure isn’t taught, but they know a cluck means go faster from their groundwork.

My filly now is particularly sensitive. It was funny, because I did a lot of ponying of her before riding her. She would react to the cue I gave my horse prior to my horse reacting. It didn’t matter how small and invisible I tried to cue him, she caught it. It was a game for the both of us, to see if I could get him to do something before she did.

That was a little difficult when I started riding her around other horses without being ponied, because she watched everyone’s cues! Lol. It took a while to get to her ignore every single piece of stimulation around her, and to realize that I was the only person she was to watch. Sometimes, for a joke, my husband would ride up next to me and then cue his horse to speed up just to watch her take off. It was funny and annoying both. Now she ignores it all, but on the random day she will revert back and just accidentally follow a cue not meant for her.
 

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I think going forward is the default. It would be odd to get on a horse for the first time and have him stand still. You start by putting your legs on gently as he walks off naturally, till he learns an association. Gottatrot has it right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I use both negative reinforcement and praise. Recently I taught my horse I am starting that leg cues mean to move forward.

First, I desensitize, meaning I teach her to ignore random pressure on her sides. Otherwise she might get scared when she feels my legs on her.

Next, when I am sitting on her, I have someone lead us. I cue with my legs and when she follows the cues from the handler to walk, I praise her and take off the leg cue (negative reinforcement).

The first several times without the handler, it will be coincidence that she walks forward, but I will praise her and release the cues. Soon she will associate the fact that I give the cue until she walks, and release it after.

With clicks and verbal cues, the horse learns by association. It helps to teach the cues when leading or lunging first. In the saddle, you give the cue, and then praise the horse when they respond correctly. They quickly learn what response you desire.

Of course, what you teach is up to you. I use kiss to canter, and some friends kiss to "move along" at any gait. So they would kiss and their horses would walk faster, but my horse would try to pick up a canter.
Wow that makes a lot of sense; epesically the handler situation! And the urge to get away from pressure and associating the two. Wow, thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Horses are very perceptive and trainable. Groundwork is the real forward teacher in my opinion. I like to teach the pressure from the ground to an extent. Before I am on, they know that pressure on their body is something they move away from. Forward pressure isn’t taught, but they know a cluck means go faster from their groundwork.

My filly now is particularly sensitive. It was funny, because I did a lot of ponying of her before riding her. She would react to the cue I gave my horse prior to my horse reacting. It didn’t matter how small and invisible I tried to cue him, she caught it. It was a game for the both of us, to see if I could get him to do something before she did.

That was a little difficult when I started riding her around other horses without being ponied, because she watched everyone’s cues! Lol. It took a while to get to her ignore every single piece of stimulation around her, and to realize that I was the only person she was to watch. Sometimes, for a joke, my husband would ride up next to me and then cue his horse to speed up just to watch her take off. It was funny and annoying both. Now she ignores it all, but on the random day she will revert back and just accidentally follow a cue not meant for her.
Thanks so much! Do they associsate the cluck with the cues to go faster? It just seems so weird to me that we cluck at them lol. Haha that's funny! Some of the horses I ride (my favorite one is an absolute derp and I love him) will still accidentally take cues from other people and horses. Your husband sounds hilarious xD
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@gottatrot explains it well, but even before you teach a horse to be ridden, they have usually learned to move away from pressure (pressing with your legs is another form of pressure). Horses should be halter trained when they are babies, first being led next to their mothers. The basic concept of moving away from pressure lays down the groundwork for a lot of future training. So when you pull on a lead rope, the young horse feels pressure on his poll, and to relieve that pressure, it must move forward. Verbal cues can easily be added by giving the cue, then adding the physical pressure, and the horse moves forward, therefore relieving the pressure. So eventually, the horse moves on cue since the verbal cue is interpreted as a warning that pressure is coming so if they want to avoid it, they move forward.
Thanks so much!
 

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I think going forward is the default. It would be odd to get on a horse for the first time and have him stand still. You start by putting your legs on gently as he walks off naturally, till he learns an association. Gottatrot has it right.
Going forward is not always the default. Those horses are labelled as having "more whoa than go" :) and my Rusty is one of them! I can get him moving, but most people really struggle as he'd rather stay put. Our 4 year old pony can be the same. She can be very forward, but can also plant her feet and refuse to move. At first, when she would do that, it would take quite a bit of convincing to get her to move again! She's much better now, and hardly ever does it, but it is not that uncommon to have a horse whose default is to stand still under saddle.

In the end, every horse is different. Principles are the same - move away from pressure - but will be applied differently with different horses. Our Arab needs very little urging to move forward, but my Appy never really got the memo on moving away from pressure ;) He knows what we're asking, but it's hard to get over the inertia.
 

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They associate the cluck because you always have done it. Lol. I had a cat teach me when she licked herself that I was to be done petting, because she always bit me when I pet her after that. In the round pen, or lunging, depending on what you do, you cluck when you put pressure on them to move. That pressure doesn’t begin from the body, but maybe a flag shaken a little behind them. If they were to not go forward, you might tap them on the rear with the flag. They move away from that pressure, but the cluck is eventually (likely quickly) associated.
 

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I think going forward is the default. It would be odd to get on a horse for the first time and have him stand still. You start by putting your legs on gently as he walks off naturally, till he learns an association. Gottatrot has it right.
Many horses freeze the first time a rider is on. They have difficulty figuring out they can walk and balance with weight on their back.
If they have been prepared well they usually won't buck, but the first few times where they get "unstuck" and walk or rush forward are tricky. A ground handler can really help while the horse is learning these first steps.
 

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With my young horses I do a lot of ground work, they know the phrases "walk on" and "trot" very familiar with these, they learn to step over when I apply pressure on their side and of course they know the word "whoa" and that means stop with all four feet on the ground no exceptions. I also put a bridle on them and from the ground they understand to give to bit pressure moving the head left or right as asked and stop when light pressure applied.
when I get on them and I ask to walk on they already know what to do and I have never had any problems with misunderstanding the cues. When I ask to walk on I apply light leg pressure and gradually the verbal cues give way to seat, leg cues. Same procedure with the trot.
 
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