Step 3. Back Off From a Visual Cue

Step 3. Back Off From a Visual Cue
Now you have taught your horse to look away and to back off, the next step is to teach the horse to back off in response to a visual cue. The visual cue we are going to use is you holding your hand straight out towards the horse and waving your finger up and down.

Where should I start?
You can do this exercise anywhere, it will help to have a safe, fenced area or some kind. You could do this exercise in a stable or yard or anywhere that you can work with the horse on its own where it can concentrate on you.

What do I need?

  • A clicker with a wrist strap
  • Bumbag full of treats
  • A rope halter and lead rope
  • A horse

How do I start?

Stand in front of the horse and hold your arm straight out towards the horse and wiggle your index finger up and down.
Then step in and use the halter to apply backwards pressure on the halter.
When the horse steps backwards, click, wait for the horse to look away, and then it give the horse a treat.
Then repeat the process. Stand out in front of the horse, hold your arm straight out towards the horse and wiggle your finger up and down. Then step in and use the halter and apply backwards pressure until the horse steps backwards. When the horse steps backwards, click, wait for them to look away and then give them a treat.
Repeat this process at least ten times. Give the visual cue, then step in and use the halter to get the horse to step backwards and then click when they take one step backwards. Always wait for the horse to look away a little before you give them the treat.

When you have done this at least ten times the horse will get the idea and will be thinking about going backwards. We can then start to do this without walking in towards the horse and using the halter. Instead of walking in and using the halter we are going to give the visual cue (hold your arm out towards the horse and wiggle your finger up and down) then use the lead rope and send quick waves down the lead rope so that the halter bumps the horse on the top on the nose. Use a quick rhythm with the waves in the lead rope and gradually increase the intensity until the horse steps backwards. As soon as the horse steps backwards, click, walk to the horse, wait for them to look away and then give them the treat.

Repeat the process. Stand out in front of the horse and hold your arm straight out towards the horse. Wiggle your finger up and down as the cue, then immediately begin sending waves down the rope until the horse steps backwards, then click, look away and treat.
The horse will get the idea and will soon try going backwards just in response to the visual cue alone. Click, look away and treat if the horse response to the visual cue alone.

Repeat the process many times and soon the horse will be able to go backwards in response to a visual cue alone.

More steps backwards..
You could then gradually increase the number of backwards steps the horse has to do to earn the click and treat. Use the visual cue, wiggle your finger at the horse and then curl your finger down the rope and send waves down the rope. When the horse takes 2 steps backwards, click on the second step backwards. Then walk to the horse and wait for them to look away and give them the treat. Repeat this stage until they will take two steps backwards in response to the visual cue alone. You can then repeat the process getting them to take 3 steps backwards to earn a click and treat. Stay at each stage and do enough repetitions at that stage until the horse can respond to the visual cue at that stage. Then try increasing the number of backwards steps required to earn a click and treat.

Eventually you will be able to get the horse to go backwards even up to 20 meters to earn a click and treat. Make sure that you go to the horse to give them the treat, don’t let the horse come to you when it hears the click. If the horse tries to walk towards you when it hears the click just use the waves in the rope to back the horse up a step as you walk towards them to give them the treat. Soon the horse will realize that you go to them to give them the treat, they don’t walk towards you to get the treat.

When the horse is really good at going backwards in response to a visual cue you could then add speed as a criteria, can you get the horse to take a faster step backwards to earn a click and treat? To do this you give your visual cue, then use the lead rope to send waves down the rope, gradually increase the intensity of the waves until the horse takes one faster step backwards. Click and treat for the faster step backwards. Repeat this process until the horse will take a faster step straight away in response to a visual cue.
Then gradually increase the number of faster steps backwards the horse has to do to earn the click and treat.

You could then try using your visual cue to get the horse to go backwards over a pole on the ground, backwards over a tarp, backwards over a puddle etc. When going backwards over an object get them to go over the object forwards first, then get them to stop and stand on the object and use your visual cue to back them off it.

Now you are ready for the next step…park.

Happy clicking 🙂

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