Step 4. Park – Stand still and stay there
The next step is to teach your horse to stand still while you walk away from them.
Teaching a horse to stand still and stay there is probably one of the most important and useful things you can teach your horse. It is often assumed that a horse will know this when actually very few people take the time to teach the horse this important lesson.
To teach the horse to stand still they first need to know how to step forwards and backwards in response to pressure on the halter and lead rope or halter. The horse will need to know how to back off, and how to back off from a visual cue.
We begin by teaching the horse to stay while we take just one little step away from them.
Have the horse standing next to you on a halter and lead rope.
Have the lead rope hanging loosely with no pressure, with a safe length of lead rope.
Step away from the horse quickly, click then step back to the horse and give them a treat.
If you step away quickly enough you will be able to click and step back to them before they have even moved anywhere.
Repeat this as many times as you can in quick succession. Ideally, 3 sets of ten repetitions. (30 repetitions in total).
If the horse moves when you step away from them, immediately step back in and use the halter to cue the horse to step backwards one step, or as many steps as the horse has moved. For example if the horse takes three steps, then correct them by gently getting them to take three steps back.
Then immediately try again, step away one step, click, then step back in and give them a treat.
Every time they move, immediately correct them by stepping them backwards to where they were.
Within a short time the horse will figure out that if it just stands there you will keep click and treating!
This becomes a fantastic thing for the horse, all it has to do is stand there and you click and feed them, woohoo!!!
The horse will love this exercise.
With practice you will soon be able to progress until you can take two steps away from the horse without the horse moving.
Click when you step away if the horse stands still, then give the horse a treat.
Repeat the exercise gradually getting further away from the horse.
If the horse moves, immediately put them back to where they where then repeat the exercise.
Don’t click for the reinback if you have to put the horse back. Only click if the horse stands still while you walk away.
You can then start to introduce a cue. Hold up your hand with your palm flat facing the horse and say “stand”, then take a step away from the horse. Click and then go to the horse and give them the treat.
Use the verbal cue “stand” and the visual cue at the same time (stop type gesture, hand out with flat palm).
Then step away from the horse. Click and treat if they stand still.
Gradually progress until you can walk further away from the horse without it moving.
Then progress until you can walk, run jump, skip or hop around them.
It is important to retrain this exercise from scratch in at least 10 different locations.
With each training session or each different location the horse will respond more quickly.
By training this behaviour in a variety of locations and with increasing distractions the horse will learn to stand
and stay until you ask it to move again.
This is one of the most important things to teach every horse.
You can also improve this lesson by ensuring that the horse is really wanting to stand still.
If the horse is really fresh and full of energy it will help to lunge the horse a bit first so that they are more likely to stand still when you are trying to teach the correct response to this cue.
This is just like teaching a dog to “stay”….