Helping an equine to stand quietly

Hello Doc — I met you and Tom at Horse Progress Days last year in Illinois; I hope you are recovering from the fire. I have a 7-year-old Clydesdale mare that was broke as a 2 year old. I used her double for 3 years doing chores — mostly on the manure spreader. I recently lost the gelding, so have used the mare as a single for hauling out manure on a stone boat.

She she stands great in the barn and at the shed, but not good in the woods or the garden when I’m dumping the load or hooking to the harrow. I have your fundamental tapes, but was wondering if I should go back to the round pen training or teaching the horse to drive. Any suggestions on which video would help? Regards, CA in Missouri

Hello, CA — Good to hear from you. Are you aware of my new 3 disc video set, “Gentle Training – The Round Pen”? I believe there is a lot in it that would help with your mare.

My short answer to your question is to start teaching her to stand in all those different places that she is having difficulty doing so by taking her there in the halter and doing it with her on a long lead. Start where she will stand well (in barn and at shed) then go a few feet and work on it there, gradually increasing the distance into new adjacent areas. Because of her experience in harness I suggest doing it with the harness and bridle but on a lead not with lines from behind just yet.

Mix up the standing with short walks, asking her to back up, picking up feet, petting and scratching her (no patting or slapping), asking her to put her head down, rubbing her with a stick all over the body, etc. This will keep her from getting bored and break up asking for one thing too long at first. Try to ask her to move before she tries to move, but if she does move make her go in a circle on the long lead just like she was in a round pen until she becomes more cooperative.

Practice standing on the halter in front of the equipment you will be using but not hitched to it. Move the equipment to new locations from time to time to give her practice in front of it in different locations.

As she gets good about standing in a given location gradually increase the distance you are from her to teach her to stand when you are farther away, and eventually out of sight behind the blinders. If she gets her head too far to the side or looks to the side too long she will move so when you are asking her to stand keep her head relatively straight forward without being too militant about it. Pet her and talk nice when she is doing well and re-position her or make her do some circles when she isn’t. Better to take a small success, reward it and move her a ways so as to not ask too much.

If she moves one of her feet, make her put it back where it was. If she steps forward and you put her feet back a time or two you should increase the message the next time by not just putting her feet back where they were but by making her back up a few steps and then stand there – she will be getting farther away from where she really wants to be and it will have a greater effect (in time).

Eventually, you can do all of this with the lines from behind her, reward her with a calm hand and petting on the rump, drive her in circles (but not in a direction she wants to go) as needed as a consequence of moving when not asked to do so, etc.

She may have stood well with a partner in various locations but she needs to learn that she must do so alone as well. Teaching even the simplest things in many different places and circumstances is called generalizing training and is very important.

The long version and much more detail can be found in my new DVDs. You can see them on my website. If you decide to order them just email me and I will get them right off to you and you can send a check at your convenience. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have questions along the way. With appreciation, –Doc