1.) Ground tie: Can your horse just stand where you put him if you just drop your lead rope on the ground in front of him?
Tip: If he moves, just put him back. Repeat as necessary. As with all things, if it is important to you, it will be important to your horse. Be patient and don’t resort to the cross ties.
2.) While your horse is ground tied, can you brush your horse?
Tip: If you cannot, just keep putting him back until he can stand still as if he were tied.
3.) While he is ground tied, can you clean all 4 of his feet from one side?
Tip: If at first this seems too weird for your horse, just work to pick them up one at a time, while you figure out just how to hold them long enough to clean them.
4.) While he is ground tied, can you use just a small amount of pressure on his tail to ask him to walk backward toward you while you stand behind him?
Tip: Since you have been asking your horse to stand still, ground tied, you’ll have to bring up a bit of energy to help him understand you want him to move! If he moves, great, rub him until he stops and praise him. You may need to pick up his lead rope to ask him , from the front to come back toward you, just a little though, just enough to encourage backward and not to turn to follow you.
5.) Now that we are moving, can you, with your pinky finger, ask your horse, on his chest, to move backward, just one foot step.
Tip: If he moves, make much of him, if he doesn’t, instead of adding more pressure on your fingertips, add some rhythmic pressure by waving your other hand, gesturing him to move away from your fingertip.
6.) You can use this same technique to move just one foot back, forward or sideways. Maybe you’ll just get a weight shift first, praise the slightest try and then as again for more. Your horse can move up, down, left, right, forward and back in all zones – head, neck, shoulders, barrel, hindquarters and tail, be sure to include all feet and legs. Taking the time to do this well during inclement weather will make your riding so much lighter when the weather is better!
Tip: Avoid ever getting heavy. Add rhythm instead of heaviness.
7.) Just by waving your hand, like using an imaginary stick to clear away imaginary geese in front of you, can you softly, but with intention, walk toward your horse and have him back away?
Tip: If you do this and your horse responds, praise him. If not, you may need something in your hand like a crop or dressage whip. Use the tool, if you need it, then put it down and use your imaginary stick. The goal is not to rely on the tool, just to reinforce your idea.
BONUS: Back your horse into his stall, first with soft steady pressure, when that is going well, back him into his stall with slack in the lead rope and no hands on your horse, when that’s going well, take the strings off and do it at liberty, ask him to back into any empty stall you can find, increase the difficulty by placing a 2×4 on the floor in front of the door to be stepped over. Educating your horses behind will create confidence behind him. Use everything you have, voice, energy, good things upon arrival in the stall!
8.) Can you stand up straight in front of your horse and draw him to you by gesturing with your arms for him to come straight to your heart?
Tip: Be animated and don’t bribe him. Say come.
9.) When your horse comes to you from a few feet away, back farther away and encourage him to come to you until, maybe you are ten or fifteen feet away or the entire barn isle away.
10.) When your horse is coming to you easily, see if you can hold up your hand and ask him to stop before he gets to you!
Tip: You can start slower and only move a few feet away before you hold up the stop signal.
11.) Back to the stand still, can you ask your horse to put his head down, below his withers and rock his center of mass back so his weight is distributed equally on all four legs, without stepping in any direction?
12.) Let’s use the walls to guide us. Shoulder-in is the goal, the shoulders and bend of your horse and you, will be to the inside of the isle. You will walk straight forward with your horse slightly bent around you, down the entire length of the barn isle. If you get the bend correctly, look to see if your horse’s inside hind leg is stepping forward under his centerline.
Tip: You only need a slight bend and angle, you don’t want a sideways movement, this is a forward movement. This time working in the barn isle will help you tremendously when you get back outside!
13.) Be sure to move in shoulder – in, in the left bend and then the right bend. Go slow and do it right. It is more important to go slow and do it right than it is to go fast and do it wrong. This exercise will help your horse be more symmetrical.
Tip: If your horse is pushy, back him up. When he is moving forward thoughtfully and slowly continually, you can begin to move at a more normal pace.
14.) If you can go forward in shoulder-in, see if you can stop after just four or five steps. If you can stop softly and maintain your horse’s posture, add a few steps of back-up.
Tip: This back up should be light in your hand. Use all of your aids to help him go slow and do it correctly. Aids may include, your voice, your body language, your touch, perhaps on the halter or on your horses’ chest, maybe the stick in front of his chest to create a visual block.
15.) If you have gone in order and have gotten some nice results, try for a few steps of hatches in. In this exercise, your horse’s shoulders will be toward the wall and the hind legs will be in isle. two tracks are enough, three or four tracks are fine as well.
Tip: Prioritize the correct bend. The shoulders will be toward the wall, you are on the isle side, in front of the nose facing the hind quarters. Ask for hollowness on your side.
There are MANY more things you can do with your horse in a barn isle on a wintery day or on a day where the weather is just too uncomfortable to be outside. I am happy to help! Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will help clarify.
Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,
Mary Ann Brewer