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For FAQs and extra tips see below!!
My first tutorial! Hope you all like it! In this video, I teach my 6yo rescue gelding to lay down. I do this by teaching him to lower his head, then walk with his head down, rewarding pawing and signs that he is thinking about laying down until he decides to offer the behaviour so I can reward it! This method involves no force, only release and reward for correct behaviour.
My horse will show all the signs but wont lie down… what do I do?
Your horse may need some extra encouragement! Do this exercise after a ride/workout or after you have hosed him down. Many horses want to roll at this time, so use it to your advantage! Does your horse feel safe enough in its environment to lay down? Don’t set him up to fail by asking him when he is worried about something. Work on getting him to feel safe and relaxed first.
What if you don’t have a sandy yard?
Sand does help but if you don’t have sand this can still work. It helps to observe your horse in the paddock. Most horses have a particular place they like to lay down so doing this exercise in this area can encourage your horse. If your horse feels comfortable laying down in his stable or yard, you could try there too! Don’t try on rocky or hard ground, that’s just silly ☺
What are you doing when you are ‘asking’ him?
I say in the video that I keep ‘asking’ him. I do this by just standing still and maybe cluck if he looks to me for direction. This is not the ‘ask’ I will have in the future but for now, I am just doing what works.
How do you get your horse to lie down on a particular cue?
Continue this process a few more times. As your horse learns what it is you want, it will take less time for him to lay down. When he lays down almost straight away you will find that you already have some sort of cue. Whether its just standing still and ignoring him until he lays down or clucking to ask him to move his feet, this is still a sort of ‘cue’. Now that your horse lays down with this cue, you can start transforming it into whatever you want, like a voice command, whip/pressure cue or body language. If you want to use a voice command or body language, just repeat it while you are asking him to lay down, you can then use less of your old cue and more of your new cue. If you want to use a whip/pressure cue you would do the same but tap him lightly wherever you want the cue to be, once he lays down, release the pressure and reward. Of course, make sure your horse has no fear of the whip or any other equipment you are using!
Don’t worry if your horse doesn’t lie down in the first session! Ace was at the stage of training where he was really searching for the right answers which made it easier. Be patient and don’t be afraid to spread it out over many short sessions!
Always end on a good note! The best place to quit is when you and your horse are interested and want to keep trying. Make sure you quit before your horse gets bored or frustrated.
Feel and timing is incredibly important! The better you are with the timing of your reward, the quicker your horse will learn.
Don’t ask for too much too soon! Your horse may give up if it gets too hard.
Don’t be too serious; it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you are stressed or too ‘strict’ I guarantee you, your horse will not lie down. Just relax and have fun!
Just sit and be with your horse! Choose a quiet day when you are not stressed and just hang out. Don’t pat, talk or interact, just relax with him. Most of the time when I do this, the horse will stand close and hang out and, amazingly, they often decide to lay down! Hopefully I will get it on video one day! Of course, once they lie down, reward them or just allow them to snooze and build some trust!