Training Human Tips:
Adult humans can be difficult to train! Patience, persistence and planning and an ability to overcome setbacks will all be important to your training program. You will need to remain focused in the belief that your human will get there eventually!
My fellow horses; here are a few barn yard tips for training humans:
Teaching Humans Ground manners:
Humans often forget their manners when entering your personal space. If they don’t hear your simple “please move out of my space” message expressed by a push with the nose – ram them with your shoulder and proceed by standing on their foot, it works very effectively! While they are hopping around holding their foot in agony they can reflect on their rudeness.
Feet are a very useful tool for training humans. Teach them to pick out your feet quickly and efficiently by refusing to hold up your foot for more than 10 seconds at a time. Doing small ‘air circles’ with your hind feet will ensure your human does not stay at that end any longer than necessary. If all else fails a good swift cow kick will remove the human at once!
Humans LOVE soft muzzles. When you really want something, like a carrot or a treat or even the day off – blow in your human’s ear and gently nuzzle your soft nose against their cheek. This guarantees a melt – down EVERYTIME! – They cannot resist it!
If a human thinks that another human does not understand them, they usually keep saying the same thing over and over, and louder and louder. So if they do not hear your ‘Please move out of my space’ message which is first expressed by a push with the nose, it is very acceptable to launch at your human with bared teeth. If they still don’t ‘hear’ you then say it louder with your ears back and your eyes rolling in anger. – They will get it then!
If the Human is throwing their weight around a bit and shoving you out of there way, throw you weight back. Try stamping on their foot, and if that fails do a quick turn on the forehand to present them with your backside – and then fire off with both barrels (hind leg kicks). This should give the human the message that you are more than a little upset with their attitude and their invasion of your space.
Pawing and stamping are useful communication tools when you want attention NOW. Using your front foot pawing technique on well manicured grass or a neat gravel driveway will work the best! For some reason humans detest these areas being defaced so they will rush to your side in an instant.
Pawing in the concrete tie stall floor or barn alleyway will create a huge racket and wears down your shoes nicely (if you have any) . If that does not bring the human scurrying over to you, just scrape harder and harder on the concrete until you are louder and louder! If you are still ignored then the ‘I AM A CELEBRITY – LOOK AT ME NOW’ snort and stamping of all four feet should do the trick!
Communication and leadership roles:
There will at some point a tussle for the leadership position between you and your human. Humour them and allow them to think they are the boss while quietly watching them much out your stall, fill your water buckets, pick out your feet and struggle to manhandle a overloaded wheelbarrow full of your manure. Remember they also frequently work long hours at a job they hate just so that they can pay to do this on their spare time!!
Your human should also always give you attention first as they are YOUR human, and to preferably give you attention exclusively. If your human dares to fuss over another horse in front of you, give them a turned-away, haughty look over the shoulder treatment saying ‘I don’t care’ better yet – if they have not caught you yet – turn and run and play the ‘you cant catch me game’ this is a fun one!
Spooking is a highly versatile communication tool. Humans are often unaware of the monsters that live in hedges, and certain places around the riding ring. You need to educate them on these matters, particularly when you are really scared. After all how will they know if you don’t tell them? So a minor fright can justify a jump and spin. A really big monster is definitely a cause for a big spook, snort then the spin and run away strategy!
Spooking revisited: It is very important to remind your human that monster lurk EVERYWHERE. Remember to spook and drag them away from the potential danger to the nearest spot of sweet green grass. Some humans will even try to take you back to the ‘danger’ and introduce you to it; they may even ask you to touch it with your nose! They are completely mad and should be dragged back to the grass as soon as possible for their own safety! If necessary mimic their madness by snorting and rolling your eyes – then eat the sweet green grass.
Grooming and Bonding
For friendship, bonding and relationship building, grooming is the key interaction with your human. Humans find it most endearing when you groom them, and will spend hours grooming you back. If you can keep it up for long enough, they may even run out of time to ride you!
Good human grooming tips – no nipping or using teeth. But you can move your lips in a twirling motion along the back of their legs, arms, shoulders and their neck and back.
You can also rub your head on any part of their body. Despite the fact that they seem to fall over when you do this, they keep coming back for more.
Another great bonding technique is to gently pull and tug at their clothing. They seem to find this very cute and will often pull out a hidden carrot or treat.
- Feeding time: it is only fair after a long day of grazing and a short period of work that you are fed according to your nutritional needs. That means fed first before any of your stable mates. Loud door-kicking and stamping should be enough to make your human scurry along with your food. They do not want the reputation for having the horse that kicks the door down at feeding time.
- Treats: every time you do something good you should be rewarded!! Encourage your human to carry a pocketful of treats at all times and search their pockets at regular intervals. They find this quite endearing and will laugh at you antics. If you look cute while you do it they may also reward you by giving you a treat, thus reinforcing that searching their pockets is a good behavior.
- Treats: Calling your human when they come into the barn or field is a great training tool. They will go all soft and gooey because you recognized them and will give you a treat for it. Pampering your human’s ego and appealing to their love for you ensures a steady supply of treats.
Key phrases in training:
- ‘Submission’ is a key word within all training methods. Its all about attention, confidence, harmony and lightness. You may have to work hard to get your human to submit to you. They frequently have a short attention span, their mind is elsewhere and they are rarely as confident as you would like them to be. Hence, you cannot achieve the level of harmony you are looking for. On no account should you submit to your human until they have done it first. This could take years.
- ‘Impulsion’ – means the desire to move forward, elasticity of the steps, suppleness of the hindquarters – is another key word. Your human’s impulsion can be improved by scaring them. Sometimes just an enormous leaping spook and snort is enough to dramatically increase the elasticity of their steps as they scramble out of the way. If you are creative where you spook you may see them leap over objects that are in their way so plan ahead.
- ‘Correctness of the aids’ this is where your human should give you a precise instruction as to what to do next – walk, trot, canter etc. If you are well trained like me then you should simply refuse to do anything unless the human gets the aids just perfect. For less experienced horses I recommend the ‘I’m simply confused’ training method. This way you do what you want to do and pretend it is what you were asked to do.
Walking in circles and fidgeting from side to side is a great tactic for avoiding the saddle. The longer you can keep your human occupied with the tacking up process the less time they will have to ride. A favorite of mine is to change the direction of the circle or move sideways just as they have the saddle poised to place on your back.
The age old head up trick is also a great one for wasting time. Always ensure that you drop your nose into their hands and muzzle the bit softly to pick up the bit. Then as they go to slip the bridle over your ears, swiftly lift your head and open your mouth. Unless your human is well over 6ft tall they cannot reach your ears when your head is up at its highest. So the bit will fall out of your mouth and then the whole process starts over. You can entertain yourself for quite sometime with this. You may even get a treat as the bit is placed in your mouth to “help” you take it…
If your human takes off your halter completely to put the bridle on, walking off can provide more great entertainment. If they manage to get the reins around your neck, you will now be able to lead them around the yard to the best spots for grass. If they did not get the reins around your neck, you can watch them desperately following you around clinging to a piece of mane. It is all good fun and you get to take your human for a walk.
Feeding and Treats
Feeding time: it is only fair after a long day of grazing and a short period of work that you are fed according to your nutritional needs. That means fed first before any of your stable mates. Loud door-kicking and stamping should be enough to make your human scurry along with your food.They do not want the reputation for having the horse that kicks the door down at feeding time.
Treats: every time you do something good you should be rewarded!! Encourage your human to carry a pocketful of treats at all times and search their pockets at regular intervals. They find this quite endearing and will laugh at your antics. If you look cute while you do it they may also reward you by giving you a treat, thus reinforcing that searching their pockets is a good behavior.
Treats: Calling your human when they come into the barn or field is a great training tool. They will go all soft and gooey because you recognized them and will give you a treat for it. Pampering your human’s ego and appealing to their love for you ensures a steady supply of treats.
Disciplining your Human
Sometimes your human will really irk or frustrate you and at these times it is best to avoid all contact with them (except at feeding time). This is very easy if you are in a field. Just refuse to come anywhere near them, and avoid all their attempts at catching you by ensuring there is at least half a field between you and your human at all times.
If you are upset with your humans behaviors for whatever reason try giving them the cold shoulder. In the stall or your paddock, turn your bottom to them and refuse to look at them. Regardless of where they stand or how they approach you, present them with your back end. A carefully planned explosion of wind at the right moment can be sufficient to make them leave you alone.
Humans also respond well to voice commands. If you need them to pay attention to you immediately try a loud nervous whinny. They will think you are very scared and will come scurrying over to reassure you and maybe feed you treats. A fire breathing snort can be used to tell your human there is definitely a monster in that hedge (barrel, stall etc) and that you need to get away from it fast – preferably back to your stall or to the nearest food.
Taking your Human for a ride series:
If your human is capable of mounting from the ground, then trot off as soon as one foot is in the stirrup and the other is in the air but not high enough to swing their leg over your back. They will soon learn to use a mounting block to avoid hanging under your stomach or they will learn to mount at lightening speed.
Mounting steps are marvelous! You can have hours of fun moving away from them just as your human reaches the top step. You can turn your human into a fabulous dancer; just wait till the human stands on the steps; you move; human moves to get off the steps, moves you back to the steps, remounts the steps, then you move and so on and so on……
A final mounting exercise is the inhale/exhale method. Inhale while they are doing up the girth, and exhale while they are trying to get on so that the saddle slides down preventing them from getting on. A jump sideways with a surprised look from you is an optional extra.
Depending on what you like to do, you may have to encourage your human to participate in certain riding activities. On no account should you tolerate an activity if you don’t enjoy it. Life is to short!
If your human does not really enjoy riding it will become obvious to you. They will spend hours cleaning your stall or paddock, cleaning your tack even if it is not dirty and has not been used much. They will also groom you incessantly – in fact you may start to go bald! They will often drink a lot of coffee and spend hours ‘talking horses’ with their human stable friends – but not spending time actually riding.
If you like a change of scenery now and then and enjoy trail riding but your human doesn’t, you may need to show them that you have no natural survival instinct at all. Be happy to plod merrily along busy roads past noisy traffic, even past horse eating signs and plastic bags (even if flapping in the wind!). Calmly walk past farm machinery, barking dogs, mud puddles (sink holes) and any other menace that your human would otherwise be terrified of riding you past.