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Step 4: My Horse in an Elevator

Standing Still

Back to Step 3: Leading Your Horse    Next to Step 5: Controlling Speed and Gaits

Editor's note: This article is part of a multi-lesson training series.

I got the idea for the title of this article from comedian, Bill Cosby. He once spoke in one of his stand up routines about his father playing a game with him and his siblings called "elevator". They would practice being still and keeping quiet — I got a real chuckle out of that! Well, maybe it isn't so easy to teach a bunch of high energy children to stay still for a few minutes, but we CAN teach our horse to do it.

Like children, horses may appear to have almost endless energy and run and play in their paddocks, but in reality, most adult horses really just want to be the parent. They want to sit down with the remote and some good chow, and not be bothered by anybody or anything for hours on end. Horses are prey animals. They spend the majority of their time eating, drinking, passing manure, reproducing (if applicable), and keeping an eye out for predators. If they could choose their perfect life, it would not contain anything else, especially some two-legged predator who wants them to work! So, as with children, we need to use some reverse psychology.

If you want your horse to stand still, you need to move his feet.

That's right. You read it correctly. You, a 100-200 pound predator, cannot FORCE your 900 pound or heavier horse to stand still. You need to create a mind set in the horse in which he CHOOSES to stand still. You want your horse to WANT to stand still. You want your horse to LOVE to stand still. Whether you're holding him at the end of a lead rope, trying to mount him, trying to pick his feet or put his saddle on, you want him to stand still.

Is this ground tieing? Yes and no. Some ground tied horses have been specifically taught to stand where their reins fall. Some horses stand still with or without reins hanging to the ground because they were taught to WAIT. Teaching a horse to stand still is a combination of teaching the horse to take his rest while he can get it and to pay attention to your cues because you're his LEADER. If you can control the movement of his feet through walk, trot, and canter, then why not when standing? Isn't this stopping movement?

Anytime your horse won't stand still, you need to move his feet. Sending his hip over is usually the best method of movement because once the hip disengages, it sets the horse up to step beneath himself in a way that equally balances all four of his feet directly in their natural resting place. If you have to turn your horse in 100 circles of sending his hip over before he finally chooses to just stand still, then do it 100 times. You cannot quit before he does. Back your horse up, send his hip over, send his shoulder away in small lunging circles, do whatever it takes to channel that energy to move forward into WORK. The more work you make your horse do, the more he'll want to stand still.

When he does stand still, reward him with a pat and let him rest. As soon as he even steps 1 inch, start working him again. You'll find that every horse is different and some may stand still for just a couple of seconds before walking off again while others will stand for maybe a minute before testing to see if you're paying attention. Try to repeat this exercise and build on the length of time your horse is standing still each day. Patience is a virtue!

Back to Step 3: Leading Your Horse    Next to Step 5: Controlling Speed and Gaits

Jennifer Goddard has been training horses of various breeds for over 20 years using her natural horsemanship methods. She has also ridden and shown in multiple disciplines and is owner of Levaland Farm, a 30 stall horse farm in Massachusetts. Jennifer has a degree in Finance and Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College, and is also President of Equine Business Solutions, a business specializing in the starting and running of equine businesses.

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