your voice

How much do you use your voice to help your horse's training?

Used properly, your voice can give your horse confidence, encourage him to trust and respect you and prepare him for many aspects of life.

Voice training can be done with all horses of all ages - and it helps to build your relationship with your horse. Here are some simple techniques to use in the stable.

All voice training should start in the stable - all you need to do is spend a few minutes when you visit your horse in the morning and evening to teach him a few basics. Have your horse in a headcollar and rope and set the task up so it easy for him to succeed. For instance, if you are asking him to move over make sure he has room to do so.

1. Over
Position yourself at your horse's head, on the nearside, facing his hindquarters, and have a loose contact on the lead rope with your left hand. Use your right hand to gently tap your horse's side (eg behind the elbow, where the girth would be positioned) as you say the word 'over'. You do not want to use constant pressure with your right hand to push your horse over as this will deaden his side and he will not react as well. Encourage him to keep his head straight and stop him moving his shoulders away from you.
Be aware that your horse may never have been taught to move over on command so praise him for any steps he does take. Over a few sessions you can gradually increase the number of steps he takes and get a more prompt response to your request. Remember to teach your horse this exercise from both sides.
Having a horse who will move over on command helps in the stable, eg when you are mucking out, grooming and tacking up and is also useful out on rides eg to make opening and closing gates easier.

2. Back
This is helpful if your horse tends to crowd you a little in the stable eg as you enter the stable to put his feed in the manger. Start as you would for teaching the 'over' command but this time have your horse alongside a wall so it is easier to keep him straight. Keep a soft contact on the lead rope and tap the horse on the chest, saying 'back' as you do so. You might find that you have to also apply a little backwards pressure on the lead rope as you say 'back' but remember that you must cease this pressure as soon as your horse moves backwards. 
You must praise your horse for any step back he takes - and then build up the number of steps. You have to be quick to prevent him walking forward - he must not do this until you ask him to.

3. Lift or up
If your horse will pick up each foot on command it's much easier to do everyday jobs such as picking out feet and it's helpful for when your horse needs the farrier's attention. You can use the word 'lift' or 'up' whichever you prefer. Have the horse ready as you did for teaching 'over'. Run your hand down the back of your horse's leg and pick up the foot, saying the command you prefer as you do so.
If your horse is young you will need to get him accustomed to being handled all down his legs before trying to pick his feet up. Remember to spend time preparing young horses for their future life - for instance, once he is okay with picking his feet up, spend some time tapping his hooves and then taking the leg forward a little to help prepare him for the farrier.

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