How do I Get My Horse to Stand Still?

Hey Dressage Superstars! Today’s question is, How do I get my horse to stand still?

Is your horse doing this? “I don’t want to stand still. I don’t want to stand still. I don’t stand still”.

So the biggest thing is, you want to catch the horselike your children, like everyone elsedoing the right thing.

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I’d love to hear from you how you go and what strategies you use to keep your horse stand still!

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Natasha Althoff

Full Transcript Expand to full transcript

Is your horse doing this? “I don’t want to stand still. I don’t want to stand still. I don’t stand still”.

So the biggest thing is, you want to catch the horse – like your children, like everyone else – doing the right thing. So we’ve got him to stand still. And then when he’s standing still you can bribe them with a little bit of a treat. Now that’s not in any dressage book, that is not dressage, that’s circus training, but sometimes circus training can be a little bit involved in dressage training, because you want the horse to understand that when he relaxes, when he comes and just stands still. So he’s a little bit against me in the bridle, which I don’t like. If I was going to do a dressage test, I would not get a good score to move off into trot, because I’ve lost him a little bit.

Now I could trot off and it would be a much better picture. Except he is resting a leg, which is not good.

And that’s what you want. If you need to fix – obviously now we’re not halting square, which is a whole other video – but we want him first, the first step is we want the horse to stand on four feet without moving and I want to be able to move him. I want to be able to say, “Hey, can you bend here? Hey, can you bend here?” And him, accept that and not go “That means I have to move my legs. That means I have to trot off. That means I need to do, you know, move the hind leg one way or the other.” We want him (this) to be solid. So if he does disengage in the halt and we do need to move off into trot in a dressage test, we can play with the bit a little bit and get his back and get everything back together again.

So then I could go and ask for trot in my test and have a little bit more of a chance. Now I’ve lost him the other way. Now how your horse disengages by either putting his head up or diving below.

So he does both. Now we’ve got a connection again. Now I don’t. Now I do. So you see he was thinking piaffe, he was thinking it’s time to go, and then just by doing that little bit of a treat. So I waited until he gave me the reaction I wanted, then gave him a treat and now I can move him. And he goes, “yep, It doesn’t mean “I’ll move my legs until mom says move my legs”. And then when I closed my legs he goes, “oh yep that means move my legs.”

Now halt again. And now this is a much better halt than I just had before because he’s like, “is a treat coming? Is a treat coming? Is a treat coming?” And I unfortunately don’t have another one. So I’ve lost his attention. I need to be able to keep his attention while he keeps his four legs planted.

So if you’ve got a bit of a hot horse, a bit of a crazy horse, it’s not going to train as quick, you literally will get a millisecond of halt. Give the treat, you might get a couple more milli seconds while the horse eats or the horse still may have gotten distracted, doesn’t matter. Walk on, you be the one to tell the horse to walk. You tell the horse to halt, getting that he plants four legs on the ground. Give a treat. You’ll be able to increase it, increase it, increase it as the horse goes.

Again, you don’t have to give the treat, you can just be a disciplinarian dressage rider and go, “I told you to keep your four legs still and you keep your four legs still!” But it’s very hard. You can’t force a horse to be still. He has to choose to be still. He has to choose to want to work with you. And I like chocolate and treats, so do my horses. So I just find that’s the quickest way to get their brains to understand what I want them to do.

My Grand Prix Horse, Abe, I went to a million dressage coaches and no one could help me teach this horse passage. We just couldn’t do it with one hour and a Brownie Bar, like a special horse brownie bar. We had the best passage we’d ever seen and it was literally by letting him give/offer us a quarter of a stride passage, just that little bit of ahh! and we gave Brownie, and then he was like, “hang on” – and after three times we gave brownie, he was like, “oh sure, I know what you want”.

And there was no other way we could get through to him about what we wanted until we started rewarding close-ish to the behavior that we wanted. So have some fun with that. I’ll see you soon.