I remember an episode quite some years ago now. I was standing brushing my Bröta. She had no halter on and was not tied to anything but standing completely free. A guy comes in and looks at me, surprisingly asking me why Bröta didn’t run away. My simple answer was “because I trained her to stand still”. Is that even possible the guy asks? Well of course it is, I replied, you just need to know how to do it.
Every now and then I think about this episode and how rare it still is to have a horse that stands still without being tied. For me this is the normal and I absolutely will not have a horse that does not have a proper upbringing and knows how to behave in a decent way. For me this is essential and an important part of the security around horses. I do not want horses running away from me, running over me, stepping on my toes, shoving their heads into my stomach etc. A well mannered horse is a nice horse, and of course I realize that “well-mannered” is different to different people.
If I take on a horse, whether a training horse or one of my own the very first thing is that I check the manners of the horse. Is it well behaving already or do we need to work on it? The horse only does what it has learnt to do. If we need to change something we actually need to teach the horse what we expect of it. I think this is where it often fails. We simply do not know how to train our horses to behave, or we do not put the time into it.
Here is a short, general description on how to teach the horse to stand. It goes without saying that you start your training in an enclosed area. For example, if you are in your stable, close all doors so the horse cannot run away. First you train with the halter and a leadrope. Let the leadrope hang down to the floor. Equip yourself with a whip and ask the horse to stand. If the horse steps forward it will probably step on the leadrope and be stopped by this, but the instant you see your horse is about to move, you use the whip to put it back exactly where it was stopped. Use the whip on the chest to move the horse backwards and use it on the hindquarters to get the horse to step forward. Alternatively, if it works you can use your voice to stop the horse. Stay very calm yourself. If you are stressing the horse will also stress and probably start stepping around. When the horse has gotten the general picture you can put the leadrope over the neck or even take off the halter.
Start brushing your horse. Keep the brush in one hand and the whip in the other. Even if you are brushing your main focus is still to have the horse stand relaxed and quiet, not moving. The least intention of moving away should immediately be stopped by the whip or your voice. Once this works you can start moving away from the horse, further and further away. The grand finale is to open the stable door. Do you trust your horse enough to leave it when it actually can escape? For me this was a big issue when starting this kind of training and I was really nervous the horse would just run away when I wasn’t there and the door was open… Trust your training and your instincts!
Do you think maybe not all horses have it in them, to stand freely? Think again! I have been working with stallions, even young hot blooded ones, that stands perfectly still untied and do not move even if a mare walks by a few metres away.