Training ~ Yielding ("Printer Friendly" version of this page)
Put yourself in the horseshoes of the lead mare. If you were standing next to another horse and wanted to get to some nice green grass on the other side of the horse, how would you do it? Would you walk all the way around the other horses nose or rear? The lead mare is going to yield either the front or the rear of this horse out of the way and walk right through. If you were to walk through your horse at the head to get to the other side of the horse, what would happen. Would your horse stand still? Would it move into you? Your horse should yield to you and move out of the way. If you dont have this, then your horse thinks that you are the one who is subordinate.
If you ask a horse to move, they darn well better move. Horses arent looking for a fight. The last thing they want is trouble. You may have noticed that a lead mare will flick her head, turn her rear, move her shoulder, or use other postures to yield another horse. If the other horse wont yield it doesnt mean that the lead mare will walk off, the stakes are now higher. Eventually, this may get to physical contact. But, once the lead mare gets what she is after, she lets the pressure off. You have to do this too. You need to use caution, everything about them is "industrial strength". A flick of the head or quick kick intended to yield another horse can seriously injure us because we dont have the size to play these games. This is where you use what the horse already knows and your "superior intelligence" to reinforce your role as the leader.
Most people make this too complicated with their horse. The horsemen at clinics that I have been to all deal with yields, but either go so fast that people cant see whats happening or they assume everyone is up to speed and at the same level. Dont assume that just because your horse is "broke" that whoever trained him made sure that this was put into him, you need to test your horse. These are the yields that you need to have with your horse in order to have a basic level of respect.
One of the great things about a horse that is yielding to you is that they are in a submissive posture. When yielding the shoulder or hindquarters, they are also at a disadvantage with their legs crossed over -- the horse cant easily strike out or kick without adjusting its posture. The horse is vulnerable and knows this too which gives you a big advantage when it comes to building a relationship and respect.
All of these exercises require a rope halter and lead rope. The key to these exercises is that you want the horse to move off of as little pressure as possible. Always start with an ounce of pressure but be prepared to use 100 pounds if thats what it takes. Offer the good deal first, but be ready to use whatever it takes.
Its easiest to teach your horse to move off of the pressure of your hand first and then move to the lead rope. There are a number of ways to teach this:
on the horses chest: Use you thumbs and press into the chest
muscle of the horse. Reward immediately when the horse begins to move backward.
Lower your posture and reward the horse.
For difficult horses, and by this we mean horses that are so braced and resistant that they may as well have their feet planted in concrete because they aren't going to yield. You need to take the pressure up a notch. We use a couple of different techniques in these situations.
This is kind of hard to describe, stand directly in front of the horse about 2 feet off of the nose. Use a hand motion similar to what the flight crew on an aircraft carrier does with both hands (this is hard to describe) to guide an airplane in. If you were an Atlanta Braves baseball fan I would tell you to do the "tomahawk chop" with both hands while holding the lead rope between your hands. You are asking your horse to back up with pressure from your hands and the lead rope. If the horse doesn't move, use the lead rope by rolling it over in a circular motion directed at the horses nose. If the horse still doesn't move, use this same rolling motion with your hands and the lead rope to make light contact with the horse's nose. Don't make contact with the horse unless you have to.
This may startle the horse, but it will move off the pressure. Try this again without making contact. You will quickly get the horse to learn to move off of pressure if you reward the appropriate behavior. What you are after is your horse moving backwards with you moving both hands directed at the horse's nose. You want to be able to do this very lightly.
In the case of a horse that simply will not budge, you will need to take the pressure up another notch. There's a couple of ways to do this. You can use your body & posture to physically get "bigger" by standing taller, throwing out your chest and walking assertively at the horse while wiggling the lead rope. Then work backwards to as little pressure as possible to get the horse to move. You may have to use a lot of energy with the lead at first while doing this. Don't walk into a horse that is rearing or striking out -- this is not only dangerous, but deadly.
If you really get stuck you may have to use a pretty severe energy check with the lead rope. If you have ever worked cattle with a lariat, it would be similar to throwing the lariat with a backhand loop. Direct the energy of the rope at the jawbone or cheek of the horse. The horse will think that the rope ran into them. They don't think that this is something that you did to them, but they will move off of the pressure.
The important thing to remember with any of these methods is that you need to meet the resistance of the horse with a corresponding correction. By this I mean that if the horse is standing still and putting 100 pounds of pressure into you, you will need to respond with 101 pounds of pressure. The trick is not to get mad, but to stay focused on the task of backing up.
Your horse needs to move off of pressure from the lead rope and towards you. This is the same concept that you need to use for leading or ponying your horse so you are working on this at the same time.
do this, stand about 10 feet in front of the horse. Ask with forward pressure
on the lead rope. Reward immediately when the horse begins to move forward.
Lower your posture and reward the horse. Now ask for two steps forward, apply
pressure on the lead rope. When the horse moves forward two steps, move the
lead rope with an up/down motion. This motion of the lead rope teaches the horse
to stop, which will be useful when longeing and ground driving. Dont let
the horse walk to you unless you ask
An exercise that you can practice is yielding forward and backwards. Ask the horse to come to you, stop, then move backwards. Try this first with one step forward, and one step back, then two, three etc.
Shoulder yield to the left and right
The horse needs to move the shoulder away from you. Not only does the shoulder need to move, but the feet need to move by stepping over the outside foot (the one closest to you) will cross over the inside foot. Do not let the horse move forward or backward. Visualize a turn on the haunches, where the front feet pivot around the rear feet.
This can be tricky until you understand what is happening. If you ask your horse to shoulder yield to the right, you would be on the left side of the neck. Ask the horse to bend at the poll. Take up the slack in the lead rope with your right hand. Hold the rope halter at the cheek with your left hand. Place your right hand below the horses shoulder where the leg meets the shoulder. You will notice a crease between the muscles on the shoulder here. This is a pressure point that you can use to assist in applying pressure to the shoulder.
Ask with light pressure from your hand at this pressure point and increase until you get the desired result. When your horse starts to move off of this pressure and crosses the left front leg over the right front leg, immediately stop, lower your posture and reward the horse.
Start small and ask for one step, work you way up to being able to yield your horse in a complete circle over time. This will be easier if you walk through the neck in an arc.
You are going to notice that the horse has an easy side and a hard side. The left side is usually easier to work than the right. This is related to their vision and exposure to stimulus; horses have offset eyes unlike humans, dogs, and cats who can close one eye and still see whats in front of them. In addition, most people just dont do much work on the right side of the horse.
Now go work on the right side of the horse to shoulder yield to the left. You must be able to shoulder yield on both sides of the horse.
We saved the easiest for last. Yielding the hindquarters is relatively easy, a balanced horse is already doing this many times a day. You need to show the horse that you know what they know. The horse needs to move the hindquarters away from you. Not only does their rear need to move away from you, but the feet need to move by stepping under the inside foot (the one closest to you) will cross in front of the outside foot. Do not let the horse move forward or backward. Visualize a turn on the forehand, where the rear feet pivot around the front feet.
Stand on the left side of the horse. Hold the lead rope in your left hand and the tail of the rope in your right hand. Put some pressure on the rear of the horse. Twirling the lead rope at the rear of the horse is safest. When your horse starts to move off of this pressure and crosses the left rear leg across the right rear leg, immediately stop, lower your posture and reward the horse.
Now go work from the left side of the horse to yield the hindquarters to the right. You must be able to yield the hindquarters from both sides of the horse.
Yielding at the poll
This is one of the most important but most overlooked things that everyone should be doing with their horse. Yielding at the poll is how you teach your horse to "turn off" or get out of the high headed adrenaline zone area when you want them to. The basic idea is that when the horses head is up high they are in a flight or fight posture. When their head is down, at or below their wither -- they are in the submissive grass eating zone. You can teach your horse to go here when you want, and before you know it that's where they stay. You can teach your horse to be calm and when you get into a situation with too much stimulus all you do is "turn off" your horse. Sounds easy doesn't it!
The poll is the last vertabrea that connects the spine/neck to the head. It's also called the Atlas joint. This is the place that a horse should bend when collected. Most horses are braced at the poll. The easiest way to get through this is to show the horse how to follow a feel. While on the ground, if you use the knot at the bottom of the rope halter to pull down and your hand on top of the horses neck at the poll (just behind the ears). Ask the horse to lower it's head. Immediately when the horse drops its head, release the pressure on the rope. Reward your horse a lot when they are in this position -- head at or below the wither. You will probably have to pull down very hard with the rope halter at first. Most horses brace against pressure and will not release easily. But remember, start with very little pressure and use whatever is necessary to get the job done.
Eventually, all you will have to do is put light pressure with your hand on top of their neck. And even further down the road, you work down their neck to the wither. So that a light pressure on the wither causes the horse to lower it's head into this "turned off" zone. It gets better too. We teach every horse that when we put the rein down on their wither, that they need to release and drop their head. No one ever notices this except us and the horse, but it is wonderful. If we get into a situation that the horse doesn't do well with, we "turn her off".