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Training Specific Behaviors

In order to lie down your horse will need to shift his weight backwards while dropping down in front. it can actually resemble parts of the bow, so you'll have to decide whether or not this will put too much strain on your horse. We've taught one of our horse to lie down pre-clicker training, but I think it would be easier using c/t. To do it work with your horse in a halter and lead (on your horse - not you). Take the lead rope around the other side of his neck from the side you are on so that the end of the rope is now on the side where you're standing. Pick up the front foot on your side and simultaneously pull back on the lead so that the horses nose is tipped away from you. In order to seek a release he will need to rock back. I would click when he does, put his foot down and reward him with his treat. Keep doing this until your sure that he knows that you're asking him to rock back, than only click as he starts rocking farther and farther back. Eventually he'll be going so low that he will need to rest his knee on the ground. When he's doing this consistently he'll probably let you gently pull him over. Then you'll need to really praise him up and stroke him for the good job. Horse need to really trust you to lay down for you. If he'll do this w/o objecting it will be a good measure of your relationship with him. Mark


There are many ways to teach the Bow.

I have personally done 2 very different ways. I will describe it in clicker training terms since that is how I have taught it.

First,and probably most common method is the guiding of the front foreleg down. But first, I would like to address the issue of your horse's condition . I would only teach this to a horse of absolute certain soundness. This movement requires alot of flexibility and musculature. There are many that simply aren't in good enough shape for this "trick"....older horses especially.

Onward....... begin by picking a leg that you wish your horse to kneel on. Always use the same leg,it is a different trick entirely to your horse on the other side. And must be taught separately. Support the lower leg in your hands.


I hold the knee in one hand and the ankle in the other. I then proceed to c/t EVERY time they shift their weight rearward. This is a downward, rearward movement. Instead of concentrating on getting the leg down...think about rearward. They must go rearward to get down. Continue to support the leg and c/t the instant before you feel that there will be opposition reflex. Don't worry about what the rear legs are doing. They will have to shift by themselves a step or two backwards for their balance.

Keep c/t every downward/rearward movement. Eventually you will find that the horse will go lower and lower. And I find that with consistent work there will be a time when they will offer more...perhaps even quite by accident,and then clicker training will allow you to "mark" it....(jackpots,HUGE fuss making,etc) they quickly catch on to what it is that you desire.

An added bonus to this is that every horse does it just a little differently,so it is fun to see what personality your horse will put into it. (i.e. my mare presses her forehead to the ground...) patient,this trick can take some time to teach.

I have taught it in a few days to some and many,many weeks to others. And most importantly, NEVER use negative reinforcement with this movement. Already the horse has entrusted you enough to compromise his safety in this position. You owe it to him to respect him and treat him kindly. And besides, you will never win by strong- arming a horse down.


Yes, some people will use ropes..(horrors!!!) but how deflating to think that this is how you accomplished such a grand display. But I know all you wonderful clicker trainers out there would never consider such a thing but should this fall into the wrong hands.....:)

The second method I have used is so ridiculously easy that it even amazed the "Clicker Goddess" (sorry Alex,I had to..). I noticed that my pony would reach for grass under the fence and be willing to go down as far as she could for it. I then decided to stand on the other side of the fence with a "goodie". Sure enough,it didn't take her long to realize that if she got on her knees she could reach what I was holding. I clicked it. I did this for a few days. Then I stood in the same position on HER side of the fence. C/T that for a few days. Then we moved away from the fence. Then lastly added the cue.

Some fun things to do with the Bow: put your foot in the stirrup and let the horse lift you up when he is ascending. Have him bow while you are mounted. Or just for crowd pleasing! Elisa


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I have a 5 year old mustang gelding that has taught himself a "kind of "bow. I was working with a "head down cue" and a pickup the "front foot cue" and he was so eager that he put them together. He doesn't get the leg on the ground, but he does get his nose on the ground. Ron

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I taught my horse to bow, but not in the way that most people want them to. He just puts his head between his legs and goes to the ground. I started w/o c/t and it still didn't take me long - about 1 week. I just held a carrot piece under his chin and said "Angel, (I always address him before I ask anything of him) BOW." He would reach for the treat and therefore reward himself. We just went lower and lower until he was where I wanted. (this was also great to stretch his legs before and after a workout!). I refrained from teaching him to bow on one leg because I would pick it up and ask him to bow, gently lower it to the ground with him - this was similar to what the balcksmith does and.....welll..... he bowed on the blacksmith and she was not happy about it! ( : His cue to bow is a scratch on his belly. Kris

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I've had great success teaching our Arab mare Shakeara to bow. Just in a couple of sessions. We started with the leg up like you did. Then we worked on holding it till she could hold it really relaxed. Then we put her target (whip end) through her legs for her head down.....c/t. Then gradually got her head lowered more and more....c/t She kind of started shifting back until her up leg was on the ground, and her forehead was almost touching the ground too...c/t. I found that it was a little hard for her to balance like that, but she's getting it real soft. I can't imagine ever having to do anything the "old fashioned way" anymore! A soft response is so much nicer for everyone! Good luck to you and your Appy! Debbie

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Last night when my husband & I went out to the barn to do our "bed-check" I was showing him the progress that Shakeara has made on her bow. It is so exciting. She offered to bow without me even "luring" her or asking her to target or anything! It was kind of cute, it was like she was trying to figure out the best way to go about it, real slowly, she lifted her leg, stuck her head between her legs and there it was! My husband is so amazed that she has learned this so quickly. Me and my horses are really jazzed about Clicker training! It really works! The neat thing, is when you get stuck, you can easily go back to smaller steps and build on it, until they get it.

We started first of all asking for her leg. I only held it maybe twice. Then I started asking for her leg, and not offering to hold it. Then with her leg up, when I asked her reach her head down between her legs, it becomes her challange to try and balance it all. That means for her to shift back so her folded leg will naturally lay on the ground (make sure it's soft, like shavings or grass!) The willingness that she shows is so wonderful!

As far as the "new" way taking a little longer....that really hasn't been my experience. Quite the opposite really. Clicker training takes away all the irritation that horses get when you ask them to do something just because you want them to. It's like asking them to do something with a purpose in it. When they do what I am asking....they get that click....which gets them "chink!" a Carrot Coin! Everyone is happy! My horses have never been so willing! I've had horses all my life, and I tell you Clicker training is a real breakthrough for me in the way we go about everything. From grooming to handling to riding. Everything has a happy & positive tone.

Does that help about the bowing? Just do small steps, it's amazing how that actually speeds things up. I'm always happy to talk & share & listen, so write whenever you want! Debbie


To get your horse to move toward the cone or other target place it well within reach. C/R for touching it 3-5 times then move it a couple of inches further away. The horse should still be able to reach it without moving. C/R for touching it 2-4 times, then move it a couple more inches. Continue to do this until the cone is far enough that it is just barely out of reach even with a full stretch of the neck. At this point watch the horses feet. As soon as one foot lifts off the ground C/jackpot. Nudge the cone another inch. Again watch the feet. When the horse is mid step click/reward. Only do this 2-3 times then watch the cone for the touch again. Now you should be able to move the cone 3-4 more inches so the horse has to take two steps to touch it. Quit before you go too far. The next session start with the cone at barely able to touch it with neck stretched. You should be able to increase criteria(how far the horse has to go) quickly after that. Marie Gulliford

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Taking the Bit

I am continuing my clicker training with EL Tigrillo, my Peruvian Paso gelding. Between field trials this week he is staying at my house instead of in Wondervalley. So we can get in lots of clicker training. My main goals with the clicker training was:

1) to get him to lift his feet and hold them up for me. ~~now that's is pretty much done. It is so much easier just to tickle the back of his fetlock, than to push and prod him. He has it down! It only took like minutes for him to get the idea. This is truly amazing. Tickle that foot and up come a hoof. Sure made it easier to clean the mud off his legs this weekend.

2. I wanted him to let me touch his pole without him pulling away. Now he will lower his head to let me rest my hand on the top!! Pretty cool huh?

3. I wanted him to take the bit easier. In the beginning I guess he and my trainer had numerous conversations about getting this job done. In the beginning with the steel of the bit against his teeth, I would have to insert my fingers into the side of his mouth to get him to open up. Then try and time it just perfect, to pull/push the bit in and get my hands out of the way. I wasn't pleased with this method. What I want is that with just the touch of the bit at his teeth he would open his mouth, so I can gently insert the bit. Hand warmed of course.

So here comes the clicker!! I decided to start by using the handle on my whip, in place of the bit, (which he already would follow all over the place just trying to touch it, with his lips) The whip is was easier for me to handle, with the clicker and the bait in hand. At first I made the error of trying to start at the end instead of the beginning. Once I realized my mistake. I just put the handle against his teeth, inserted my finger in the side of his mouth, just like I would do when I put the bit in his mouth. He opened his mouth a tiny bit and Click he got a treat. It took about 3 or 4 times and then I didn't have to even touch his face with my other hand ~let along stick my finger in his mouth. Just put the whip handle to his teeth and in it went slick as can be, all the way back to where the bit would sit. Next Ill see what effect this training has had on him taking the bit. Though tempted I want another lesson or two with the whip handle before I go for the real McCoy~his bit. Ill keep you posted. Kathy in Clovis, CA

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OK, here we go for the description how we did this (the famous baby steps):

Formerly, due to the advice from someone on the list, I had taught Magia the verbal cue "touch", to help her overcome her various fears. That went pretty quickly, and now, each time she is suspicious about something, I point to the scary monster and say "touch". She then walks over and sniffs at it (she knows that the peppermint will follow...)

This done, I stood at her left shoulder (you can do it from the right side, if this makes you more comfortable, of course), gave her some friendly rubs, asked for some bends of the head on a finger snip, always CT, of course. This was easy as she already knew the tail sniffing on a finger snip. Then took a nice, open bridle and held it halfway up between the bit and the headpiece. Always standing at her left side, my right arm over her back, I asked for the bend and presented her the bit, asked to touch. CT. After a few tries, she started opening her mouth. BIG jackpot! In no time at all, she actively put it into her mouth and even pulled it upwards. I think I gave her half a roll of peppermints within 3 minutes *g*.

Next step, I withheld the CT until I had pulled the headpiece over her ears, always rewarding her specially, when she kept her head nicely turned around. Taking it off, was first undo one ear, then the other, then hold it there until she relaxed her teeth and let it glide out gently.

After that I mounted and just asked for the bending (finger snip), presented her the bit, by holding it at the top (like on the photos), and she took it the same way. Amazing! And fun....

OK everybody, there you go and try it - it really works! Have fun. Yvonne

See Magia for her self-bridling photos.

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Just thought I might share. I've been teaching Savannah (the zorse) to put on her bridle, or at least to accept the bit. I started out with touching the bridle, then touching the bit, but couldnt get her to take the bit. She had had it in her mouth a few times and KNEW she hated it. I tried putting molasses on it, which she hated. I got some carrot baby food and put that on it since she loves carrots, and she hated that. (Have you ever tasted that stuff??? I doesnt taste like carrots - it has no taste at all!!) So I tried holding the treat beneath the bit a couple of times and she got the idea. Now the only problem is that the second I take it out of her mouth for the next try, she has her nose on it trying to get it back. I have to hide the bridle behind my back in order to make any kind of break between one try and the next. Geesh. Jann

Trailer Loading

<< I found that he was terrified of going over a tarp. So maybe he's just got too many fears to go in a trailer at all, yet. Today I used the c/t and got him to go over the tarp. Tommorrow, I'm thinking of asking him to walk between something "scary" like the barn wall and barrels with a tart over them. Hope I'm headed in the right direction. I want to do this myself, it's becoming a real challenge! >>

GOOD FOR YOU!!!! People forget that trailer loading is a series of chained behaviors. By dropping back to some tasks that you know he has problems with, you can work him up to the trailer. I applaud your efforts and patience with this horse, and I know he applauds yours for sticking with him!!!!!!!

Keep us posted on your success, I am cheering you on!!!! JYL SNYDER

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What I get is that by shooting out of the trailer your horse is not ready for being shut in just yet (yes, as you've said, you already know this!)

I believe that you've got to go back to basics with this one-it's a new type of trailer to her so just start over. Because she walks into a straight load and can relax has nothing to do with it (I think you realize that too-smart girl!).

If she walks in willingly, but can't stand to stay-the basics aren't there (in my book anyway-but it's only my book). AND I just mean that the basics aren't there for this particular type of trailer.

A straight load reminds me of sort of a dark hole that the horse has to walk into. Like a child afraid of the dark sometimes their imagination can get the better of them and they need to get the heck out of Dodge before the monster gets them.

Do you have a light in the trailer? Just a thought, might help.

If once you get her closed in and she rides beautifully but still wants to shoot out when you open the door that to me doesn't say much. Sorry, that sounds harsh. When I first got Dan and loaded him, with considerable trouble I might add, I'd wait a moment-okay good enough! I'd close the door. I always felt like I was stealing it from him. Like when you steal a ride from your horse by getting on before he's able to stand still and you just sort of fling yourself on. Been there! Done that! He rode because he had no choice. He tolerated it and I think that your mare does too.

You have plenty of times to use the clicker by loading her slowly, little by little for everytime she takes a step. Sure she may readily walk to the back of the trailer-but take more time with her. It can be hard in a straight load, but if you back her out and send her back in there's tons of loading experience there for both of you. I worry about opening a side door to give treats if you're still standing at the back of the trailer. That little opening might look like a possible escape route. I think I can make it! she may think. If you have a friend that can help, one of you can man the door and treat and the other can click for every time she stands a while. A while might be just a second, but heck, it's a start-you can build. She just gave you the best try she could under the circumstances.

You can ask her to stand there for 2 seconds-click her, bring her out. I'd suggest always click and bring her out before it's her idea-you probably have a pretty good grasp on just how much she can tolerate. Expand on it-always expand her comfort zone, which is time in this case.

If she looses it a little, go back to what you know she CAN do. Build confidence since this is necessary for her to feel comfortable.

The answers are there in what others have told you. The facts are the same. Small steps, lots of time, a thousand opportunities to reward her.

If you can get to a point where she can stand in there and you can hear her sigh or are able to note something that she does in relaxation-boy, I'd jackpot the heck out of that one! YEAH! That's what we've wanted all along.

Wow, here I've gone "lengthy" on us-did you skim as I often do? Well, I'll tell ya what Shawna, it sure teaches me to just read things a little better!

This too is just how I handled a similar situation thanks to a friend who helped me see things a little more from my horses point of view. There's alot of other good things that people out there can tell you.

It sounds like you're doing really well though and you and your horse must make a good team! Nancy

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I've been following your posts about loading your horse. In short, I think that he probably knows how to get on the trailer but has never learned the protocol of unloading. Obviously he has the ability to get off the trailer but according to you he does it when he feels it necessary 'to leave'. If this was my horse I would make it a priority to teach him how to get off a trailer in a relaxed fashion. I would start by teaching him to put one foot on the ramp - C/T and ask him to back off. Repeat this exercise 'ad nauseum' - not allowing him to put more than one foot on the ramp. When that is acomplished, take it to the next level and ask for two feet on the ramp. Again, C/T for the second foot and then ask him to back off - repeating this process as before. Getting the third foot on the ramp - without the fourth one following automatically is a bit of a timing challange. Really focus on not allowing that fourth foot to land on the ramp - C/T at the third foot and back him off. When you finally ask for him to pu all four feet in - immediately C/T and just as quickly ask him to back off. Don't allow him the opportunity to make any decisions about when he will get off. Stay one step ahead - ask him to unload before he thinks of it him self. If my experience is worth anything he will begin to feel that he would rather stay on the trailer that be moved on and off a bizzilion times - this whole process capitalizes on his primary desire - to just not have to work! Mundi

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To teach Danni to stay in the trailer, lead him in, then stand there with him clicking and treating rapidly for 1-3 minutes. Once you see that his attention is on you instead of backing out start to pause between treat and the next click. Build this pause to 30 seconds. Now start to move about yourself. You don't have to head for the back door any movement will do.

Click him for remaining standing while you move around inside the trailer. Once you can move all about inside the trailer without him moving bring something in with you to move about and make noise.(such as a broom or brush). At first you may need to stay right by his head while clicking and treating often with the noise happening. You should be able to rebuild the stay fairly quickly with you banging about in the trailer.

Next step is to have him stay while you are outside the trailer. Remember you can click from wherever you are and go to him to reward. Once you can walk all the way around the trailer without him backing out it will be time to start playing with the doors. Start with doors away from him.

When you get to the ramp(?) pick it up an inch, click, put the ramp down, then reward him. Be sure to pick it up on the side which is away from him.(so you don't get run over) Gradually increase the distance you can pick up the ramp before clicking. Having someone help you is nice at this stage. Once you can lift it to just over halfway (where he can see it rising) go for all the way shut. click and put the ramp down. At this point he should be getting very comfy with the idea that the ramp will go down after you click.

The next step is to not click while the door is shut for a second or two then click lower ramp, reward Danni. Build the time between closed door and click open door until he will stand quietly in the trailer for 15 minutes. That should give you enought time to check all the latches and get in your vehicle to leave.

I hope this is helpful. If it is a swinging door instead of a ramp do the same but stand behind the door, lean forward to close it rather than get in his way. Don't let it swing and hit him as he is exiting the trailer. Marie Gulliford

Teaching to Stand

The other thing we are working on is "stand" (dont move while I walk away with these treats you want so much.

He kept wanting to follow me, I have worked on "stand" in the cross tie area w/o being tied and with out treats, so the treats seemed to be a distraction, he really wanted those treats. The most I got was 2 small steps away from him, but if he would stand and not move I would c/r. Is this how I should be going about this or does any one have any suggestions. We have only done this at one session, so I hope this will get better. Thanks, Shawna

Hi, I just started teaching my colt to "stand" or "stay" (I use both and they sound alike to him). He is extremely MUGGY and would almost do anything to take treats away from me, include acting like an agressive brat, which I won't tolerate.

I got this idea from someone else, about using his halter and a lead line, dropping the lead on the ground, to teach a "ground tie".

Since "Bear" knows about whip cues (Lyons leading/whoa'ing cues), I put his halter on and dropped the lead on the ground. He immediately dropped his head, playing with the lead, so I raised the whip and he was "HEADS UP" for that (What, Ma?!).

I began directly in front of him, nose to nose, and then began to back up, raising the whip (to the side, I was holding it perpendicular to the horse, not pointing it at him) whenever he dropped his head or began to move a foot. I immediately CT'd him when the head came up and he was still. And, I helped cue him to stay by: my hand being up like a stop sign, staring him in the eye, saying "stay" or "stand".

Eventually I was able to back about 10 feet. The coolest thing was that he even stayed put till I BROUGHT his treat to him (not like him at all), instead of coming after it. We had done 3 CT sessions before I tried this idea of staying put. One of those sessions, all I did was raise the whip and make him stay away from me, CT'ing if he looked but didn't move closer...cause he was a REAL chow hound. He was free in the pasture when I did that one, but I have decided I will not ever give him treats w/out a halter on and CT'ing, so that he KNOWS that he cannot mug me.

I forgot to mention that once he was standing still for while, doing the ground tie thing, I would pick up the lead and walk him a few steps then CT him. I wanted it stuck in his brain that when the lead is "DOWN" then his feet freeze, but when the lead is in my hand, let's move. I interspersed his "staying put" with lead on ground with an occasional walk with the lead in my hand (or drapped on his neck - thinking about where the rein would lay, he's a 23 mo.old).

I think that showing him the difference between lead "down" and lead "held/up" helped him catch on quicker. You might consider trying to "keep your muggy horse at bay" w/ a training whip and CT'ing him when he stays away. It took a lot for my colt to quit trying to get close enough for a treat! He REALLY wants his carrots. And he's a big boy, so I'm happy he's backing off now.

Forgot to mention, using targets on my colt helped him connect the "click" to the treat; but he was still muggy till I started wearing a treat pouch (army canteen carrier works for me) and using the whip to show him he could get a treat by staying away from me. If I hadn't used the whip, I couldn't have gotten rid of this pest...he sticks like glue whenever you step in the pasture. :-)

The most wonderful thing was saying, "okay, I'm done", while walking away with his halter in my hand, and Bear didn't follow me!! That has never happened before - he always tried to shove his head in the halter or stop me from leaving. I love CT for him!

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Seems like I'm always talking about one funny story or another, guess that's why clicker training is so much fun. The other day I had Breeze out in the round pen (23 month old Morab filly) and we were doing various things. I decided toward the end that I would work on teaching her to ground tie. I had started this the day before. The day before, I had her walking, then told her to "ho" which she did, then I backed away and every time she tried to come toward me, I would hold up my hand (our signal to stop) and wiggle the lead rope if the hand wasn't enough. Eventually, I got to the end of the lead (12 feet) and I could walk all around her, and I kept repeating the word "stand". Now, the funny part! The next day, instead of extending the lead rope, I just dropped it on the ground and told her to stand. She stood all right, but immediately reached down, picked up the rope, and handed it to me! I tried this half a dozen times, all with the same action! So I draped the leadrope over her neck instead. That seemed to work fine. We practiced this for awhile and she seemed to be enjoying it (she must have thought, wow! this is the easiest trick I've ever had to do!). When I got through, I went over, took off her halter and said, "come on". I walked to the gate, expecting her to follow me and I turned around and she had her head turned toward me at the gate, but wasn't about to move! She wasn't through playing the "stand game"! I had to go over and loop the lead rope around her neck to get her to leave! Susan, WA


Liz Ditz wrote some great exercises for teaching a flying change. Add the clicker when the horse picks up a canter. Also if your horse is good at picking up a canter on the proper lead just ask for two steps of trot before canter. If you are successful the next round try for one step. Click right when the horse picks up the canter. A couple of those and try for just a half halt then canter other lead. When you have three successful in a row try without the half halt. Once you can do this much in a figure 8 straighten out the 8 so it is an S then a / then a straight line. The real key to a flying change is getting the proper lead when asked. Most horses have a weak lead which will need to be improved to get nice flying changes in both directions. Marie Gulliford


I have been messing around with one of the donkeys with a half filled plastic bottle. It is making a half way decent click. I've been working with Ranger to get him to back without me getting in front of him and actually pushing him back. He caught on so fast that within 5 minutes of C/T, he was backing straight with no pushing. In fact, I only had to face him and say back and away he would go. We did it longer and longer before he got his treat and by the time we were through, he was backing 10 steps. It was wonderful! Today, I had him picking up a ball and dropping it into a large bucket. My plans are to get him to do this with one of those toy basketball hoops. Then we will really be playing donkey basketball! Glad to have found this list. Kathy

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