Posted in: Equine Training, Positive Reinforcement Training, The Academy of Positive Horsemanship, Young Horse Training

We take so many behaviours our horses give us for granted! Take standing still whilst tied up for one…

How many of you give these behaviours much thought, if any at all!? Its just something we do – right?

Pop a headcollar on, bring them in from the field, tie them outside their stable on the yard and go about doing whatever it is we need to do… muck out, fill haynets, get their feed, groom them, tack them up. And we just ‘expect’ them to be able to just ‘stand’ there for, often very long periods of time.


We only tend to agree with this if we have a horse who actually does ‘do’ that behaviour of standing quietly where we have tied them for the length of time we want them to stay like that for.

The majority of us will (and do) expect too much of our horses in that situation, we miss the shorter time frames where they probably do stand quietly for at least a few minutes, perhaps longer, but whilst that’s actually occurring, we do nothing to help them to know that they are actually DOING the behaviour we ‘LIKE’ and want more of!

Instead we tend to set our expectations too high; we expect them to stand there for too long, often without much reason for them to WANT TO stand there either. So, inevitably, we miss the behaviours that we do ‘like’ and then end up with a bunch of behaviours that we ‘don’t like’. It might be pulling away and snapping the string. It might be swinging round from side to side. It might even be pawing the ground.

By focusing on building on the behaviours we do ‘like’ and want to see more of (even if we think they are the most basic of things to do), by building on those smaller, shorter time frames where we make sure we notice and let our horses know whilst they are occurring, delivering well timed reinforcement to motivate them to want to continue to stand there for longer periods, we won’t even need a headcollar or a target to keep them in that position for longer and longer periods of time.

The horse pictured here has actually never ever been tied before. She is however, used to being motivated to stand calmly whilst eating a haynet (how many horses aren’t!?)! She has a long history of being positively reinforced for the behaviour of ‘standing still’ whilst the handler moves away from her and goes out of sight when given a verbal cue for long periods of time as a direct result of eating on the haynet – that’s the use of positive reinforcement all by itself! In addition, she has also been more directly reinforced by being given a hand fed reward every now and then too. Alongside that she understands how pressure on her head via a headcollar which has a very long history of being positively reinforced too.

With all those elements in there as solid as a rock – being physically restrained for longer periods of time is just a pure insignificance!

Come on in and join us inside The Academy Club and learn more about how to build behaviours this way.