Front End Control: YIELDING the FORE-QUARTERS
To have the horse pivot on his hindquarters and move his front end away from you 360 degrees.
A lot of horses, especially those that are really pushy and disrespectful, use their head, neck and shoulders to push you around and move you out of their way. If you don’t teach your horse how to yield his forequarters, he will get very pushy and disrespectful. Think of the horse’s head and neck like his steering wheel. The better control you can get of his steering wheel, the more responsive he will be. Horses seem to have an entirely different perspective of you when they know you have the power to drive their front end around 360 degrees because they know that if you are able to do that, they no longer have the power to push you around with their head, neck and shoulders.
1) Loop the lead rope around the horse’s neck two or three times so that it isn’t dragging on the ground.
2) Position yourself so that your belly button is in line with the horse’s eye. A lot of horses have a habit of walking forward instead of stepping across with their front feet. The farther forward you stand, the more you’ll discourage him from wanting to walk forward out into a circle. If you’re too far back near the horse’s shoulder, you’ll actually make it easy for him to walk forward.
3) With the hand that is the closest to the horse’s nose, hold the lead rope about a foot from the snap.
If there’s too much slack in the lead rope, you won’t be able to correct the horse when he walks forward. But if you hold it too short (with your hand directly below the snap), there won’t be enough slack in the rope for the horse to move away from you, and you’ll be constantly pulling his head toward you.
4) Hold the Handy Stick horizontally (in both of your hands) level with the horse’s eye. Holding the Handy Stick horizontally allows you to tap the horse’s jaw and neck easily.
5) Lightly tap the air with rhythm—one, two, three, four; then start tapping the horse—one, two, three, four—until he takes one correct step. If you’re standing on the horse’s left side, his left front leg should cross in front of his right front leg.
If the horse doesn’t respond when you lightly tap the air, gradually increase the pressure by tapping his jaw and neck with rhythm. Keep increasing the pressure until you make the horse feel uncomfortable. At that point, you’re going to maintain the pressure and wait for the horse’s inside front foot to take one step across his outside front foot. Anytime the horse walks forward, back him up aggressively a few steps, then ask him to yield his front end again.
6) As soon as the horse takes one correct step, stop tapping and rub him to a stop with the Handy Stick and your hands.
Rubbing the horse lets him know that your body language has changed from active, which means move; to passive, which means stand still and relax. It also teaches the horse not to be fearful of the stick or your hands. The horse has to learn how to tell the difference between active and passive body language.
7) Once the horse can consistently take one step away from you, then look for two steps. When he consistently takes two correct steps, then look for three.
As the horse gets more confident, you can slowly start to add more steps until he can eventually yield 360 degrees away from you. But if you ask for too many steps in the beginning, you’ll confuse the horse. The secret to great horsemanship is establishing a good starting point. If you can find a place to start, you can teach a horse to do just about anything.
8) When the horse can take several good steps away from you with his front end, teach the exercise to the other side of his body.
Remember, when you switch sides, you switch brains. Start at the beginning of the exercise, only looking for one step at a time. When you’re standing on the horse’s right side, you’ll want him to place his right front foot over and in front of his left front foot.
9) Now that the horse understands the concept of the exercise, gradually ask for more steps until you can yield his forequarters 360 degrees around his hindquarters.
As the horse gets more confident, you can slowly start to add more steps until he can eventually yield 360 degrees away from you. But if you ask for too many steps in the beginning, you’ll confuse him.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 8, Issue 9-10