Trick training your horse is a fun way to bond with them. It can be mentally stimulating and prevent boredom from overtraining. Teaching your horse to lie down is a challenging but popular trick to train. There are different methods of teaching it, and one isn’t necessarily better than another. A method that encourages a willing partnership is best, rather than forcing your horse to follow commands.
This method is a relatively simple way to teach your horse. Here are five steps to teach your horse to lie down.
The 5 Steps to Teaching a Horse to Lie Down
1. Teach your horse to lower their head.
The first part of teaching your horse to lie down is teaching your horse to lower their head. There are four individual cues to lie down and you have to teach them one at a time. You can teach them in any order, as long as your horse is responsive to all four before combining them.
If you watch horses in the pasture, they always lower their head to the ground before lying down or rolling. It’s the precursor to lowering their legs and getting down, so it’s the obvious first step to having your horse lie down on cue.
The easiest way to teach this step is by applying downward pressure on your lead rope. When the horse lowers their head, release the pressure. Repeat and practice until you can apply pressure to the lead and your horse lowers their head to the ground. The longer they hold the position, the better.
Even when you move on to the other steps, keep practicing this one. You need your horse to be responsive to your cues.
2. Teach your horse to pick up all four feet on command.
To get your horse onto the ground, you need control over their feet. To teach your horse to pick up their feet on command, you’ll need a lunge whip. Start with tapping the bottom of their leg lightly until your horse picks up their feet. The pastern or fetlock area is the best place to tap.
Continue tapping until your horse shifts their weight or picks up a foot. Then stop. This release of pressure lets your horse know that they found the correct response.
You’ll have to teach this step on each leg and practice until they get good at it.
3. Teach your horse to step their hind feet under themselves.
Now you need your horse to step their hind legs underneath them. To lie down, a horse’s hind feet need to be right behind their front feet. It gives them balance on the way down by putting their weight on their hind end.
You’re going to take your lunge whip and tap their belly right in front of their stifle. Stand at your horse’s shoulders while you do this. If you’ve seen a horse kick at a fly on their belly with their hind legs, this is what you are trying to mimic.
Stop tapping with even the slightest step forward, and move your cue closer to their girth as your horse gets more responsive. Teach it with both hind legs until your horse knows how to step them both forward.
4. Teach your horse to lift their front legs.
If you’ve already taught your horse to pick up their feet on command, this one is fairly simple. All you need is for your horse to bring their hoof under themselves, rather than pawing or bringing it forward.
Tap your horse’s front leg to ask them to pick it up. Grab the foot, and hold it like you would to pick the hoof out. Repeat several times so your horse begins to understand how to pick up their feet.
5. Combine the previous four steps into one.
You’re going to start giving your horse the previously taught cues in order, from one to four. As you do this, your horse will start to recognize that the combination of steps is what they do when they lie down. Don’t expect your horse to lie down the first time. You may have to go back and work on individual steps.
To ask your horse to lie down, stand at their shoulder. Start with asking them to lower their head. Tap their belly to get them to step the hind feet under. Ask them to tuck their front feet under. If your horse starts to lie down, stand back and let them. They could also go to their knees and pop back up. This still deserves a reward! It’s important to reward even the smallest try.
Tips for Teaching a Horse to Lie Down
Teaching your horse to lie down is a complicated trick, so be patient. It’s a fantastic way to spend time and bond with your horse. Remember to reward even the smallest try, enjoy the process, and be patient!
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