Teaching your Horse to Stand Still, Part 1

Well, seeing as we’ve mastered those desensitization lessons (and if you haven’t, keep working on them! Work on a few simple things at a time with your horse, so if you or he gets bored of one thing you can switch to another), let’s start in on a new series. Standing still is a very easy lesson to teach and very valuable.

So, your horse has his bridle on and you’re ready to ride. Oh! Oops! You forgot to put his saddle on. Oh, no, it is all the way across the arena and there are so many horses crowded over there ready for the lesson you can’t take him with you. Now what? He doesn’t stand when you leave him, and he might put a foot through the reins. Well, that’s why you need to teach him to stand still.

A quick word on why your horse may do this before we begin. There are a couple of reasons:

  • He is a  herd animal, and he feels more secure with other horses/people around. He simply wants security by following you when you leave.
  • Standing still doing nothing is unnatural for a horse. He is always doing something – listening, looking, eating, hardly every just standing around. Of course, sometimes he will just stand there, but it is certainly not his favourite thing to do!

Put a halter on him (I prefer a rope halter, as it sends clearer signals to the horse than an inch-wide nylon strap does). Lead him to the middle of your working area and halt. Give a verbal command such as ‘stand’, ‘whoa’, or ‘wait’. You can choose what you would like him to respond to. Once you give the command, walk away, keeping one eye on him to see if you moves. As soon as he moves a foot go back and put him exactly where he came from. Say your command again and walk away. As soon as he moves, go back again and put him where he should be. Walk off at different angles, walk all the way around him, go for longer and longer excursions as he gets better with the process. When you return and he hasn’t moved, be totally non-threatening. He did a great job, and say as much. Smile, praise him, and don’t stare stonily at him. This is a lesson that should be carried on no matter how long he has known the exercise for. He may decide that something is scary behind him or something is more interesting over there even if he is pretty good about staying put normally. Be consistent and put him back every time he moves when he was told to stay.

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