Magic Mustang Tamer

Task 20: Yielding the Hindquarters

This protocol is broken down in a heuristic way. All animals go through stages of learning, making an initial attempt, developing a quick response and being able to perform a sustained response. This task is explicitly broken down into these stages. The stage beyond this would be being able to perform the response despite  any distraction. That is always where you really want to be.

ALERT: The cue for this is variable. The cue recommended is body language, but some people will prefer tapping on the barrel behind the girth as a prelude to saddle training. At Mustang Camp we use a slightly crouched walk with an upraised (to shoulder level) directly towards the hip. Done correctly, you will feel quite like a RFD TV cowboy and the horse will almost always respond by getting the hinds out of your way.

Task 20 Subtask 1 Yield haunches laterally 1 step

Overall objective: The horse interprets “the cue” to mean to move its hindquarters by stepping laterally with the hind legs.

The Set-Up: The horse is trained while on a lead rope.

Prerequisite Training: You should be able to stand next to the horse without it being tense or stressed (T10). The horse should yield to lead rope pressure (T17), and generally stay with the trainer (T15).

Protocol: Hold the lead rope short enough to prevent the horse from leaving by walking forward. The cue should involve a very slight bit of pressure. Walking very deliberately from in front of the horse, stride toward the hip with your outside hand, holding the leadrope raised in front of you to the level of your shoulder. If done with a very deliberate energy, the horse will almost always move its hinds, but in more placid horses, you may need to shake or spin the rope. Sometimes you need to let the tail of the rope strike the horse. Use as mild of a cue as you can, but as strong of a cue as it takes to get the horse to move. When the horse starts to move its feet side-wards, bridge and feed.

QC: Subtask 1 is complete when the horse will respond to a light form of the cue (body language) by stepping laterally and has performed this correctly 3 times in a row.

What ifs:

  • What if my horse has absolutely no fear of me and won’t step to the side? Use your power of positive reinforcement to make it worth the animal’s energy to take lateral steps. Be patient.

Task 20 Subtask 2 Yield haunches laterally immediately

Overall objective: The horse should respond to the cue with low latency.

The Set-Up: The horse is trained while on a lead rope. The horse should be highly motivated. If the horse likes scratching add that to the delivery of edible reinforcement.

Prerequisite Training: The horse should generally respond to a request to step laterally (T20.1)

Protocol: Continue from Subtask 1, but differentially reinforce quick responses by paying 5 bites plus petting, but only 1 mini bite for a slower response. Because this is a quasi-pressure cue, you do not want to allow the horse to ignore it by using negative punishment, so once you give the cue, keep asking until the horse offers the behavior. Don’t escalate your pressure. If you suspect that you need to escalate pressure, return to Subtask 1.

QC: The horse should move immediately when asked to yield haunches.

What ifs:

  • What if I truly have conscientious objections to the use of pressure? If it is your horse, it will do no harm to not use pressure, but if the animal will be adopted into the general public, it must be prepared to respond to levels of pressure. Adopters will almost always instinctively use escalating levels of pressure that turn into abuse of animals that freeze in response to anxiety (ie. burros). Teach the animal to respond to pressure cues with positive reinforcement and you will have prepared the horse for the future in the least aversive way possible.

Task 20 Subtask 3 Yield haunches laterally 8 steps in a row (full circle) *

Overall objective: The horse will perform multiple lateral steps of the haunches completing an entire turn on the forehand.

The Set-Up: The horse is trained while on a lead rope.

Prerequisite Training: The horse has a low latency response to the cue for yielding hips (T20.2).

Protocol: Continue from Subtask 2, but put the steps on a count-down, starting with (3). Do not reinforce for fewer steps, only for completing the count-down. After the horse under stands the criteria for (3), increase to (8).

QC: When the horse will complete a complete turn on the forehand in each direction, the task is complete. Don’t do too many cross-overs until your horse has built up the flexibility and muscles to do so, you might make him sore.

What ifs:

  • What if my horse keeps moving his front feet? Experiment with reducing the pressure of the cue so that it just barely tips the horse into movement. Make sure that the horse is relaxed and not distracted.
  • What if my horse is bad at crossing over. Reward his best efforts and plan to perfect the behavior over a longer period of time. Experiment with raising your energy and narrowing your focus on just the part you want to move. Some horses are not coordinated enough to do this well.

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