Magic Mustang Tamer

Task 21: Halter Driving and WWB

This task is our most revised task. The goal of T21 has always been to get the horse moving off of pressure in a controlled way and to practice controlled stopping. In this edition of our protocol, we use Halter Driving, a well-known Natural Horsemanship exercise, as the form for this activity.

ALERT: Don’t be afraid that your horse will hate this exercise. Many of our wildest horses find it is their favorite activity and will circle us to get us to play the halter driving game.

Task 21 Subtask 1 Walk forward circling trainer in response to rope tapping hip

Overall objective: The horse should walk off circling the trainer upon presentation of a quasi-pressure cue for lunging.

The Set-Up: You should be working in a square or round pen with a lead rope longer than half of the diameter of the pen. You will be mostly facing the horse from the side. Your hand that is closest to his head is called the leading hand. You should hold the lead-rope in that hand. The hand closest to the tail is the driving hand. It is used to pressure the horse. It can hold the tail of the rope.

Prerequisite Training: The horse should be accustomed to wearing a lead rope (T17) and should yield hips when asked (T20). The horse should be accustomed to people on the side (T9).

Protocol: Raise the leading hand to about elbow height and point in the direction you want the horse to move. Raise the driving hand slightly above your shoulder and move it back and forth a little erratically to put pressure on the horse. If you have the tail of the rope in the driving hand, you can twirl it, but this may be too much pressure for some horses. The instant the horse starts to step forward, bridge and drop all pressure, making sure to relax your shoulders. Feed and make a big deal over the horse, so it is quite sure that it has done the right thing. Get the horse to step off from the pressure cue, and then put the steps on duration to do whole circles. You can use a count-down to help the horse understand to keep walking. If the horse comes into your space at the shoulder, twirl the rope at its shoulder or block its eye with an upraised leading hand. Differentially reinforce walking at the limit of the lead rope rather than spiraling into your personal space.

QC: When the horse can complete two complete circles around you at the limit of its lead-rope, move on to the next subtask.

What ifs:

Sasha is demonstrating correct form. At the shoulder, pointing forward with leading hand, and driving with the tail of rope. She must not walk backward.

Task 21 Subtask 2 Yield haunches from a walk forward in response to lead rope and trainer pressuring hip away

Overall objective: The horse will spiral down from walking forward in a yielding hips movement in response to the change in body language and direction from the trainer.

The Set-Up: You are working in a round or square pen with a lead-rope longer than the radius of the pen.

Prerequisite Training: The horse should walk in a circle around trainer in response to a pressure cue (T21.2), and should yield hips (T20) in response to pressure cue.

Protocol: Review T20 (yield hips) before you start. Then review T21.2 (walking forward). When the horse is circling, change hands holding the lead-rope so the driving hand can become the leading hand, hold the lead-rope in the new leading hand at about shoulder height and walk toward the horses hip, as in Task 20. Use the rope and a direct stride to create pressure for the hips to move. Watch for and reinforce a lateral step from the hinds. Entice the horse to turn to stand facing you by presenting the food right in front of you.

QC: This stage is complete when the horse responds to the change in body language and the yield hips cue by laterally moving the hinds to turn to face the trainer with low latency.

What ifs:


Task 21 Subtask3 Yield front quarters in the direction indicated by leadrope

Overall objective: From a position of standing facing the trainer, the horse will move off in a turn on the haunches to start walking in the halter driving circle (as in Subtask 2).

The Set-Up: Same as Subtask 2 and 3.

Prerequisite Training: The horse should have mastered Subtask 2 and 3.

Protocol: Starting with the horse facing you, use your leading and driving hands as in T2 to pressure the horse to turn and start walking in the circle. You may have to increase the energy in your driving hands slightly and be very persistent. Bridge starting to leave but offer the food a bit further along on the circle. When the horse can leave in either direction, start using all three steps of the halter driving tasks, but only bridge and reinforce the facing up step. This will give you more control leading your animal than almost any other exercise.

QC: When the animal can move through all three halter driving steps on cue three times in a row with no errors, this is complete.

What ifs:

Task 21 Subtask 4 Perform Walk On, Whoa, Back 10 cycles on lead with slack leadrope *

Overall objective: Although this series of behaviors has been trained earlier, use this opportunity to sharpen the value of the verbal cues, “walk-on”, “whoa”, and “back”.

The Set-Up: The horse is reasonably motivated and wearing a halter and lead-rope, and you are training in an open space where the horse is comfortable.

Prerequisite Training: The horse leads at liberty (T15) and can follow trainer through turns (T18).

Protocol: Review T15, leading at liberty while wearing halter and lead-rope. Use the preparatory signal “ready” before each cue. Use the words “Walk-On” to mean walk forward now, “Whoa” to mean stop your feet from moving now, and “Back” to mean walk backward now. Bridge when the horse is in the correct leading position (jaw parallel to trainers shoulder) and feed in front of the horse. If the horse gets in front, do an abrupt about-face to go the opposite direction. If the horse lags, examine your actions to see how the horse might be experiencing the activity and food delivery as aversive. Use petting to magnify the effect of food if the horse enjoys petting.

Alternate between halter driving and WWB when you are practicing in a big space. This combination is going to help you once you get to Task 23 going out and about over obstacles.

QC: When the horse stays with the trainer through a set of 20 repetitions of the set of three commands, it is finished with Task 21.

What ifs:

  • The answer to almost every question you could ask, is to review T2, T15, and T18.