This is one of the tasks requiring a bit of grace and coordination to avoid getting stepped on. It is taught both pushing the animal away from us and bringing it toward us. The “toward” part is where you can easily get stepped on. I try to keep moving toward the tail or hip and keep my eyes on the horse hooves coming toward me. I edited out the part where John gets stepped on, but you’ll see the set up for it. OUCH!!
I really debated keeping some of the footage of the horse performing below criteria in for instructional purposes, but let me just tell you what it looks like. It looks like the hind end traveling, walking, or swinging around. This behavior should result in very little movement of the haunches. If the back legs are going somewhere, you need to slow down and get one step working. If the behavior breaks apart after you thought the whole thing was working, go back to the beginning.
The only trick to training this behavior is shaping it from the initial step. We discussed this previously; heavily reinforce the start of the behavior without getting stuck there. If you can get the horse to start easily, you can keep it going. In this video, in a few places we use the continuous bridge and tie the number of bites of food given to the number of bridges. This is pretty effective to get the animal to make more effort to about 5 bites. Getting five tiny bites is like winning the lottery for these permanently snack-crazy animals.
Patterns to Develop
- Respond accurately to neck rein cues
- Response to cue not body language of trainer
- Cross over steps with front legs
Patterns to Avoid
- Moving hind feet
- Prancing or pawing
Maurin does a very nice job with her horse. Her feet move in coordination with the animal and they both look lovely.
If you have any questions about this task, please be sure to ask in the comments. Be patient with your horse as the two of you get synchronized. It is not exactly easy and slightly dangerous.
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