View Full Version : Training a horse to drive- voice commands?

May. 21, 2010, 06:39 PM
I'm really interested in eventually training my horse to pull a cart- I'm just ground driving right now, and I'd love to know what the "standard" voice commands are (especially for right/left)...any other tips for the ground-driving stage would be greatly appreciated!

May. 21, 2010, 07:28 PM
Best to keep it VERY simple, using words that are easy to remember. You want to be consistant in the use of same words for same reactions. We do Walk On, Trot, Trot ON for more speedy trot, hup for downward transition. We expect a gait change down with each hup, so "hup, hup, whoa" means a dead stop from the canter.

Whoa/Ho is for dead stop, ALWAYS. Don't say it unless you MEAN stop, and enforce the word. Don't let horse get some extra steps, kind of mosey to a halt. This is your word for a crisis, rein breaks, harness or vehicle fails, something happens and horse MUST STOP NOW!! He should be good enough to stop with almost no rein cue, just your voice if you need him to. This is one of the reasons we use the Hup word, prepares horse for stop, he helps us because we ALWAYS slow down when Hup is used. No exceptions.

We use right and left for the appropriate directions. Can NEVER remember which way the Gee and Haw mean!! Even getting the right and left straight in times of stress can be difficult, why add unknown words?

Come is popular with a lot of folks, like "come left" in turning, and if you add a stronger voiced COME, COME, it means to turn sharper, FASTER. A lot of well trained driving horses will pivot their cart on the inside wheel. Have to be a bit more careful when driving 4-wheels with the COME word!

Lots of folks use EASSSYY dragged out, to slow horse within a gait, calm them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

We also use the European, trill sound, made with your tongue, which steadies our horses. We train with it, they know what we want when they hear it. Hard to explain if you have not heard it, kind of sounds like "BRRTTTT".

You can train with anything you like, but simple is easiest to remember. I understand that one older gentleman from years ago, used various whistles and the horse almost needed no reins. This was in CDE, so they were quite the amazing pair to watch go thru Hazards. George Hoffman I think was the driver, and then Katie Whaley, maker of the lovely hats, drove the horse later, also with whistling. My mouth would just be dry thinking of keeping the signals straight!! Was a terrific performing animal, wherever they showed him!

Drive NJ
May. 22, 2010, 10:11 PM
The driver was Bill Orth. George drove Lance and then Jessie mostly. Bill drove several trottingbred ponies and then a few small Morgans.

May. 22, 2010, 10:38 PM
For right and left, use "gee" and "haw".

The way I remember which is which is this:
-gee has a "g" in it, and so does right, and so does "good" (it's good that we're using gee because that's right)
-haw is the other way! LOL

Otherwise, I use whoa for stop, walk-on for walk, trrrrrrrot for trot (or cluck cluck), easy for steadying them or slowing down a gait. It's basically the same commands I use when working on the longeline.

May. 22, 2010, 10:45 PM
I have never used the words gee or haw in my life :P #1- find a good trainer that does the type of driving you want to do and listen to them. For my driving (show horses and ponies) I use whoa, walk, trot, easy (a word that means calm down/slow down), woop (a word that means settle the trot, slow the tempo of the trot), back, and once "whoaed" if we are going to stand feet is the word I use to tell the horse to park out and stay in that spot until told otherwise.

May. 22, 2010, 11:08 PM
I was taught "come" for right and "get" for left. For turning hard (tight circle, at speed, etc.) I'd say it more urgently "come come COME" or "get get GET," and for a pivot "come around" or "get around". But some people I know don't use left/right words, just gait words (walk, trot, etc.) and communicate the direction through the reins alone. I don't know anyone who uses "gee" and "haw" though I see them referred to a lot, so they must be pretty common.

May. 23, 2010, 05:20 AM
I've copied this from a posting I did a little while ago on the same subject:

I'm a bit of a stickler for good rein and voice commands. I can't help myself and it's something I drum into my trainees.

In the old days a lot of folks used to train horses to move forward or off from a stand to click sounds.

I well remember when I was a youngster having it drummed into me that you "NEVER CLICK TO A HORSE"

My mother who showed hackney horses used to recount tales of woe and disaster about someone clicking a driving horse in a show and having half a dozen all set off!!!

She always used to say "Give him his name first". Often accompanied/reinforced by an old fashioned clip to the ear!

I went on to have lessons with 3 people who had huge influence on everything I do. When I was 9 I was taken under the wing of Mr Thomas Holgate, Professional Coachman. He taught me to carriage drive 'properly' and I paid him more attention than my own mother! He gave me the best grounding and tuition possible and to such an extent that it wasn't until 20 years later that I came to appreciate I knew and could do a heck of a lot more than most. He used to say "Name then Command then Encourage" and he used to repeat over and over to me when I forgot "which one? which one? give him his name"

So it would be "BUMBLES: walk" . I was never ever ever allowed to say "walk on" until after the horse was already in walk and only ever as encouragement to maintain forward at pace.

So, it's "Walk on" only when the horse is at walk and to encourage "forward" or to quicken the walk pace. Same with when you transition from walk to trot, it's "Trot" first then "Trot on" to quicken the pace or to encourage forward.

Likewise when I drove extensively with Tom Ryder as a youngster, the emphasis was on good commands always. It was always "ask and then stop asking". Only ask for more when you want more. He always used to compliment me on the fact that to me this was instinctive . Thanks to mum for that "DON'T CLICK" and to Mr Holgate for saying repeatedly "Don't be lazy" "I don't know who you're talking to or what you want so how do you expect a dumb horse to know"

I always say "Ask and Invite with your hand and demand with your voice"

For Right and Left it's just that if I want to take a night gradual right turn. If the turn is tight then I repeat the words to reinforce the rein command so "right, right right" If I want a horse to half-pass right then it's "Right and over over over"

Reverse is "Back" again I repeat the word to encourage each step.

If I want the pace to be less forward then I say "steady, steady, steady"

Woah is stop. That's the second voice command I teach.

STAND is the first voice command to be taught. It means don't move a single step. You can rest a leg but not a single step. EVER.

I then spent a lot of time with Peter Woodliffe who was also a friend of my parents. He rode as a professional jockey, then trained race horses and eventers professionally. He's forgotten more than I will ever know. He's worked with everything from pleasure ponies to Grand National winners and he puts the same amount of personal dedication, time and effort into everything. He was eccentric and used to drive his race horses to the hunt in a tandem! I had the pleasure of helping him. From him I learnt "never pick a fight with a horse, you'll lose!" and "Once he's given you what you want, then stop asking" and "it takes 2 to pull"

Now I've driven multiples for over 5 decades now and so I know that I can't get away with sloppy commands and vague instructions. I often find myself when doing lessons nowadays repeating what my mentors drummed into me.

Which one
Give him his name
What happened to "Walk" (when drivers go straight to Walk On)
Ask, Don't pull
Demand with your voice.

So when I ask for a halt for a single horse it would be say: ask politely with your hand and accompanied with the voice "Barney: woaaaaa" and once the horse and done a halt and was standing square it would be "STAND" and then a release.

When I'm doing commercial work mine often have to stand for hours so it's something I'm a bit of a stickler on with their training.

I don't know what sort of driving horse you're wanting to produce or what sort of stuff you want to do with it but in response to other mention

Gee and har are for agricultural heavy horses and as such considered to be absolutely NOT the done thing for a light harness horses.

Indeed considered to be "common and lazy" in the UK.

Though personally I think it's hard enough remembering right and left when you're driving and need fast response, so why bother adding complexity.

I have imported horses from Holland, Germany and Austria in my lifetime and it's taken me a season to change their language to English.

When I was doing clinics in the USA I used to get horses ignore me totally because of the difference in accent particularly at the word "Walk". There was one area where I was where it was said as if to rhyme with "Quack" like a duck and said as if spat out of a machine gun. In English it's to rhyme with torque and said more laconically and when using it to a driving horse you almost sing and emphasise that when you're transitioning down.

Which brings another point to emphasise. The following is just "stuff" that I always think everyone should know but sadly with the decline in horsemanship and also perhaps with poor communication skills and lack of "assertive" isn't as well known as I presume it is so at the risk of teaching grandma to suck an egg:

It's not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it. Trot said briskly means that is what you should get and trot on means urge forward. If the horse is a little too eager and forward then I say "steady, steady and then steady trot, trot trot" The first "Steadies" said calmly with equal and long emphasis on both syllables and then the "trots" said at the rate of the pace I want from them.

You will adapt your own way of saying things to an extent and you need to develop your use of voice (not just the command). You need to learn to project your voice. The horse is way in front of you and you need to ensure he can hear you. Learn to watch his ears and with driving horses they should be swivelling to listen to you. Then remember Assertive and positive means listen and pay attention. Then finally I said you ask with your reins and can demand with your voice. Remember you can and will need to DEMAND with your voice. Develop your "OI YOU I'M TELLING YOU AND DO IT NOW" voice.

Every one of my horses knows that their main discipline from me comes from voice and if there's something here being a pain in the butt I shout at it. Makes no difference what I say they know if I shout that's their warning that whatever it is they're doing they can stop it NOW!

There's always opportunity to practice that with horses. I even do it from the house from time to time say if I see one of them trying to lean on the fence rails to reach grass at the other side. I just open the window and shout (really shout!) "OI, STOP IT". I've had every horse in a herd stop what it's doing, even if it's not up to mischief!

May. 23, 2010, 07:34 AM
Thomas- I want to come a learn to drive with you! Great post! Any chance for working student positions with you?? lol


May. 23, 2010, 09:14 AM
Are you cheap and do you work hard? ;)

Seriously I've just taken on 2 staff and boy did that take some finding!

May. 23, 2010, 04:45 PM
I do it pretty much as Thomas does. Not that I'm experienced at all, but I think he posted the above when I was JUST beginning to drive and didn't know what to say, so I used his words, lol.

I use her name before each command and her ear comes back to me instantly.

STEP UP for one step forward

STEP BACK for one step back

STEP OVER for one step over, she knows which direction by the touch of the whip

WAAALK is walk

WALK ON said cheerfully if he pace is slowing or losing rhythm

ANNNND... when going to a transition, like ANNNNND walk from a trot

Turr-ROT or TURRR-rot for trot The first is more commanding, the second is more cheerful, like when I know she wants to trot but she's waiting, hoping for me to ask. That's kind of a reward for not doing her own thing.

TROT ON asid cheerfully if she's slowing or losing rhythm

CANN-ter for canter, which I don't use often

CANTER On said cheerfully if the speed or rhythm is changing

EEE-sy if she's getting faster than I want in a gait or if I sense something ahead might cause her to worry or she's worried right then. The eeeasy command is always followed by *GOOOD girl*

TURRN gee or TURRN haw - maybe I'll change to right & left since it *just is not done* in light horses. I know them now, but no one else who might ever drive does.

TURRN gee or haw - TURN TURN TURN for a hard turn if she needs the extra encouragement

She gets a cheerful *Gooood Girl* after commands if she didn't really want to but did because I asked, or if she had to think about it a sec. as if not understanding fully, but choose correctly. I use it then as a reward.

WHOAA for stop

STAAAND for stand still

NO then the command again if she has misunderstood or purposely misbehaved.

WHAT a goood girl - when she reacts well or not at all to something new or scary.

If something has frightened her, I sing Bible verse songs because that calms her down instantly. That rarely happens.

I used to talk a lot more at first because we both needed the encouragement, now I don't say much extra so she will tune right in when I do speak. I used to say eeeasy before and goood after each passing vehicle. Now she doesn't react to vehicles, and I don't want her to get the impression that there was a choice. I want that non-reaction to be a *no brianer.*

I have allowed passengers (who are riders) to drive and I tell them the commands very quietly so Cookie won't hear. She never listens to them the first time they give it, not because she's difficult or testing, but because she is only tuned in to my voice. When they say it again and loudly, she quickly obeys. The only driver other than me she listened to the first time was my younger DD, who has ridden her a lot. I think that's interesting.


May. 23, 2010, 05:23 PM
I started all my young ones in the round corral and taught them simple word commands. Get up and whoa, right off the bat. Come here, came next. I did it daily, first thing right off before any further work. Even if they were out in the pasture and I said whoa every horse out there picked up their heads and looked to me for further commands. Whoa meant just that. Stop what ever you are doing and look for your human for further direction.
I taught right and left. Whoa and stand. Words for the desired gait. Walk , trot and canter. I made sure they all had this in their heads completely before we went out of the farm.
I have seen some bad accidents made worse because the horse paniced and went ballistic when the cart turned over and the harness was pulling on the horse or the horse went down. This is the time "WHOA" is essentail. Whoa means freeze and wait for a human to save you. I saw my QH mare with her foot through the stock wire fence. SHe was pulling on it and I had visions of her cutting her foot up real bad. I called out to her "Lady" Whoa!" She immediately froze and looked for my voice. I ran out there and carefully took her foot out of the fencing. I told her what a good mare she was for being obedient. The wire left a dark mark on her white sock but thankfully she did not have any broken skin.
It is best to teach what ever command you will need to use the horse safely.
My grandfather had 2 oxen long ago and he taught them the Gee and Haw but that was way back in history and that was the custom with draft animals. He also had 8 mules hitch also trained to Gee and Haw. Get up and who and back. It is just best to teach what will make the driving safe as possible.

At any rate Whoa is the most important. What ever the animal is doing stop right now.
That just might save your life and your animal's life in an emergency.

May. 23, 2010, 08:07 PM
Let's see.... I use the horses name a lot but I tend to do it right after the command. The horse is Moon but when driving or giving direction I just use 'Moo' for some reason. lol

FORWARD walk to begin walking from a standstill

Walk Moo or Walk walk walk to speed up the walk

Trot Moo for a slow trot

Hike Moo for a faster hitchier trot.

Hike hike hike for more speed and animation...maybe a cluck here and there

*Long kiss* canter Moo for canter

Easy Moo to settle him down or slow him up a bit

I prepare him with my hands for upward transitions before giving the verbal command.

For downward transitions Easy Trot Moo, Easy Walk Moo, etc.

Haw Moo for left

Gee Moo for right

Haw ooooover for tight left

Gee ooooover for tight right

Whoap for stop

Baaaack for backing

Lets see... I think that about covers it. lol

May. 24, 2010, 09:08 AM
Are you cheap and do you work hard? ;)

Seriously I've just taken on 2 staff and boy did that take some finding!

Yup very hard worker but think my bosses would probably steal my passport if i thought of leaving right now. lol When I do finally get over to Europe, I will make sure to send an email!