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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May. 24, 2010

    Default Standing still.

    I'm at my wits end about getting my horse to stand still after she has been out driving for a few minutes. A bit of history: stands perfectly for grooming, tacking, longlining, lunging, and hitching and unhitching. I can lunge her and say whoa and she stops and stands while I walk around, talk on the phone, whatever. She has very nice ground manners - no pushing, shoving - stops the moment I do and just waits. Ties up extremely well.

    However, in a cart after driving a minute or two it is a different story. On a good day she will pause and stand a moment or two. On a bad day she will blow her nose, flip her tail and act like she is thinking of rearing (hasn't done so) or now, she will start backing up. Most days are a combination.
    These are the things I have tried: Just pausing and then moving off before she is already going so that it seems like my idea. After a summer of this I can't say I see any improvement. Oddly enough one day at a clinic, she did stand around like I wanted but I still have no idea why. I've tried to duplicate the conditions (other horses and people standing around) but she has never done it again.
    Having someone in the cart get off and offer a treat. She hogs it down and is already dancing before she swallows.
    Tried working her very, very hard and asking for a stand and it just seems to make her madder.

    She gets a low starch feed and not much of it and very plain hay. She has turnout on grass everyday and in the barn has a stall with a big run pen connected to it. She gets about an hour of work 5 days a week. She does come from very hot bloodlines.

    Except for this (and it's a very big thing) she is a great driving horse - brave, forward, light in the bridle, ears up, and did I mention that she is beautiful?

    To get her to stand nicely for hooking, I harnessed her and put her halter over the bridle and tied her to the wall. Then I hitched the cart to her and got in and out many times. She learned easily to stand for hitching. I can't think of a comparable exercise I can use outdoors. Would a hitching post work?
    Does anyone have some ideas for me?
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May. 28, 2006
    Central Mississippi


    I have had the same problem with one of my mares. It took a while to sort it out and she still reverts sometimes.

    Step one was to work in a large paddock, where we could alternate work with standing Practice. This did not solve the problem, but it reassured me that she knew the meaning if the command.

    Step two was a return to ground driving on the roads and reinforcing the training. We got a bit twisted up in the tack during the negotiations, but in the end were getting reliable stands.

    Step three was re teaching about breeching, because I thought she might be reacting to the cart pushing forward. I don't think this is the problem, but it was a useful exercise.

    Despite all this, we still had to work it out on the road. This required all my skill and a lot of ingenuity to counter each of her resistances. I put my helper on the ground to advise the fortunately light traffic, set a goal (five minutes), and achieved it after a very focussed half hour.

    She is now very good at all but one intersection near home. We are working on it.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 5, 2007
    Beside Myself ~ Western NY


    How about teaching her to "park out". Yes, everyone thinks of Saddlebreds and Morgans and Hackney ponies when you say that, but it originated in driving horses to keep the horses from running over M'lady's toes while she was boarding the carriage.

    It's pretty effective once taught. In fact, we have a thread over on the ASB forum asking for advice on how to "unpark" one. Sometimes the emergency break sticks
    If I ever use "there" instead of "their" or "your" instead of you're" in the same post I've been kidnapped and am signaling for help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 28, 2003


    We have had a similar problem with our Cooper

    He will stand while we tack up and hitch the cart
    He will stand mounting the cart and for quite a while after you get on

    But once you start driving he doesnt see the point of standing

    We are getting better but still working on it
    Doing the standard small time increments

    One thing our trainer is stressing is to release the reins once he is standing and NOT hold tight. I know, sounds backwards, but it means HE has to make the effort and not balance on YOU

    He is also very concerned about how the cart moves around him. We were recently working on backing up and he was throwing conniptions out on grass. Did fine on the cement barn aisle or the packed dirt in front of the barn. We tightened up the breeching - which was not loose by any means - and now he is OK with back ups.

    Sometimes it really is something very little that we just havent grasped yet

    Keep working on it

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2008


    I went through something similar with my gelding, but not the same as he needed improvement in all areas, longing, hitching, etc. But I will throw some ideas your way:

    My first thought is that are you doing all of this prep work on the ground in harness with blinkers on? If not, there might be an interesting area to start. My own horse is very wiggly squiggly until he gets his blinkers on and then he's focused forward quite nicely. She might be over focused forward and unable to think about standing still because of it.

    Teach her to ground tie and associate it with a cue. I use "stand". It takes patience and diligence with some horses. Start easy in a halter and lead rope in a round pen. Make it a cue that has a reward at the end, so they know there is a beginning (stand), middle (patience) and ending (good boy, walk on). Obviously in the beginning the patience part is very short, fraction of a second for very bouncy horses.

    Once the horse is confirmed ground tying and understand the cues, then segue to doing so in harness (blinkers) but not hitched. Advance to where you can give the command to stand from behind her shoulder (aka long reining), walk around her, fiddle with tack, drop a bucket, etc, and she stands until asked to walk on.

    Once ground tying there, then proceed to hitched with the help of a friend. You mounted in the vehicle, friend on ground in view, gives command, steps back, good girl, comes back, treat, praise. etc., until friend can give command, dart out of mare's view and then come back and reward without her wanting to walk off.

    Some tips to success:

    Make the "routine" very predictable. In halter and lead, I stop my horse, drop the lead rope, face the horse head on, give command (stand) and then back two steps away. Pause a second, walk up praise. Pause (soak time). It is important that my pause when I back away is over before the horse feels the need to move a foot. Even before they flick an ear someplace else or look around. The horse must stay focused on me the entire time.

    I build up to three steps, then four steps, etc. building my distance by backing away. Pausing slightly longer, etc., until I can get about 20' away. Then I start walking away from different angles, walk around the horse, approach pat the bum, and walk back away, etc. Once the horse grasps that there is a beginning, middle and end to the request, its just a matter of your timing being better than theirs to keep the entire thing positive.

    Once the horse gets good at the game, then I make it creative and go different places and I walk away quickly and hide around a corner, behind a trash can, hay bales, side of barn, car, etc. Like hide and "don't seek"

    The other key is if the horse does move away at anytime, put it precisely back where it was. I make marks in the earth where I want all 4 feet. Any foot moves, it is put back precisely in its spot. Horses grasp that formality better than we do and they will learn that being precisely here has meaning.

    On the topic, I make sure my horse stands square at all times. Legs askance invite a horse to take a step off or shift around. Legs square invite that planted feeling.

    Because routine, repetition and redundancy helps in this exercise, I plan for an entire day working at this. Not 15 min and call it a day. I make a marathon out of teaching 'stand'. Not to say I don't take frequent breaks, breaks and soak time are really key. But I find I can really cement the cue to stand by advancing all day long (as long as the horse is up for advancing). Thats a quiet horse anyhow, one with a really short attention span is just the opposite, many short lessons over the course of several days.

    I don't haul back on the reins or have a fixed hand when I ask my horse to stand, that I find invites the need to leave. Thats not to say I let my horse blow through my hands, no no, if he's rude, I'm ruder. But my horse gets an instant reward of relief of pressure for obeying.

    I have a bone of contention with a friend of mine on this point, and I'm a novice so please take my comments with a grain of salt but my friend likes to ride and drive on a looped rein. While I'll hack a ridden horse on the buckle, I drive on light contact. When I down transition, I often (try!) to have a giving hand that invites the horse to stretch and lengthen into the down gait, or come squarely to a halt, seeking my hand.

    When I ask my horse to stand, its always on no contact (or very featherlight if I expect to be moving off in a second). I take up contact before asking my horse to walk. I also taught him this as a ridden horse, rider drops the reins, you stop. It takes quite a bit of asking to get my horse to walk off on a loose rein, as loose rein = coffee break

    hope some of this is helpful
    “I am sorry negativity, I have no time for you. I have far too many positive things to do.”

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 5, 2007


    Do you always tie up to hitch? Do you use the word whoa? I never tie o harness and hitch. The horses are taught to ground tie in the barn, in the wash rack, etc, using the command "STAND". The word means you MAY NOT move a foot. I use it to reinforce standing to hitch, and standing still while hitched.
    Good Luck!


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 5, 2007


    Buck22 and i are on the same page!

  8. #8


    When mine don't stand still....I make them move, make them do a little more work. They get tired of that. Get to a point where they want to do nothing more than stand.

    Work on your standing still after a long drive. Don't do it when your horse is fresh - you'll end up being disappointed having to do a lot more work as opposed to using this lesson for nearly the end of your drive.

    Drive her to a fence or other obstruction that won't allow her to move forward. Say "WOAH." Scratch her tail and thank her, shower her with sweet lovin' while she's standing nicely. She might learn to stand from all the love she gets while she's doing it.

    Both ways have worked for me....always depends on the horse you're working with.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep. 29, 2006
    NW Oregon


    This may be too obvious, but have you made certain this isn't a pain issue? Perhaps the crupper or something else rubs -- not a problem at first, but after a bit of rubbing and sweating it begins to hurt. My gelding is quick to let me know if anything is annoying or even just different, especially with the crupper or breeching. He's still a good guy, just not a happy horse.
    They're not miniatures, they're concentrates.

    Born tongue-in-cheek and foot-in-mouth

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 24, 2010

    Default Thank you all.

    Much thanks to everyone who wrote and offered suggestions. They were good ideas and each had merit and it takes a long time to think them all out and write it down. I just came back from an event and read them all.
    While at the event I had a trainer ride with me. When I asked the pony to whoa, the trainer got off quietly and stood to the back and side of her and as she started her little temper dance, gave her a quick snatch of the cheek piece of the bridle and a poke in the ribs while I spoke up with a strong whoa, a pull of the reins and instant release. I'm not saying this would work for everyone by any means but three times of it worked a small miracle for my pony. I don't feel she is cured and I decided to leave her at the trainers for a month or so because it works much better to have two people and usually it is just me that is on the carriage.
    I think this method produced the desired effect because the pony knows the meaning of the word whoa, just didn't feel that she had to do it because I couldn't enforce it.
    Thanks again guys.

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