Think of Stage 2 as a military salute. You want the horse to yield his hindquarters with a snappy, “Yes, sir!” type of attitude. You want to get him so good at this exercise that all you have to do is look at his hindquarters to get two eyes.
Most exercises you do with your horse revolve around yielding the hindquarters, so if he can’t do this exercise well, you’ll run into trouble as you try to advance. Master this technique, and future training will be much easier.
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Your goal for this exercise is for your horse to completely disengage his hindquarters and face you with two eyes when you look toward his hindquarters with active body language.
You’ll need: A rope halter, a 14-foot lead rope, a Handy Stick with string, and an enclosed work area with good footing. (To order a Handy Stick, click here.)
Before You Begin
Lead your horse to the work area. Remove the string from the Handy Stick, and tie it around the base of his neck. The string will be a guideline for you. When you stand in front of the string, you’re in front of his drive line.
Any energy you create in front of the drive line causes your horse to slow down, stop, or change directions. If you stand behind the string, you’re behind the drive line. Energy created behind the drive line either causes your horse to go forward or to yield his hindquarters.
Stand even with your horse’s shoulder, an arm’s length away, facing his hindquarters. By keeping your body even with his shoulder, you’ll be in a safe position — too far forward to be kicked by a hind leg, and too far to the side to get run over if he jumps forward.
Step 1. Stand beside your horse, slightly behind the drive line. To move your horse’s hindquarters, you have to apply pressure behind the drive line. If you’re standing too far forward, he’ll be able to take a couple steps backward to face you rather than actually having to disengage his hind end.
Step 2. Position your hand on the lead rope. Using the hand closest to your horse’s body, hold the lead rope two to three feet from the snap. In the same hand, hold the tail of the lead rope in two big coils in your hand.
Raise that hand in the air up next to your horse’s head. With your other hand, hold the Handy Stick as though you’re shaking someone’s hand.
Holding your hand up by your horse’s head will discourage him from pushing into you. This position will also allow you to quickly bump his head back toward his withers if he looks away from you or tries to walk out of the yield.
Step 3. Rub him with the stick. Always rub your horse’s hindquarters with the Handy Stick before asking him to move. If you don’t start and finish the exercise by rubbing him with the stick, he’ll always anticipate that you’re going to make him move his feet when you step behind the drive line.
Step 4. Crouch forward. Crouch forward, and walk a slightly bigger circle around toward your horse’s hindquarters. Use active body language to ask him to move. Look intently at his hindquarters and crouch forward — let him know that you’re coming, and give him a chance to respond.
By walking a bigger circle than you did in Stage 1, you’ll give your horse room to actually turn and face you, and give you two eyes. If you stay too close to his shoulder, he won’t have room to turn and face you.
Step 5. Apply pressure. At the same time, apply pressure with the Handy Stick. Wave the stick in the air with exaggerated motion three times, and count out loud: ONE—TWO—THREE. At the same time, walk toward his hindquarters.
If your horse doesn’t move his hindquarters and face you with two eyes on this cue, whack him on the butt with the stick on Count 4 with enough pressure to cause him to want to hustle his hindquarters away and face you.
Tip: Give your horse a good solid whack. If you attempt this exercise a few times and he still doesn’t seem to be taking you seriously, it probably means that you aren’t applying enough pressure to make him feel uncomfortable.
If your horse doesn’t face you when you whack him with the stick, keep applying pressure with the stick until he turns and faces you.
You’re giving your horse three chances to do the right thing — one, two, three, then WHACK. With enough repetition, he won’t let you count to more than two before he turns and faces you. Eventually, he’ll learn to turn and face you as soon as you lean forward and look intently at his hindquarters.
Clinton Anderson grew up in Queensland, Australia, learning to ride as a teenager and training with many of his country’s top horsemen. In 1997, he relocated to the United States to perfect his Downunder Horsemanship program. Under Anderson’s guidance, horses learn to respect and respond to their handlers, developing willing partnerships. To learn more about Downunder Horsemanship, Clinton Anderson Walkabout Tours, and more, visit www.downunderhorsemanship.com.