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Teaching your horse to lay down - Double Dan’s

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

If Family Feud had a question of “frequently asked questions at a Double Dan Horsemanship clinic,” the top answer would be “How do I teach my horse to lay down?”

In this diary entry we are going to take you through the non restraint way of teaching your horse to lay down in three easy steps. Teaching your horse the lay down can be more than just teaching your horse a cool trick, it’s a manoeuvre in its own right that will work, test and improve your timing, communication and partnership with your horse.

This non restraint way of teaching your horse to lay down is about using the horse’s natural lay down method that you will see your horse do in the paddock or a horse do in the wild. If you observe your horse laying down you will notice a series of events take place; the horse will lower its head and sniff the ground, all four feet will come together and contract, and then the horse will drop down onto two knees, before rolling onto its desired side.

Step 1: Poll pressure from the halter
The first step in teaching the horse to lay down is teaching your horse to lower its head with poll pressure from the halter. This should be worked on a fence line to ensure the horse’s body is straight. Once the horse knows how to lower its head off the pressure of the halter you will then add in the whip cue.

You will place the whip under the belly, pressing on the horse’s stomach and then applying downward pressure on the halter until the horse lowers its head. Keep asking the horse to not only leave its head down, but to stay patient until you remove the whip. Reset the exercise by walking in a half circle off the fence and going back to the same location. This exercise will be repeated again, placing the whip under the horse’s belly and pressing firm, holding that pressure of the whip and applying pressure on the halter until the horse lowers its head and leaves it there for a duration of time. Use repetition until you can place the whip under the horse’s belly and it brings its head all the way to the ground and leaves it there without you asking it to lower its head on the halter. This should be achieved on the fence and then off the fence before you attempt step 2.

Head down<br>
Photo: Josie Perrett

Head down
Photo: Josie Perrett

Head down with whip cue<br>
Photo: Josie Perrett

Head down with whip cue
Photo: Josie Perrett

Step 2: Teaching the horse to move its hindfeet under the body
Step two is about teaching your horse to move its hindfeet underneath its body. Start off the fence line again and begin by lowering the horse’s head with the whip being placed under the horse’s belly. Start tapping the horse’s belly with your whip until one hind foot moves. We will initially reward the horse by the release of pressure of the whip. After a few tries we will reset the horse by walking a half circle off the fence and then starting again. Continue to repeat this step until the horse starts to bring the hind feet underneath it. If the horse starts to move its front feet, you need to correct the front feet and move them back and then continue asking for the hind feet. Our goal for this step is to be able to take the hind feet all the way to its front feet without the front feet moving, as if it was standing on a Pedi stool. 
We will repeat the process until the horse is confident and relaxed in this step. Also ensure you are achieving this on and off the fence line.

Pedi stool<br>
Photo: Josie Perrett

Pedi stool
Photo: Josie Perrett

Step 3: Teaching the horse to pick up its front legs off the whip aid
The third step is to teach the horse to pick up its front legs off the whip aid. Place the whip behind the horse’s outside front leg (just below the knee or upper cannon) and gently tap. Once the horse picks the leg up off the ground then we will release the whip off the leg and allow it to put its foot back on the ground. Repeat this process until you get a nice change and then reset the horse. This exercise needs to be repeated to build both time and patience on both front legs and this exercise will need to be achieved both on and off the fence line, while the horse’s head is down like in step one.

The final step: putting it together
The final steps of teaching the lay down will be asked off the fence line. Ask the horse to lower its head with the whip being placed under its belly (step one), then ask the back feet to come up and underneath the horses’ front feet (step two) and then finally asking the horse to drop to the bow position by the same actions of step three. Continue to tap under the horse’s belly until the horse comes down to the lay down position on the ground, then release all pressure and reward by patting the horse. If the horse gets up without you asking, don’t try to stop it, just wait until it comes back up and then repeat the steps to ask the horse to lay down until it finds its release in the lay down. If the horse loses any of the three components of the lay down, make sure you go back and adjust the horse with the appropriate aids, for example if the horse’s head comes up while you are asking for its front feet to come off the ground, make sure you stop asking for the front feet and lower the head with the whip placed on its belly.

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

Photo: Josie Perrett

If you have taught these steps correctly, you will notice the horse will be more reluctant to get up out of the lay down than it will be to go down into the lay down. Any of these steps do not have a time frame. Some horses can learn this lay down process in as quick as a couple of sessions and some horses may take up to a few months to learn. It is about being patient and also making sure no steps are skipped. Working on the manoeuvres in your daily routine with your horse will help make the horse understand and feel relaxed in this process, ensuring you’re looking for small improvements each time until the horse feels comfortable in each step, do not ask for more if your horse is not comfortable with the last step. All of this information plus more is available in our “Teaching the Lay Down DVD.”

Buy the DVD here


Story from Horse Deals Magazine March 2017





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