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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

Cues can be anything

There is no one right way to train a horse. There are preferable ways sure, and I have my reasons for liking to do some things in a specific way, but the rigidity within some schools of thought can feel overwhelming.


Voice cues, leg aids, rein aids, pulling on the head collar etc - none of this means anything to a horse if you don’t teach them what you want it to mean. People get so hung up on the correct rein aid or the correct leg aid or the right position to lead from, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) horses can’t read. Its all just stuff people made up and decided was the right way.


If you want to train your horse to respond to pressure on a bit you can do that, but you can also train him to respond to a neck rope, your seat, your voice, a target etc and never use reins at all. You can go as extreme as you want, you don’t even need to use leg aids or rein aids, you could train a horse to go purely from the voice if you really wanted to.


This is not me saying we should all be galloping around tackless, I’m just saying to think about the why if you’re struggling or something doesn’t make sense to you and your horse. Its okay to have your own cues that work for you.


As an example my horse appears to canter from the vocal cue of “canter”, but in fact I can actually say any two-syllable word which sounds vaguely similar and he will respond the same as long as I say it in the same tone of voice. I have tested this heavily “pasta” “hamper” etc. He’s not really recognising the word itself, just the sound. My horses learn vocal cues long before they learn what leg aids mean, I actually use the vocal cues they’ve learnt on the ground to teach the leg cues. You don’t need to be thumping away on young horses.


Training is just finding ways to communicate with your horse and reinforcing the desired behaviour, its not as complicated as people can make it out to be and its actually really fun once you understand learning theory. For example, my horse understands several stop cues, he’ll stop off rein pressure, a whistle and a neck rope. If you want to teach a new cue, take the cue they already understand and use it with the new one until you can phase the old one out. If you whistle every time you stop your horse, eventually he will stop just off the whistle.


As long as you are clear and consistent your horse can understand many different nuances, the hard part is learning to be clear and consistent . Take the time to build your communication and how you want to do things with your horse and don’t worry too much about how you “should” be doing it, and never let anyone tell you it’s “wrong” to use your voice .


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