Training Question – In-Hand

I was hoping all of you with experience will advise and comment.

How do you get a horse to set-up in the in-hand classes?  More specifically, what steps do you take to do this?

I am not looking to show in-hand myself.  But I thought it would be fun for both me and my mare to learn this.  And truth be told, I’d really like to be able to do this so that I can get a decent picture of her.  Whenever I send a picture out to family or friends, it’s never very becoming (she really is a pretty horse – I just can’t capture her in a picture).

Any/all advice is welcome.  Thank you.

18 Responses to Training Question – In-Hand

  1. PlayMorBill says:

    The fact that this question has stood two days with nary a comment (never mind, an answer) cracks me up.

    Here’s my take on why:

    Much of what we do with horses is instictive. We may have a strategy, complete with tricks and techniques, but the training lies within the horses reactions and our reactions to them. You can apply the same simple command to ten horses, and get ten completely different actions, reactions, and reactions to reactions.

    It’s complicated and confusing to describe what to do in each and every circumstance, which is why it’s so hard to teach someone to train an animal (or an human, come to think of it).

    Like most, I learned by watching, doing, screwing it up, and doing it better the next time. I don’t actively train anymore, and that’s the part I miss the most. Figuring what makes this one particular individual tick.

    *Mr Bills philosophy session ends*

    To answer your question, Cap, you absoultey should teach your mare to stand up. I use a three step method that some will agree with, some will modify, and some will call the ASPCA, PETA and the Humane Society because I have not allowed the horse to do as it pleases freely, without coersion or force:

    Mr Bills “Three Steps to Better Parking”

    A: While standing in front of her, teach the horse to keep her feet still (whoa).

    (this can be dangerous – if you see or feel her front feet anywhere not on the ground, step quickly to one side)

    B: Teach her to inch her front feet forward. Try tapping the back of her ankle or knee with a whip or cane or toe, but don’t let her move her back feet. I use “hup” or “up” as a verbal command. Some say “feet” or “park” or “park up” or “park out” or “put your damn feet out there and stand still you freaking fly smelter”.

    (the last being my personal favorite, though completely paraphrased)

    It’s amazing how many different verbal commands there are for this. I believe the industry should be standardized so when you show a client their new horse you don’t look like a complete idiot calling the former trainer to get the correct key word.

    “Please” was my favorite ridiculous word to run across (though creative, I’ll give her that).

    C: Teach her to rock her weight forward without moving her feet. You want her to keep her neck upright, and reach with her nose. This makes her neck look long and archy. If you don’t want that look, drop a peanut on the ground.

    You see us baiting our halter horses constantly to get them lean/stretch/rock forward. Good baits are Grain, Peppermints, Grass, Peppermints, Grooms, Peppermints, Teething Rings, Peppermints, and, of course, the favorite here at PlayMor is Peppermints.

    The secret of peppermints is the wrapper. The horses learn very quickly that the crinkling sound they hear is the wrapper coming off the peppermint. They get perky, eager and cute.

    I get in trouble for occassionaly walking down the aisle of our barn crinkling a wrapper. :)

    Mr Bill waxes prophetic occassionaly with his tongue planted firmly within his cheek. All statement, comments, suggestions, tips and tricks are to be thoroughly investigated for their accuracy and validity before attempting.

    (Yeah, I know. My wife says the same thing)

  2. colwilrin says:

    Never, ever underestimate the power of the peppermint!

    Cigarette pack wrappers will work in a pinch if you forgot the mint, but only once or twice, then they know the difference…and you shouldn’t be smoking anyway, it’s bad for you.

  3. empressive says:

    I love excusses I was sick and so was the dog and horse. Dog almost died (although deeply I wish it had it’s one of those Grandma only dogs pees on everything and tries to eat my horses)

    Nevertheless! If cap doesn’t mind how do you get the tail “end” to level off? My mare can do it I have seen her do it before her whole back level like a pin straight to her tail. She gets lazy though sometimes. Some people told me to ginger her tail? Anyone care to elaborate?

  4. Beth says:

    Bill, You are Hysterical. I hope I get to meet you someday!
    I too am surprised trainers are not responding, I think its a little warmer up here in the northeast and maybe they are trying to get caught up! I will add my observations, mind you, I am an AMATEUR owner, but I have watched and helped with the process for years. My trainer will practice at the end of a work out, and it does take many sessions.
    The horse first needs to “whoa” and “step Up” which is the cue at our barn with a tap behind the front feet then stretch for the treat. The back levels out with the stretch, not Ginger! My only point is it takes alot of time, and multiple sessions.


  5. cap1963 says:

    Thank you all who have responded (finally).

    Bill – you are TOO funny. I, too, was wondering why no one has responded. Thanks for your detailed explanation. It is most helpful. And I agree, what works for some won’t work for others.

    I have no issues with “whoa”. Whoa is good. Thanks for the tips on the peppermint and other treats. I have only been trying to move the front feet forward without any forward incentive. Hopefully, that will help. I’ll keep trying.

    In the meantime, if anyone else has any more tips, I’d be grateful.


  6. StacyGRS says:

    I don’t “see” new topics on my screen for some reason…only the “recent comments” so if nobody comments, I don’t know it exists:) Good job explaining, Bill.
    Putting your horse on a slight incline often helps them to rock up over their front end and level off their back. Little hill, little bait, lots of praise:)

  7. MaewynMorgans says:

    And be patient! I had a young gelding who learned to ‘park out’ within one day. His full sister, however, thought it was the stupidest thing I had ever asked her to do and fought me for months!

  8. side note: i know ginger is widely used for in hand classes…. but is it technically legal?

  9. KarenL says:

    Technically, yes it is. The rule against it was pulled due to lack of detectability and therefore enforcement.

    I personally think it makes horses look silly. I believe it is a discomfort (however slight people may believe it to be) that is unnecessary.

    As it relates to in-hand training, it certainly won’t do anything to help teach a horse how to pose & if a horse isn’t used to it, it will actually make them move their back feet more…

    When teaching a horse to step up with the fronts, I have a similar approach with the importance of whoa & making a horse stand square EVERY time you stop them. I will then pick up on the halter or bridle, give a little pull on the withers to encourage a small step with the off front. If it moves forward- heap on the praise. Then push the withers to do the same with the near side. If I need to I’ll either use my boot to tap the back of the intended heel or have someone tap with a whip.

    Best of luck!

  10. nightmusicfarms says:

    I think we need to start a “Mr. Bill’s Training Column, Complete with Advice, Wanted and Unwanted. General Observations on the Universe Included Without (Undue) Charge.


  11. cap1963 says:

    I just wanted to give you all an update as to my progress.

    Since winter does not seem to want to go away around here, I have only worked with her 3 times on this. But how quickly she has caught on! It’s been a lot of fun.

    I have to say, my first tries were quite unimpressive on my part! Trying to coordinate myself was the biggest obstacle. I’m extremely lacking in height so you can imagine how difficult it was for me at first, especially since my “prodder” wasn’t long enough. That neck can really stretch when a treat is out there. My verbal command wasn’t right either.

    1st Tip to myself: Don’t use the same command to move the back feet off the trailer as you do for this exercise.

    2nd Tip to myself: Use something to nudge those front feet that is longer than a dressage whip.

    By the end of our first session (working maybe only 10 minutes) I had it down pretty well as did my mare.

    I have not asked for a very large stretch forward (feet positioning) at this point. I’m just looking for something a little more than square with weight forward and neck outstretched. So far so good. And she’ll even hold it for a while.

    It has really helped me to evaluate her confirmation a little better, as well. So more questions, but that will be a different topic.

    I just wanted to thank you all for your help.

  12. PlayMorBill says:

    A few thoughts:

    Cap: Good job! Stacy was right on: Use a small mound or hill will enhance the rocking forward motion. Bait, bait bait!

    Susan (NightMusic): My wife would beg to differ. :)

    On Ginger: It is not illegal. The reason we use it is simple: When a horse is running free in a pasture, snorting and flagging his tail is like the coolest thing to watch, isn’t it? Like a dog or cat, that tail is an excellent barometer. When a horse is flagging its tail, it’s saying “I’m king of the world!”.

    Judges like that look.

    For example, take Stump at Westmienster this year. The Poodle made an incredible show (with an incredible haircut), but Stump was undeterred. He won with a regal, confidant performance that stated emphaticaly that he was, without doubt, the King of the Ring.

    (Stump is my personal, all time favorite. I think he’s cucumber-cool)

    For our horses, one of the ways we re-create that exuberant appearance in the show ring is to have the horse carry its tail up. Some do so all one their own. Others need artifical help to compete, which is where bustles and ginger come in.

    As I’ve said for many, many years, there’s nothing natural about a show horse.

    As a breed, we still argue about that. :(

  13. KarenL says:

    Not really arguing, Bill, just pointing out where thoughts on a subject diverge. Still room in the breed and show ring for both of us, I hope.

    Didn’t say it wasn’t legal, just that I thought it wasn’t a necessary thing; I even went & looked at pictures from GN to double check my impressions. Seeing pictures (not all of them, of course) of handlers just about doing a headstand to get their charge to perk up, seeing the horse standing like a sawhorse looking bored to tears with its tail sticking up (or off to the side) as if it had just been running free and showing off will likely always look silly to me. :)

  14. Chris Nerland says:

    Teaching them to stretch up a slight incline is good advice, they will tend to roll their weight forward over their front legs. Another old trick is to hold a tack in your right palm and press down on the croup while pulling out the horses head with your left (yeah, it takes long arms-thats why you start ‘em small). They will drop the croup to get away from the pinprick. Before someone starts hollering, consider this: the horse can move away from the painful stimulus and achieve non-pain by doing what you ask. My big objection to gingering, besides the ridiculous tail positions (a row of yearlings with broomsticks up their as–s), is that there is no reward for the horse complying by lifting his tail-he continues in discomfort/pain throughout the class. Yes, yes, he hollows his back, lifts his neck, etc, etc. I have heard the arguments and they have merit from a strictly presentation point of view, but I still find it ugly and artificial.

  15. colwilrin says:

    Rather than using a pin prick…if you take your fingernails in the same spot and scratch/dig against the hair, it often accomplishes the same thing. More of a tickle, than a pain response.

  16. empressive says:

    I know a guy that used to grab the skin and pull back towards the neck. It messed up the coat and didn’t always work.

    Either way I am short! Both ways! I will definiately need help whatever I do.

  17. cap1963 says:

    Ok, everyone. Next question, same subject.

    We’ve got the stance down and the stretch is really coming along (although we still need it to be a little more “automatic” or no cue, I’m not too worried about that at this time).

    How do I get rid of the “ugly face”?

    You all must know the face I’m talking about…ears back, not perky and pretty. The ugly face!

    I’ve tried kissing, smooching, making all sorts of noises. Tried waving things in front of her (she does at least hold the stance for a little while). Crinking the wrapper from the peppermint only gets her in the stance; no pretty face. I’ve pretty much stood on my head and can’t get those pretty ears to come forward (at least not for a picture).

    On a side note; Playmor Bill: You are right. Peppermints are the best. I started with carrots which were ok to start, but once I switched to peppermints, the carrots were history.

    I hope I get some advice here. Thanks, everyone.

  18. StacyGRS says:

    If the peppermint wrapper doesn’t get it done, then you are going to have to move to a “fun” location…go out in a field where there is stuff to look at and let her look. Or Go to a fenceline that has friends over it and let her see them…soemthing to look at other than you making kissing and smooching noises:):)

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