Horse Training Voice Commands
To the uninitiated, voice commands for the horse are nothing more
than words. But to the horse they are only sounds.
Obviously, horses cannot speak our language. Since they cannot
speak our language we should think through what we say to them
when we want certain responses from them.
Take the word "whoa" for instance. I have no doubt this is the
most abused word in the human/horse language. When the rider says
"whoa" then the horse should know to stop.
But the problem is this. Often the word "whoa" is said when the
rider wants the horse to slow down...not stop. Before you know
it, the rider has conditioned the horse to slow down at the word
"whoa" instead of stopping. Then the rider can't understand why
the "stupid" horse won't stop when he says "whoa!".
Telling your horse a command when you mean for it to do something
else is lying to your horse. You never lie to your horse because
the results you get will not be what you want. Jesse Beery, a
famous horse trainer from the 1800's, knew this well and was the
first to say "don't lie to your horse".
Thus, when you say "whoa" to your horse, you must only say it
because you want to stop...not slow down.
Also, when using voice commands be sure to use simple words with
as few syllables as possible.
Thus, if you want a horse to back up then say "back". If you want
him to walk then say "walk". If you want him to trot then say
Next, when using voice commands be sure to associate an action
with the command. For instance, let's say you're teaching your
horse to gallop at the command "gallop". So while in the round
pen you use one of your aids to teach him to gallop. So first you
say "gallop" then bring in the aid to motivate his movement to a
If you want to teach your horse to walk then start your horse
around the pen in the opposite direction from which you taught
him to gallop. When he's gone around several times, stop him, and
pet him. If he goes too fast use the word "walk" and have him go
slower by making a slight move to the front of him.
Lastly, I'm a big advocate of being careful how you talk to your
If you use commands that sound threatening (by yelling a
command), you can actually increase your horse's heart rate,
frighten and confuse him, and he may take longer to learn.
For instance, a popular command to teach a horse is the word
"step". When driving a horse, using this command means for the
horse to move forward...take a step. When teaching it, be careful
not to yell the command because it may be perceived by the horse
as a punishment.
But if you calmly say "step" you will get better results than if
you yell it. Often times, when a horse isn't "getting what you
want", there's a tendency to get frustrated and thus, mad - and
your voice volume can escalate. Then you're back to sounding
threatening and perhaps your horse will take even longer to
understand what you want.
I've seen where horses were being taught to drive where the owner
taught the word "step". When teaching it, he would loudly say
"STEP!". It wasn't long before the horse was actually balking.
Then the owner was getting frustrated and kept repeating his
command even louder...as if the horse couldn't hear him.
It reminds me of a show I once saw on television. One english
speaking man was talking with a spanish speaking man. The spanish
speaking man knew no english. The english speaking man was trying
to communicate with the spanish speaking man. After a minute of
obvious noncommunication, the english speaking man spoke slower
and louder. Unfortuantly, the spanish speaking man didn't
understand english whether or not it was spoke loud, soft, fast,
In summary, use short words. Use the word when you want a certain
action - only say the word when you want that particular action.
If you want your horse to slow down then say something like
"easy". (Don't say "slow" because he may take it for "whoa".)
Next, associate actions with commands and calmly talk to your
horse. Horses can hear very well and yelling command will not
make the command any more clear - if anything, it will frighten
and confuse him.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of
several best selling horse training and horse care books.
Incredible Stuffed Plush Horses
Horse Calendars that you will Adore