By: Lynn Palm
Horses need to respect four major ground training commands: “move away from me,” “come to me,” “stop,” and “back”. In this article I will present the steps to teach your horse the “come to me” command.
Before starting, make sure that your horse is properly equipped. It should be wearing a properly fitting halter, with a longe line, and leg protection. I prefer using a longe line over a lead rope for ground training, but will use both terms in these articles.
No matter what the horse’s age, I introduce these commands first in a confined, familiar location like stall, round pen, or small paddock. Remove any distractions such as buckets or hay. This will help your horse stay relaxed and focus on you. As the horse learns, you can then graduate to teaching the same lessons in progressively bigger areas such as an aisleway, a round pen, and paddock.
I will give explanations of these maneuvers as if I was teaching them in a stall and from the horse’s near (left) side. Remember to teach the maneuver from both sides of your horse. Be patient when working on the off (right) side because the horse from the very beginning of its life is handled primarily on the left side.
Teaching the “Come To Me” Command
The “come to me” or ‘follow me” command teaches your horse to trust and accept you. This command, together with the “move away from me” command, are essential for the horse to learn respect of the handler and for safety.
With your horse equipped with a properly fitting halter and lead or longe line, position its body parallel to the wall of the stall. This will give you an advantage in keeping the horse straight as you start the maneuver. Keeping the lead line loose, move 2-3 feet away toward the middle of the stall. Stand facing its body, slightly in front of its left shoulder. Don’t forget the Golden Rule to never stand directly in front of a horse.
For now, don’t worry about which hand is holding the longe. Always be organized with your longe so it is loosely coiled and the line is stacked in your hand. Never let the longe touch the ground. This could lead to an unsafe situation. If there is any tension in the line to your horse’s head, you will have a tendency to pull. One of the hardest things you must teach yourself is not to try to control the horse by pulling on the longe or lead.
Start by addressing the horse, saying in a mellow tone “come to me” or “come”. Watch the ears and eyes for signs that your command has been heard and if your horse is responding to you. If it starts to take a step toward you, take a step back and invite the horse to follow you. If the horse does not respond, give the voice command again for encouragement and add a light tension on the lead. Immediately release the tension if the horse steps towards you. As soon as a movement is made, offer praises in a mellow, but different voice tone than you used for the command. Stop your movement and stroke its forehead as your horse stops with you.
Your Next Step…
In teaching the “come to me” command and other ground training maneuvers, make your movements slow and soft. Be patient and reward any progress your horse makes. Your goal is to make each ground training lesson a positive experience for you and your horse. This will create a solid foundation for your partnership on the ground and under saddle.
Until then, follow your dreams, Lynn
For more information, please call 1-800-503-2824 or visit www.lynnpalm.com.