Stand Still

Pat Parelli tells us why employing reverse psychology is the best technique when teaching a horse to want to stand still. A horse that won’t stand still can be maddening and sometimes unnerving. He circles, invades, pulls, even rears up, and a restless, restive horse can be dangerous. Some people may turn to methods to restrain the horse with hobbles, ties or even drugs but none of these quick fixes will make a horse want to stand. The answer lies in doing the exact opposite of what most people want to do.

Natural Horsemanship

Natural Horsemanship

When your horse refuses to stand still, instead of holding him tight and jerking on the halter, give him more rope and get him to move more! It’s called reverse psychology and it works. Give your horse at least four feet of rope then play what I call the ‘Driving Game'. This is basically sending your horse quickly from one side to the other. When a horse is full of adrenaline, holding him close makes him feel claustrophobic and panicky. Think about him out in the field - he may run if he is panicked but then he stops, assesses the danger but stands still. By giving him more rope, you stop aggravating his nervous energy and allow him to make a choice.

When a horse needs to move his feet, the more you try to stop him the worse it gets. So do the opposite - get him to move his feet faster than he wants and pretty soon the adrenaline comes down and all he wants to do is stand still. Oh, and don’t let him go in circles. The fact that he has to go back and forth faster than he wants to is the secret to this exercise. This can take a little time if it’s an extreme horse, but even though a few minutes might feel like an eternity to you it’s a drop in the bucket of time where a horse is concerned.

One of the common mantras of my approach to horse training is, ‘take the time it takes.’ So many people don’t take the time it takes to do things right and end up spending so much more time dealing with the horse’s problem on an ongoing basis. If you invest the time it takes to understand why your horse refuses to stand still and then do what it takes to naturally discharge the underlying cause, you’ll have a horse that stands still with no problem.