Training the Halter Horse: Part 2
First, if the foot is too forward, I like to place my hand on the horse's shoulder, turn the horse's head slightly to the right when wanting to move the left foot( this takes weight off the left foot) and just the reverse when placing the right foot. You dont have to move the horse's head much, just slightly. Press with the toe of your foot against the front of the horse's cornet band, get the horse to yield to the pressure and have it move the foot backward. You will eventually have the horse responding to the touching of it's shoulder with your hand and putting your foot sideways in front of the horse's foot to have it move it backward. To have the foot move forward, use the same procedure except you will put your foot sideways behind the horse's foot and push forward on the backside of it's pastern. By doing this, the horse should move the foot forward. Again, if all else fails, you can hand place the foot. Practice this procedure repeatly. Remember to go back to the beginning each time, walk, whoa, and set up. Practice, because a horse learns by repetition.
Now that we have the setting up of the horse's feet down, let's move into leading.
When leading, you should always be at the shoulder of the horse. I like a horse to hold it's head in a natural alert position. Just prior to walking, give the walk command. First the voice command, *walk* and gently push on the lead strap close to the horse's head with your thumb in a forward motion as this will start the horse in a forward motion. Walk directly at the judge in a straight line. Pick a spot directly behind the judge (such as the fence at the opposite end of the arena) and focus on it. This will help you and the horse to travel straight while walking and trotting away, which will allow the judge to better see how your horse travels. In most halter classes, you will walk to the judge and when the judge steps to one side or the other, you will then trot away from the judge in a straight line.
To get the horse used to trotting from a walk on command, you do the same procedure as for the walk, except you use the voice command of *trot*. You are not going to confuse the horse as you are just increasing your speed from the walk to the trot using a different voice command. I have found it helps if you practice at home with a helper who acts the judge. We have already used one for placing the feet, and now we are going to use one as the judge. Have your helper stand about 30 feet away and walk to this person as if he/she is the judge. When you are about 8 feet away, have your helper step to one side, I prefer the near side, and ask your horse to trot by giving the proper commands. You will find by practicing this several times, the horse will be ready to trot as soon as the judge/helper steps off to the side. You want the transaction from a walk to a trot to be smooth and flowing. Now practice everything you have learned so far. Remember if you having problems in one area, go back to the beginning and start over, never advance till each step has been learned properly.
The Line Up
When standing in what is referred as to the line up, you want your horse to stand still, feet square and head up along with being a little out to the front. By asking your horse to stretch his head out just a little bit you make it's throatlatch look tighter. When you are showing your horse, you should be standing on the opposite side that the judge is on. You can do the quarter system but it is not necessary, just remember to be on the opposite side than the judge. You will most likely be asked to *mouth* your horse. This is a process, where you put your two fingers in front of the horse's lips sideways and gently spread the lips. The judge is looking for over or under bites. Practice this procedure at home as the horse needs to stand in place when you do this, and not protest. Take your helper (remember I said I use one a lot), and act as if you are at a horse show. Your helper will be the judge. You will walk to this person on command, trot past when he/she steps off to one side, and then you will go and line up. The helper will wait a few minutes before approaching your horse as if they are viewing other horses. You will have your horse standing up properly and then the helper/judge will walk around your horse (I like to repeat the whoa command softly to the horse during this procedure), then the helper will turn around as if he were judging another horse. Have your helper come back several times and repeat this process without having your horse move.
Practice this total procedure and you will be ready to show in halter. Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I would also be interested in knowing how you do at your first show after practicing this procedure of training your horse for halter.