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Success story: Teaching a horse to lie (lay) down

“Stacy, A while back you posted a video about laying your horse down… I followed it and today is day 5 and he has been down about 5 times now! Thank you for such a cool way to approach the lay down!” -Alisha P.

success story

Alisha watched Stacy’s video and taught her horse to lay down on cue!

I love finding success stories like this one posted on my Facebook page! It is inspiring for people to read that the techniques shown worked on someone else’s horse. Watching a video or reading tips online can be intimidating but reading about someone having success make it a bit less so. Here are some of the comments and questions that Alisha has received about here experience:

Alisha P. could you share that link for me. Please thank you

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2…

Kyla J…. Hope that link works… If not just YouTube Stacy westfall laying horse down. Such a cool way of teaching a horse to lay down!

thank you.. I have a candiate i want to teach…

Alisha P. how easy was this to teach?? I have a crazy smart apply guy… Would like to try this.. how well did Nelson bring his feet together.

He went down on day 4… First day I just put him on the fence to teach the concept…. Day two expected him to build on day 1. Day 3 started asking for him to walk his back feet up in the middle of the pen off the fence. Day 4 would ask him to hold the position and go further. Sometimes when he would make a mistake he would quickly correct himself and start to buckle in his front end like he was thinking down. When he did go down it was his idea and he was really quite. I have done it 4 times since then and each time he goes down faster and faster. Nelsyn has a really good foundation and was ready for this next step. I found it to be great way to teach the lay down and can’t wait to try it on another horse! Good luck and have fun teaching your horse… Let me know how it goes!

This conversation is happening right now on the ‘Posts to Page’ section of my Facebook account. If you want to ask Alisha a question jump on there and ask her…she hasn’t had any warning but she has been trying to answer people. If you have a question for me feel free to post it in the comments here. I have also embedded the video Alisha used below as well.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Members Question, Video

 

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How do you teach a horse to lay down so a person in a wheel chair can get in the saddle?

“How do you teach a horse to lay down so a person in a wheel chair can get in the saddle? The reason I am asking is because the end of August 2014 my boyfriend came down with west nile virus. As of the end of April 2015 he is still in a wheel chair and he wants to be able to ride again. Thanks for your time”, Angie E.

This question got me thinking in several ways. First, let me say I am sorry that both of you are going through this. Years ago a good friend’s husband nearly died from West Nile and has struggled ever since so I have an idea of the challenges you are going through. My heart and prayers go out to you both. I love that he wants to ride again. Setting goals is important for everyone because it keeps us looking forward.

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Michael Richardson gives amazing demos and trains from his wheel chair.

My second thought is that I am not sure if teaching a horse to lie down to mount is the best option for people in a wheelchair to mount. If it was a great method then therapeutic programs would teach horses to lie down. My guess is that there are several reasons why it isn’t the best choice.

  1. Awkward -I have taught horses to lie down and I have mounted while they are down. It is more awkward than I would have guessed from watching it. If you see a horse with a saddle on while lying down you will notice that the saddle is facing sideways.
  2. Difficulty -A horse standing up is a big motion. It is similar in a way to riding a horse going over a small jump as quickly raise their front end upward followed quickly by the hind end.
  3. Challenge- An unbalanced rider would make standing up more of a challenge for the horse

If I do mount my horse while he is down I prefer to do so bareback. This makes it easier for both of us because it solves most of the issues listed above but makes it a less appealing method in a therapeutic setting.

I would suggest finding a local therapy barn to become accustom to riding again. Just as learning to be in the wheel chair has been a learning curve, learning to ride again will also be a new learning curve. The people I have met that are involved in therapy have been extremely caring and will be in the best position to be able to help you guys with this transition, including the discussion about his ability to mount from a horse that is lying down.

 
15 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Members Question, Thought provoking

 

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Do horses dream? What do they dream about?

Horses do some of their sleeping while standing but they will also lie down for deeper sleep. When we trained horses full time and spent twelve hours a day or more in the barn the horses got pretty comfortable with us being around. This lead to seeing horses sleep…and dream. Too bad I hadn’t thought to grab a video camera back then…but thankful other people have.

Check out this video of a mare while she is dreaming. The whinny at the beginning is cute but I think her dream took a turn for the worse around twenty-eight seconds…watch what she did then! I guess all horse dreams aren’t pleasant.  I wonder what she was dreaming about…

This type of dreaming is what we mostly caught the horses doing in our barn. Apparently ‘running’ dreams are popular with horses. I have noticed this in dogs also!

Is there a cutest dreamer category? If there is…watch out for this little guy!

I had to put one dog ‘running in sleep’ video in here too…here is a link to a dog dreaming the way I have seen them.

And this is a crazy link to a dog who was REALLY dreaming. I’ve never seen this happen before and I hope it never happens to my horse or my dog. Ouch. That was one crazy dream:(

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Video

 

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Asking my horse, Newt, to lie down while I’m riding him.

Here is another video where you get to watch Newt think. It should remind you of watching Newt learn how to stand on the box. The more things I teach a horse the more I can learn about how they think and process what I am doing. Can you see the consistency in Newt’s thought patterns?

I forgot to mention that I was cueing him by tapping his belly with the lead rope. If you watch for it you can see it. If your curious about how that works you can read my previous blog about teaching a horse to lie down.  When you watch the video of Jac learning to lie down, can you see the similarities to watching Newt learn how to step up on the box? Can you see how allowing them time to think gives them the opportunity to participate in the training by making choices?

Below is a copy of Newt’s previous diary entry from March 21, 2014

I also made an interesting discovery this week.

My mom has been riding me on a very loose rein…she even took the bridle off once.

That made it really easy to play in the dirt. I like digging in dirt with my nose.

Newt bow

Well, I had my head down to push dirt and a thought occurred to me.

I don’t have thoughts often…so I decided to go with it.

You see, mom has been teaching me to lay down sometimes.

I like it.

It is easy.

She doesn’t have me do it while we are riding.

She should.

It would be easier.

So I decided to lay down.

This is a bit embarrassing to admit…I got stuck half-way down.

It happened like this; mom asked me to move my hip, I did and I put my head down too, I had the idea to lay down, I buckled my legs and went down on my knees…and then mom started kicking me.

I guess she didn’t want me to lay down…but I couldn’t get up either (I fell over once trying and with her on me I didn’t want to do that)…so I just knelt there. She got off and got me up.

Newt 1st lay down

I wasn’t sure if she was happy I had the idea…or not.

Later, at the end of the ride she showed me a cue to lay down. I was so excited! She must have liked my earlier idea.

The next few days I tried laying down but I guess I’m only supposed to do it when she asks me to.

Newt, the horse, signature

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 2, 2015 in A Horse's View, Video

 

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Video: Horse that falls down to avoid being ridden.

“Stacy Westfall , Have you seen this video? What would you do to fix this?”-Ashley N.

No, I hadn’t seen this video until you posted it here. It was an interesting watch and I think I will answer your question in two parts.

First, if the horse is laying down to avoid being ridden he has learned that there is a reward for lying down. The simplest answer is to either prevent the behavior that leads up to the horse going down or to make it uncomfortable for the horse to stay down. Tapping persistently until the horse chooses to stand up would be enough to make him think about getting up.

My issue with the video is that it looks like this horse was trained to lay down on purpose. I have seen horses trained ‘accidentally’ to lie down. One example of this was when I was in college and I saw a horse get dizzy while learning to spin like a reiner. All was fine during the spin but when the rider said ‘whoa’ and the horse stopped he started wobbling, lost his balance and chose to lie down. It was slow motion and no one got hurt…in fact the girl got off and laughed. Everyone laughed. The horse got a nice break and eventually stood up. Apparently the break was long enough because the next time the girl asked him to spin he started to…but then chose to lie down. Again she laughed and didn’t make him get up. Within a couple of days he would lay down every time she asked him to spin…then she stopped laughing.

The key difference with that horse and the one in the video is that the one in this video doesn’t lie down smoothly like a horse in a pasture would. Horses choosing to lay down usually look like…well, horses choosing to lay down. This one is unnaturally stiff. He does get smoother on the second time but he also backs into it which is also unusual unless trained.

This one looks like it was trained to bow on two knees and then had its head pulled to the side. Notice how stiff the horse is when it collapse to the ground. When is the last time you saw a horse lay down like that on its own? If this horse had thought of this on his own, the odds are he would be smoother. Even if it is trained he will get smoother with practice.

I have trained several horses to lay down. The first few I taught to bow and then lie down and they all had this stiff look shown in the video. I didn’t like the look and the horses had trouble connecting what I wanted so I changed my methods. Now my horses draw their legs together and choose to lay down very smooth the way they do naturally.

Once down most horses do tend to lay very still, almost stiff, when on their sides. I have never tried sticking a carrot in their mouth to see what they would do…but I think I will be buying a carrot and giving it a try with Newt, lol.

Who knows, maybe I am wrong. Maybe this horse did just start doing this stiff fall on his own. Stranger things have happened. Horses are certainly smart enough to connect the dots if they find an easy way out of work.

 

 
18 Comments

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training, Video

 

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My horse is literally laying down on the job, how should I deter this?

“My horse and I have been doing well in training he’s green and young but listens well and learns quickly. But his new thing is he likes to roll while I’m riding him or lunging with a saddle. He is obviously trying to get me and the saddle off his back. What is the best way to deter him of this behavior? He is literally laying down on the job.”-Starr GJesse Westfall and Lucy

Some young horses do have a desire to roll with the saddle especially if they get a little sweaty. The ‘fix’ is to ask them to do something that won’t allow them to roll such as trot. Keeping him moving and redirecting his focus should clear this up. The other thing that is nice about this approach is that you can think about asking him to trot and rewarding him for trotting which is a positive approach. If you focus on punishment to stop him then the approach feels more negative even if you are essentially doing the same correction.

My husband’s mare, Lucy, was relaxed and comfortable around him. She wasn’t scared of the pad or the saddle at all…but when she would begin to sweat she wanted to roll. She was even a bit upset when she wasn’t allowed to roll which was clear because she would swirl her head in protest when he would keep her moving. Jesse simply stayed persistent during the early ground work and first rides and eventually Lucy gave up trying to roll.

Horses are funny and I enjoy their unique responses. Although you do need to deter this for now, just think how easy it will be to teach him to lie down in the future!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 16, 2014 in Jesse Westfall, Members Question, Training

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review – Questions about teaching a horse to lie down

Hi Stacy Westfall, regarding Episode 36: Is there any ‘age limit’ or health concerns such as arthritis, that would cause you to refrain from teaching a horse to lay down, regardless of how much it may benefit the horse’ s attitude?

I have barrel horses that can sometimes be pretty hot & was wondering what your thoughts were on getting them to lay down. They seem to be very nervous when I try to do it with them but I’m really just starting trying to get their foot up. Love watching you work with Jac.- Lisa Marie B

I consider both the bow and teaching a horse to lie down to be advanced groundwork. This means that your basic groundwork should be very well established including teaching your horse to: lead, turn on haunches, turn on forehand, back up, trot in hand, lunge easily at all gaits, sack out with ‘scary’ objects, stand quietly while whipping with stick n string, etc. Teaching liberty work, working your horse without a halter or lead, should be in the same category as bowing and the lie down.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

By the time you have taught your horse all of the basic groundwork skills listed (and more) you should know your horses temperament very well. This will tell you a lot about how your horse is going to handle the process of learning to lie down on cue. Naturally quiet and submissive horses tend to be the easiest to train. These are the horses that are fine with you walking into the stall while they are napping.

Horses that are more naturally jumpy and nervous tend to be more difficult, which makes sense as they are often making plans on how to leave if things go bad. These horses can be taught to lie down but they require a very solid foundation in the basic groundwork skills. They should be so solid in the basics; whipping around, being sacked out, loping one circle on the lunge line and then standing like they are bored, that they should look like they are NOT hot or nervous. These horses also benefit from learning at least some of the basic liberty skill, off line in a round pen, as shown in Episode 14.

I think that the idea that laying a horse down will change its attitude is largely a myth. I have seen horses that were forced to lie down with ropes and although some of them do get up with a shocked look, I have not noticed it to be a look that I want in my riding horses. I do think that the longer, slow process of teaching the lay down does have a positive effect as you will invest more time getting there.

Someone asked me once how young a horse could safely be taught to bow (without force) and I asked a vet. His opinion was that young horses are more flexible and, as long as it wasn’t forced, would be excellent candidates. If I were working with an older horse I would only do what they were comfortable with. If your older horse has arthritis bad enough to negatively effect his ability to lie down on his own in the stall or pasture then I would personally choose to skip teaching that horse. Many vets recommend that horses with ‘some’ arthritis stay active. I have some arthritis and it is recommended that I also stay active. The best thing to do is to ask the vet who diagnosed the horse for their opinion regarding training the horse to lie down.

 

Some basic liberty skills shown here:

Tips on teaching the bow:

 
 

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