Many reenactors actually train their horses by repetition to move out when mounted when they should be training them to stand still.  How many times have you seen someone mount and although they never gave their horse the signal to move out, the horse moved anyway.   They were not even ready or in position to move!  What is this soldier teaching his horse when he does this?   He is teaching his horse that standing in one place is not important.

A horse must know what "Whoa" means.  It's the most important vocal command you can teach him and it will get you and he out of a lot of hot water if he knows it well.  "Whoa" means STAND STILL!  It does not mean slow down or relax.  If you use "Whoa" to mean "Easy" then you need to retrain yourself and your horse, and others that might ride your horse.

I use a simple method to teach whoa and use it consistently every time I work with the horse.  Whoa means stand still, meaning those legs better be planted.  The horse's head can go anywhere it wants, only the feet need to be still.  So DON'T hold your horses head in one spot and think that means whoa, it doesn't and your horse will get frustrated with you if you insist on it.  Horses need to see their surroundings to feel more comfortable so work with this thought in mind.

Take your horse out and tell him to whoa, he will probably move a foot, so say whoa again and move the foot back to where it was when you first told him.  Insist on the same spot, no matter how much he moves, always bring him back to that same spot where he first heard "whoa". It will be harder to teach a horse to stand still if you have let things slide in the past with the same horse but he will soon learn.

I use a stud chain to create a means of reprimanding the horse if he needs it rather than getting frustrated.   A stud chain is usually miss-used by most people, but it works well if you make sure the chain releases after every reprimand.  It's hard to teach it's use because most people want to "hold their horses in one place" rather than trusting them to stay in one place and simply fixing the problem if the horse moves.  Use of a stud chain simply requires a flick of the wrist that flips the lead rope attached to the chain and causes the nose to be knocked slightly by the weight of the rope.  Remember to say "Whoa" BEFORE you use the flick of the wrist, don't use it instead of  the vocal command.  Emphasize "Whoa" not the chain.

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A stud chain can be a very useful item if you know how to use it.  It can hurt your horse if you don't.  Your horse has to understand that he has the freedom to stand still and that you trust him to do that.  If you find yourself without slack in the lead rope you are using the stud chain wrong and pressure is being applied to the horses nose.

A stud chain used correctly will have your horse paying attention to you and his relationship to you.  Its correct use will also load any horse in a trailer after a few lessons in walking forward when requested, but that's a different lesson.....

One thing you should NOT do is tie a horse up while a stud chain is attached to the lead rope.

You will find that he may want to follow you if you are moving to his rear while brushing or cleaning feet.  If this happens, keep your hand on his side and use the word whoa again a few times.  The trick to teaching your horse anything is to be consistent.  If your mind wanders away you can be sure his will too so keep the reason for the lesson uppermost in your thoughts.  Once you have your horse standing still, you can put him in situations where you can set him up to move and see if the lesson has produced results, if not, reinforce your whoa again.

Getting into the saddle is the next step.  Never mount your horse without controls in place, make sure you have your reins in hand and the correct length.  When mounting DO NOT use the saddle to hoist yourself up, use the mane and the leverage of your left and right forearm, balancing above your horse before settling gently in the saddle.   You can't expect any horse to stand still if you abuse him with a bad mounting procedure!  If your horse takes a step forward, say the word "Whoa" and rein him back to his original position.  Don't get rough on him, just insist on his standing still until you signal by your aids that YOU want to move forward.  It's good to stand around a lot while you teach him this.  Once mounted, stand for one minute then two minutes (it will seem like an eternity to those who rush doing things).  Lengthen and shorten the time you stand around after mounting as he gets better trained until you are sure he will stand still for as long as you need. Don't get in the habit of charging off even if you are late.

This training will make your horse safe on the battlefield.  If you come off or take a hit he will stand with you if you say whoa.  If he gets tangled up he will stand still while you rescue him from the predicament.  Remember to only use "Whoa" for stopping and standing - not for slowing down.  If your horse knows the whoa command he will stop at speed without using any other aids!

Good luck!

Article written by Linneus Ahearn