A Good Grounding

Part 14: Stick and String

Please read and heed Rules of Engagement before trying this exercise.

Remember to use passive body language in this exercise: stand relaxed with your hip cocked, use an indirect gaze and do not face your horse squarely.

Stick and String #1: Standing a few feet off his shoulder, softly flick the string at the end of your training stick over your horse's back. Work his top line, rump, and legs just as you did in the preceding Lead Rope exercise. Be sure to take the stick away when he stands still and relaxes, then reach out and rub him affectionately with the end of the stick.

Stick and String #2: Stand a few feet off to the side of your horse, just in front of his shoulder and facing his rump. Swing the stick and string so that the string smacks the ground hard about five feet from your horse's side. Keep swinging and smacking in a steady rhythm. If he is worried by this he'll try to move away. Stay calm and move with him, keeping his head tipped toward you, and continue to smack the ground with rhythm. When he stops moving his feet and shows signs of relaxing take all the pressure off (stop swinging the stick) and rub him affectionately with its end. Repeat. As your horse gets used to this you can move the string closer to his side until you are beating the ground right next to him. Always repeat all this on the horse's other side, too. Note: It is vital that you keep up the movement of the stick and string until your horse stands still and relaxes. This may take some time at first. If you give up before he does, you will teach him that the way to make this stick and string go away is to run away from it. This is the absolute WRONG thing to teach him, so be prepared to stick it out. Be patient even if it takes five or ten minutes the first time.

Stick and String #3: Stand 5 or 6 feet in front of your horse and swing the stick and string in a figure eight motion between you and your horse, smacking the ground on each side of the swing. As always, move with him if he backs away, and remove all pressure when he stands still and relaxes. Rub him between the eyes with the end of the stick and praise him. As your horse learns to stand calmly and ignore the stick and string, slowly move in closer (just don't get so close that you hit him with the string!). Be aware that standing in front of a horse, swinging a stick and string, can sometimes cause him to rear. Be careful to begin this exercise standing a safe distance in front if him, and don't move in closer until he is taking it very calmly.

Stick and String #4: Standing five to six feet in front of your horse, raise the stick over your head and swing it in a horizontal circle over both your heads, like the blades of a helicopter. Continue swinging until your horse relaxes, then rub him on his face with the end of the stick and praise him.