Horse Training Voice Commands -
How and When to Use Them

Horse training voice commands are simple words to help convey the riders’ message to the horse. “Easy, Easy” is a common phrase from those that ride higher spirited horses who are getting too excited for the riders’ comfort level. Whether we teach our equine partner on purpose or not, they can understand that a certain word means something. Although he does not understand a word the same way a person does, they can be taught to respond to verbal cues.

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Horse training voice commands can be very helpful. If you want teach them, keep these steps and horse training tips in mind:

  1.   Use short words with less than 3 syllables and speak clearly
  2. The tone and pitch of your voice is very important. Horses don’t respond to yelling or anger
  3. When teaching the horse a verbal cue, use your other aids to reinforce the verbal cue. Use the verbal cue first, then back it up with your other aids until you get the desired response. Eventually you will only need the verbal cue.
  4. Be VERY consistent in the way you use the words you have chosen. Assign a desired response to each word and be consistent in when, how and what context you use the word. 
  5. Whoa is probably the most important of the horse training voice commands for any horse to know.

Voice Commands are Just Another Technique for Training

Teaching horses to respond to voice commands is no different from teaching a horse other training techniques. It requires consistency and the ability to back up the cue with other aids to get the desired response.

Simply saying a voice command repeatedly won’t work.

When learning how to train a horse with voice commands you will have to be completely accurate with what you are asking him to do and use proper timing.

What Not to Do When Teaching Voice Commands

For example, one of the most misused horse training voice commands is “whoa.” “Whoa,” whether you are riding or driving a horse should always mean come to a complete STOP. What ends up happening is that the rider will use “whoa” not only to stop, but also as a command to slow down.

For instance if cantering, a rider may say “whoa” and really only be trying to get the horse to walk. This is why you must use the voice command consistently and correctly. In this case, if you were cantering and wanted the horse to walk, you should say “walk” not “whoa.” You would only say “whoa” if you want him to come to a complete stop.

Unintentional Voice Commands

Let me give you an example of an unintentional voice command I taught my horse. I had not been using regular horse training voice commands such as walk, trot, canter, and back because while following natural horsemanship training principles I wanted my horse to first respond to my body language, energy, and focus.

My horse is very food motivated and enjoys treats. I would often reward her for a good effort in training by saying “good girl” and giving her a cookie. Now every time I say “good girl,” she expects a cookie! I had reinforced “good girl” with a cookie so many times that she just thinks it means here comes a cookie!

The Tone and Pitch of Your Voice are Important

It is important to note that horses are very sensitive to your tone and pitch of voice. For instance, in the above example of “good girl” I of course used a very sweet, praising tone of voice. If I had been too abrupt or aggressive in saying “good girl” it could have also started to habitually scare my horse into thinking she had done something wrong. A clear, confident tone of voice is fine. An angry tone of voice does nothing more than to scare a horse. They don’t understand or respond well to harshness, yelling and anger.

When Using Horse Training Voice Commands Simplicity and Consistency Are The Keys To Success

Remember, an animal doesn’t understand the meaning of the words, just the tone, pitch, and whatever meaning you have assigned to it during training. Being clear when speaking the voice command will also help when teaching verbal cues. Say the word consistently every time and don’t add other words.

“Whoa” should just be “Whoa,” not “whoa, Trigger” because you are being inconsistent in teaching the word to the horse by adding another word. Most likely in this situation you will also be inconsistent by using two phrases for the one command, which is “Whoa.” By adding the horses name to a training phrase it clouds the meaning of the horse riding voice command. Hopefully you just want to use his name for praise or for calling him to you from the pasture!

Make Sure You Have a Solid Foundation Before Adding Voice Commands

Many riders really struggle to be consistent enough to teach their horse voice commands well. I like to start by getting the horse to communicate with me through body language using natural horse training methods. Good basic horse training should be done first.

If after you have your partner successfully responding to your body and cues both in ground training and while riding, then you can add voice commands. Of course if your horse came to you already trained with voice commands, you would need to learn what words he knows and how they are used. If you would like more info visit horse riding for beginners.

Start By Teaching Commands On the Ground First

If you are going to be using horse training voice commands, remember to start by teaching them to your horse on the ground first, like when longeing a horse (not my favorite technique) or when doing other quality ground training, then add them slowly into your riding. It will be easier for both you and your horse if you teach one command at a time. That way you can keep track of how you and the horse are doing and you won’t get overwhelmed trying to do it all at once!

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