How to Train a Horse to Recognize Commands

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Commands, can be given with the voice, body language, though the lead rope, lunge line or whip, or be riding aids such as hands, leg, seat and weight.


To teach a horse a new command

  1. Gain the horses trust. The horse must be confident and happy to be with you.
  2. Start with simple physical commands like body language and touching the horse. By putting a light contact on the lead rope and saying with your body language Im going to walk this way the horse will guess what to do.
  3. Gently correct any wrong action. You should stop the horse and try again.
  4. Give lots of praise when the horse does the right thing. This is how the horse learns that the action was correct.
  5. Repeat the exercise. Just because the horse does an action once doesnt mean hes learnt it. He guessed the correct action and then got praise, but doesnt know if the praise was for walking forward or for looking at you.

To change one command in to another.

  1. Give the new command clearly. Say walk on.
  2. Give the old command. Put gently pressure on the lead rope and walk forward.
  3. Watch the horse carefully. When he learns that walk on means you about to ask him to step forward, he will step forward sooner. Give him lots of praise when he does this. Eventually he will step forward when you just say walk on.
  4. Transfer this early training to the saddle. Give the new command (leg) and then the old command (walk on).
  5. If you have an Icelandic horse then use your voice and ONLY use leg or whip if you asbsolutely have to.


  • Give the horse a warning that you are about to give him a command. It the saddle this can be gathering the reins, on the ground it can be Aaaaand or other vocal sound. This will get your horse concentrating and he will respond faster.
  • This article has used commands for walking forward but this technique can be used for other commands.
  • It is best to teach a horse simple commands when he is still a foal. Training can start as soon as the foal and dam have confidence in you.
  • Keep training sessions short, 5-30 minutes, especially for a foal or youngster.
  • Always end on a positive note, so that is what the horse remembers.
  • If the horse is failing to understand go back to something connected and easier that the horse can do. This will boost the horses confidence.
  • Do not get frustrated. Keep your cool, that is especially important around horses.


  • Do not separate dam and foal to give a foal training. Train the foal at his mothers side.
  • Do not use a head collar on a very young foal as their poll area is delicate for the first few days. Use a body wrap (a cloth that goes around the foals chest and rump in a figure of 8)
  • Do not be harsh when correcting an unwanted action. The horse is confused and not misbehaving.

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