The Importance of Whoa/Ho

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    Chuck Mintzlaff

    One of the first things an FT horse learns is ‘Whoa/Ho’ requesting them to stop. This plays an extremely important role later on in succeeding FTXs when they are asked to ‘please move a little.’

    ‘Moving feet’ and/or making the horse walk or run comes from the natural horsemanship methodology as a way of ‘being the horse’s leader’ and assert a higher herd rank to control the horse’s actions and movements.

    While there are times as a matter of convenience, (or some possible danger for the horse) Friendship Training wants to stay as far away from those archaic notions as possible.

    Granted, in some situations, we do need to ‘have the final say.’ And as such, we are placing ourselves in a higher herd rank position doing so. But the key factor and differential is the amount of distance and movement that we are requesting. And equally important HOW we ask.

    This is where ‘Whoa/Ho’ becomes extremely important. For all we want is the horse to please move a TINY bit. But initially, they won’t know this and may possibly think we are simply ‘asserting a higher herd rank.’

    Nothing could be further from the truth!!

    All we want is for them to move just a tiny bit to allow us to walk past, (or move over as the case may be). To help explain the difference to them, we ask for them to stop, (using Whoa/Ho) as soon as they make the slightest movement in response to our request to ‘please move a little.’ And then immediately shower them with vocal praises, (Good Boy/Girl) give them rubs/scratches, and a small treat. And naturally, that all important ‘Thank you’ when they do move a little as the Law of Appreciation is directly applicable.

    Especially in mixed domestic herds where resources may be limited, (or perceived as limited) the higher ranked horse may exhibit signs of aggression that tells the lower ranked horse to move out of the area of the higher ranked horse.

    By limiting the amount of distance we are ASKING our horse to move helps convey to them that it is a simple request based on a need to pass by without aggression, hostility, or any need to force a higher herd rank on them.

    It is extremely important, (especially in the beginning) that our energy level is kept very low, and that we wear a ‘look of hope and expectation’ with our eyes and body posture/language.

    Eventually, we will stop using the treat but continue using the rubs/scratches and vocal praise, (Good Boy/Girl) and ‘thank you’ as both the Law of Appreciation and Reciprocal Communication are the mainstays of any intimate relationship.

    FT Editor

    Thanks Chuck, that is great advice and it is nice to have it explained again.

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