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3 Easy Ways To Master The Art Of Bowing

I recently had a client that, due to medical reasons, could not mount her horse without a mounting block.  Her fear was that if she needed to get down off her horse somewhere that did not have a object to use as a block, she would have to walk home or until she found something on trail to use.  She asked about teaching her horse to bow for her to mount.  Now I know many people that want to teach their horse to bow as a way of exiting a performance, but this was the first time someone had asked me about actually getting up that way.  I told her we could give it a try and I did not see why it could not be done.  So off we went.

Now there are two ways a horse can bow, with both legs forward or one bent with the knee on the ground.  I could see a lot of stress on the horse trying to get up with added weight from the bow with both legs forward so I set about teaching her horse to bow with a bend knee.
This is the same procedure I will use on teaching any horse to bow, mounted or not.  The main difference comes with where the cue is located.  Obviously, if you are going to bow the horse from the saddle, you need a cue spot you can reach, but that is not where it starts.

 I do not use treats and do not force the horse down.  I use a full check snaffle with continuous round rope reins.  I also use a soft lay rope (I like to use the leads made for rope halters with no clasps or hardware) to help hold up the leg on the side I am standing. Due to the repeated contact with the ground, find a place where the ground is soft and protect the legs as much as possible with wraps or boots.  Please keep in mind it is not something you teach all horses in one day.
I will only teach this to a horse that understands how to pick up its feet and that also knows how to release to pressure on the bit. I begin by placing leg protection on the horse and placing the rope on the pastern of the leg next to me.  I then ask the horse to give his foot.  The cue I teach at this point is a tapping on the pastern with a crop while asking the horse to step back.  When the horse lifts the foot, I stop tapping and keep the foot up with the rope.   I continue until the horse lifts the foot on his own to the tap of the crop. 

I then hold the foot up with the rope and ask the horse to lean back.  As soon as he leans back even a little, I release, praise and let him put his foot down.
I repeat the cues and ask the horse to rock back farther and farther until the knee touches the ground.  Always stop the cue when the horse rocks back and allow the horse to come right back up.

When they are comfortable with that I start asking them to keep the knee on the ground a little longer before asking them to get up.

It is here you start teaching the cue to get up so the horse will stay down until you give the cue to get up.  A verbal ok or walking forward, whatever you'd like.

When the horse is consistent with touching the knee to the ground and leaving it until you ask the horse to get up, you will start teaching the horse a series of cues to bow.  The horse understands to lift his foot to the tap, so we are going to expand that to the horse keeping his foot up on his own and bowing.  You ask the horse to pick up his foot with the tap.

When he tries to put it down, you will tap again. Continue this part until the horse
understands to leave his foot up.  You will then ask him to lift the foot and then ask him to lean back.  Repeat the request for him to keep the foot up while leaning back if he puts it down.  Continue until the horse will keep his foot up while leaning back.  Release the horse on improvements and continue to make him wait to get up from the bow until you ask him.  If he gets up before, simply put him back on the bow.
When the horse is solid with keeping his foot up and bowing to the tap on the foot, move the cue to where you want it.  For the saddle and ground a tap on the shoulder is a good place.  So, you will tap the shoulder then the foot (together) and release the tap as soon as the horse starts to bow.  If he gets up at anytime repeat the tap on the shoulder and then the foot so he goes all the way down.  Continue until the horse will bow off the tap of the shoulder.  Back up the shoulder cue with the tap on the foot at any time until the horse is solid.

When the horse is solid on the cue on his shoulder you can start to add mounting.  Start by moving toward the
saddle and keeping the horse in the bow, move away and cue him to get up.  Then place a foot in the stirrup, take it out, move away and cue to get up.  Put weight in the stirrup, get down, move away and cue to get up.  Finally, mount, dismount, move away and cue to get up.  And finally, mount and cue to get up.

Remember, take your time, don't be afraid to break the lesson into days, praise every improvement, release cues as soon as the horse complies, and most of all have fun.
Copyright 2005-2010 Jodi Wilson                                                                                         jodi@jodi-wilson.com