My horse, Newt, learning to balance on a box.

This is a video of Newt, my horse, trying to find his balance standing on a wooden box. Newt had previously been trained to cross over a wooden bridge, so when he first saw this box…he walked straight over it. For each of the seven days prior to this I spent a few minutes a day asking Newt to step onto the box. His first response was to want to walk directly over it. To change this, I asked him to step one front foot up and then immediately asked him back off the box. This resulted in Newt slowing down instead of trying to walk straight over it.

Next I asked for two front feet up and then asked him to back off the box. During this phase Newt figured out how far forward he could step until he found the front edge of the box. He even tried to step directly over it in a very wide straddle! If he tried to step to far I would ask him to back up. He did step off the front and even lost his balance and slipped off the front without harm.

Now that he knows where the front edge of the box is, and understands that I don’t want him stepping off the front, he is now stepping forward with his hind feet. What I love about this video is that you can see how s-l-o-w Newt thinks. Many people would have asked him to do something during the long period while he was standing there. I like taking my time. It is funny to watch him mentally process this nice and slow.

It surprised me that Newt lost his balance so many times when he picked his last hind foot up off the ground. He seemed to think that he should counter balance by sticking that last leg out instead of adjusting his head. Another interesting observation to make about how Newt thinks. I love watching horses learn.

I have a bunch of this footage but I couldn’t decide how to best use it. I have one version that is 25 minutes long but that seemed too long. How much of Newt’s box footage would you like to see? How many more times do you think Newt had to practice before he found his balance?


  1. […] If you would like to see some of day seven: click here.  […]

  2. Pam Millspaw on January 10, 2015 at 5:32 am

    I also would love to see the rest of the footage. I assume you were talking to him the whole time. Were you? I like that the lead is relaxed and looped and he keeps trying. I think he must have at least 6 more tries.

  3. Sarah Mačka on January 10, 2015 at 3:07 am

    Love this Stacy!! Please share the whole video 😀

  4. Sharon Hill on January 10, 2015 at 2:58 am

    I love how you wait for Newt to figure it out and give him time. Too many people are impatient and have ‘make’ them do it. Or don’t give them a chance to respond, myself included. I would have probably tried to help him.

  5. Sylvia Grummitt on January 9, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    I would’ve also love to see from start to finish or at least until he got all 4 legs with confidence. It is interesting to watch him think and his response because he is not doing anything under pressure but at his own tempo. I love this.

  6. Roseann Tode on January 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I think we all want to see all the footage…… Newt is amazing…… I will take a slow thinker over a rusher…………… I bet it took him another 4 or 5 days……… and BTW I like the photography angle and going to B/W it gives you the sense he’s trying so hard. I do the American Horsemens Challenge with is obstacle orientated and I ride onto a box and stand for 5 or so seconds… Drover my horse has figured out his head needs to be low to balance and I realize I need to watch my balance in the saddle as well or I can throw him off balance, I find getting on the block I lean slightly forward till his front feet are solid where he wants them and as he starts to bring his back feet up I give him his head totally and start to slowly lean back in balance with him raising his rear legs to get them on…. he is then pretty quick with bringing up the the other rear leg so I’m not sure if I change my balance or not……….but as soon as we are up I have to mentally do relaxing breaths for us to stay there calmly. It is really a fun exercise.

  7. sheffieldzoo on January 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I want to see it all! I’m thinking it took him 11 times.

  8. Liseanne Roy on January 9, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Would really like to see the whole session. I like seeing all the mistakes and fumbles they can go through rather then only the final result. Then I know I’m on the right track when I go to try…

  9. Christine Carr on January 9, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Id love to see all of your footage. Dixie has done very much the same thing as Newt but she is more of a fast learner and gets bored quickly so so after she does her front feet on the box and I back her off, I might do a different exercise away from the box and then come back to it and see if she still remembers. At one point she put her front feet on the box, stepped forward a little bit and then put one back foot on the box and kept the other one on the ground. she looked really silly! but I let her try to figure it out. Eventually she did. She still is slipping off every once in awhile but I think she’ll get on and stay on in a relatively short period of time.

  10. Jan on January 8, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    My estimate is one more time before he got. Patience pays off.

  11. Sara McNeil on January 8, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    What is the length of the sides, Stacy? It looks like about 2 feet. Is that right? I want to make one now.

  12. Darlene on January 8, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Would love to see all the video…his thought methods are interesting…..a thoughtful fellow….

  13. MaRyka and SVEN on January 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Any specific tips for someone wanting to train something like this? My colt, SVEN will walk over the scariest bridge no problem and even lay down when I ask.

  14. Wanda LaMotte-Peterson on January 8, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Yes, love seeing Newt think! Let’s see start to finish.

  15. Karen Bockus on January 8, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    You should post both the long and short version. It’s perfect for training purposes, because most of us have no cue how long it actually takes for a horse to understand. Thx for your wonderful website!

  16. Shelley on January 8, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I would like to see all of the footage please, and I think he got it in 2 more times. This is so interesting and fun to watch. Thanks Stacy

  17. mrsrh8 on January 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I think he found his balance soon after the last clip. Would you share how the box was made, materials and sizes to support a horse weight & not tip over? I have a bridge and have practiced similar going side to side instead of length but it is still too wide for this exercise. Thanks in advance (maybe not from the 6 Quarter Horses and the 2 minis).

    • Stacy on January 8, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      This one was very sturdy and not complicated. It was the parts you can see, I believe these are 2 x 10 boards forming a square with a thick piece of plywood on top. ALSO, if you flip the box over there is an ‘X’ for support also made with 2 x 10’s. Did I explain that well? I can call and get more measurements.

    • Stacy on January 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      Poor Newt was slower than that…

  18. Lesia Lowe on January 8, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    well I just spit water on my laptop screen laughing at Newt and “his thoughts”….lol…. YES all of the footage would be cool to see!….. and did you start with a bigger box and work down??

    • Stacy on January 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      I had done a bridge before and had backed off, etc but this ‘yoga’ position was what got poor Newt, lol. He is a bulldozer…not a ballerina!

      • Lesia Lowe on January 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        Stacy..I like that you as the owner of Newt and you know him so well that you know he is a slow thinker…. sad shame some owners mistake “slow thinking” to being lazy .. and put so much pressure on their horses 🙁

  19. johanna on January 8, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    love this–so interesting-
    i’d like to see the whole process, start to finish.

  20. Nikki Hale on January 8, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Out of curiosity… Would it be worthwhile to try a larger box and work down in size? I trained my yearling on a “bridge” last summer, but instead of just teaching him to walk over, we learned to go forward over, backward over, and stop and stand in several different spots. I think I would like to take about half the size now and work at it. Then half that and so on. Would this technique of gradually making the size smaller be helpful to them?

    • Stacy on January 8, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      I don’t see anything wrong with doing that. I also think that different horses have different talent levels in things. Poor Newt has always been more like a bulldozer than a ballerina, lol. Newt had done all of the things you listed on a standard bridge but he was stumped by this. He did get it eventually but he was funny to watch.

      • Nikki Hale on January 9, 2015 at 4:14 pm

        Thanks for the reply Stacy. I think it is fascinating to watch the learning process also. I love to watch my colt think…. He is quite the thinker.

        Oh and I have been meaning to tell you…. The mare I have written to you about, that you wrote a blog on, I finally got on her back and have had fairly good success with progressing her under saddle. We have had some terrible weather here, so all the horses are getting a break now, but I am so excited to see her move forward this year! (between us, I wondered if I was ever going to get on her back. I was a bit afraid of her, but we are still working hard on our relationship. I don’t know that she will ever truly like and trust human companionship like my boys do, but I hope to make her a reliable mount and teach her that people aren’t all bad.)

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