How to Teach a Horse to Whinny

by Donna DeYoung

I received this question in an email:

Hi Donna. I was wondering if you could answer a question for me and maybe you don't know the answer. I was wondering how you get a horse to whinny on command. Please let me know if you would know how to go about training this. Thanks.

Here is my response:

wow, that's a good question.

let's start with dogs. getting a dog to bark is a pretty difficult trick unless the dog already barks alot and tends to whine or bark for attention. Dogs are fairly vocal animals, think of wolves, and sometimes if you bark you can get the dog to bark too. I've never been successful teaching this trick to a dog and also I don't like dogs that bark un-necessarily.

as for horses, my horses whinny to me every time I come to the fence to feed. Well, some of them do. Out of the five, they all have different personalities. some whinny more than others. Vocalizations by horses usually occur under the following situation: They become separated (like mares and babies) and whinny to keep in touch. Why do they whinny when food is coming? Off hand I'm not really sure, except that maybe it is like a pavlovian response to food that is coming. As if you've been away, and are returning like a horse to them. normally a horse doesn't whinny at a person, but the food overrides that. they want the food. they want to be "re-united".

I guess the only possible way would be to restrict your horse's movement, withhold their feed, and when you approach, use some kind of signal (like shaking a bucket and saying "whinny" in a certain way) and see if they whinny. The cues here would be 1) you approaching with food and 2) shaking the bucket and saying "whinny". Eventually cue no. 2 would replace cue no. 1. and finally you'd be able to shake your hand in the air and say "whinny".

I've never heard of anyone teaching this trick. Most of the horse vocalizations you see in the movies and on tv are added on later.

good luck and thanks for the tough question,



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