Preparing for your Dengie Weighbridge Clinic

If your horse hasn’t been weighed before, there are some steps you can take to prepare them before we visit. The aim is for this to be a positive experience for you and your horse and so we have collaborated with Rosa Verwijs MSc. FHEA CEBC ABTC-AAB, a certified equine behaviour consultant and senior lecturer from ARU Writtle, to prepare the following guidance.

Understanding your Horse’s Body Language

Whenever you are training your horse you need to watch for changes to their body language as this will tell you when they start to become tense – we want them to stay relaxed! The following are signs that your horse is becoming anxious:

The plan is to simulate a weighbridge using poles and rubber matting as shown in the picture. It is really important the material used can withstand the horse’s weight, is flat and does not move when they stand on it or flap in the wind if an alternative to rubber is used. Once you’re happy the simulated “weighbridge” is in place you can begin your training.

Horse being rewarded

Training Approaches

Desensitisation with Positive Reinforcement

Desensitisation without Food Rewards

For very anxious/over-excitable horses or those not interested/able to have food

Training Plan (with or without food)

Between each step wait for the horse to relax and focus their attention back to you before cueing the next behaviour. If using food rewards make them bigger while the horse is standing on the “weighbridge” to reinforce this goal behaviour. Remember if you don’t have a “weighbridge” you can use something else for them to walk over and stand on, such as rubber matting. This will help when it comes to using the “weighbridge” as they will understand the cues and reinforcers used during the training sessions.

STEPTraining and Desired Behaviour
1Start 5 metres away from the "weighbridge" and walk towards it, stopping just before the "weighbridge". Reward with food. If they want to look at the "weighbridge" allow them plenty of time to investigate and you could scatter some food on it too
2Cue the horse to walk on and put one foot on the "weighbridge", reward
3Ask for a second foot, reward
4Ask them to walk forward another step, reward
5Repeat this until all 4 feet are on the "weighbridge", give a large reward
6Ask the horse to step both front feet off the "weighbridge", reward
7Lead the horse all the way off the "weighbridge", reward. Repeat steps 1-7 until the horse is doing this without any hesitation and stays relaxed throughout.
8Lead the horse onto the "weighbridge" and when stopping with all four feet on board in a relaxed manner, ask them to stand for 2 seconds, reward
9Lead the horse onto the "weighbridge" and when stopping with all four feet on board in a relaxed manner, ask them to stand for 5 seconds, reward
10Increase the duration of standing still gradually up to 15 seconds to allow time for the "weighbridge" to ascertain their weight. If necessary keep feeding throughout.

Top Tips for Successful Training

Horse being rewarded with food

Try to stay relaxed yourself and don’t become frustrated. Use the lightest pressure on the leadrope. If the horse becomes too anxious and you notice any of the above signs or body language stop training and take them away from the training area. Allow them some time to relax and try again with some training in a different area before you reapproach the “weighbridge” location.

Train for short periods at a time (6-8 minutes) then give the horse a break, ideally with some forage, water and company of another horse. Multiple short training sessions are more productive than one long one.

Don’t be disappointed if they commit to a step and then get worried, just lead them away quietly, reward them for stopping at a distance and start again when they are relaxed.

If you have serious issues with the “weighbridge” that means you are unable to attempt or complete the above training, consider asking an approved behaviourist for help. Recommended behaviourists that are qualified and have insurance can be seen on the Animal Behaviour and Training Council’s website here: