Teaching my horse to bow has been a learning process. I have been able to get him to go down onto one knee using treats but it was never consistent and I had no way to cue him to stay there. However, I have had no experience using ropes when teaching a horse to bow so I knew that I needed some training. Working with Cohn Livingston was extremely helpful and he showed me the steps to teach the bow using ropes. The horse has to have respect for the handler and be desensitized to the ropes first. Cohn started with a long, thick cotton rope at least 20 feet long. We wrapped his front left knee/leg with two polo wraps to protect him. Then he put two loose knots around the left front foot. The rope goes up over the withers (almost up in front of the withers, high up on the neck) and comes back under the belly. Having the rope up over the withers is where the pressure will push and create a “cue” for the bow. The end goal is to be next to the horse on the ground or on top of the horse, put pressure on the withers with your hand and have the horse bow.
Douwe took a long time to submit to the ropes and Cohn also had to loop the rope around his left hind foot to make him lose his balance a little bit. He also had to handle the lead line on his halter to keep him from turning in a circle. It took a lot of coordination and strength. The handler has to put enough pressure on the rope for the horse to yield to the pressure and lean down. Sometimes the horse will fight the rope by hopping around on three legs or he may rear. This is okay as long as the handler has good timing with the pressure and then the release. When the horse reacts in the right way by putting the head down and starting to bow you must release the rope pressure quickly and reward. However, you cannot stop the process until the horse actually goes into a full bow and holds it. The horse must give you the complete movement or it will be more difficult the next time you try it. The same goes for the pedestal. Make sure to set aside enough time so that you can finish the training session correctly. Douwe struggled a lot mentally because it is such a submissive movement. Cohn put enough pressure on him to actually lay him down. This can be really helpful for a horse like Douwe that is very strong and stubborn. Sometimes the horse will just lay down on their own once they are in the bowing position. In the first few sessions this is okay but eventually you will not want to lay down too much because it will be harder to get the bow because the horse will go all the way down.