Quickest Way to Teach Your Horse a Trick

Would you like to teach your horse a trick quickly or slowly?  I think you would probably say ‘quickly’.  Who wouldn’t?  But I’ve found that teaching horses tricks slowly actually speeds things up.

Huh???

Let me explain…..

If you want to teach your horse to bow it’s easy – just grab a carrot, put a halter on your horse and without letting your horse step backward, tease them between their front legs with the carrot until they lower their head.

There are loads of websites that show you how to do this.

But….

Your horse hasn’t really learnt anything (except how to bend into a funny position to try and get a carrot).  If you want them to do something more complicated or a movement that can’t be taught by following a carrot then you won’t stand a chance with this method.

If you really want to do amazing things you need to slow down and get your horse really thinking about what they are doing.   You need to break your tricks into lots of small parts and teach your horse each part separately.  Then you will have a series of movements ( I call these Trick Foundations) that you can use to form lots of tricks and you won’t need to lure your horse with a carrot.

For example if I want to teach Bella to do a ‘Simple Bow’ then I just teach her to lower her head and move her leg forward.  And if I teach her to move her leg forward then I have also taught her part of ‘Counting’ and ‘Spanish Walk’.

Your horse will learn each trick quicker because they already know part of it and they understand the process of learning tricks.  Most importantly you and your horse will have developed a form of communication that makes working together a lot easier.

So even though it may take longer in the beginning to teach your horse these ‘Trick Foundations’ you will find that later on it will really speed up your trick training.

 

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Comments

  1. Gabby C. says

    Hi!I think this is really cool, I love your horse! :) but I have a question..I have been trying to teach my horse how to bow, he’s doing pretty well. I pick up his leg and he instantly lowers his head for me and i want him to bow by putting a treat or carrot between his legs and move it farther in steps til he bows. Except he won’t go any farther..ive broke it up into steps and gradually go farther, but he won’t go anymore..it seems like he physically can’t go down farther..i don’t press him into doing something he doesn’t want..and he trusts me(we’ve done tons of groundwork) but it seems like he physically can’t do down..i want to teach him other tricks, but i cant seem to get him past this one..what should i do?anything else i should try that works better?do some horses physically cant go down into a bow position?do you know any other tricks that might help him?Thank you !! :)

    • admin says

      Hi Gabby,

      Sounds like you are doing all the right things :) 1. Getting your horse’s trust – a lot of horses won’t bow if they are worried or nervous about it. 2. Breaking the trick up into lots of steps – horses learn a lot faster and don’t get confused if you teach tricks in small steps.

      My main suggestions would be to make sure that you only ask for a bow on very soft ground (sawdust or straw in a stable is good or sand in a yard). If you can’t find a soft spot make sure your horse has knee pads on and his cannon bone is bandaged. I use human gardening knee pads (that I bought from a hardware store) for Trigger and a polo bandage for his cannon bone. He looks quite a sight!!! :) Sometimes when horse’s first learn to bow they can get a bit unbalanced and drop onto their knee. If they hurt themselves they will be really reluctant to do it again.

      My next suggestion would be to get your horse used to you being around when he is laying down (if you get the opportunity). Whenever I see my horse’s laying down in their paddock (they usually lay in the same spot about the same time each day) I head out there quietly and each day get closer and closer to them until eventually I can walk around them and pat them while they are down.

      I would also try to teach this trick without using food to lure your horse. I teach my horses to understand a word or sound that means they have done the right thing (a Marker). If you use food to lure your horse into position they can get fixated on the treat and not think about what they are doing.

      Finally if your horse really doesn’t want to do the full bow then I would say okay and practice other tricks. Trigger is getting old and I usually only ask him to do a Simple Bow. This is where he puts his leg forward and drops his head to the ground. It looks really nice and doesn’t put any strain on his legs or back.

      I hope this helps. It would be good to hear about your progress.

      Happy tricks!

      Jain & Trigger.

  2. Bea says

    Hello! I love the tricks that you are teaching your horses! I would like to do the same, but my horse is a stallion and i’m kind of scared of teaching him tricks since he gets pretty hyper and he bites a lot. Is there a simple way to teach my horse tricks without hurting myself?

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Bea,
      Good to hear you like trick training :) I would use the same steps to teach your horse to be well mannered around treats and not to bite. If you teach him this first off then you will find that you will be able to teach him just about anything. Start by teaching him to stand calmly and look away. Use the same steps as I set out in the free ebook for ‘touch’ but wait till he looks away (even a little bit) before you give him the Marker and a treat. He will soon learn that his mouth needs to be away from you before you will give him any food. Make sure that you don’t feed him treats from your hand at any other time. He must always DO something first, get the Marker from you (I click my tongue) and THEN he gets a treat. You might need to practice this over a fence or stable door so you can step back if he tries to get pushy. Hope that helps a bit. Good luck with the training. Jain.

  3. Luna says

    Hi,
    I would like to know the trick when my horse come to me. She knows many tricks for example to say yes and sometimes to give me a kiss. Can you tell me how I must to do that she does the kisstrick always?
    Thank you! ;)

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Luna,

      To teach your horse any trick you need to teach them to understand a cue. For example, Trigger understands that if I lean forward toward his mouth and make a kissing sound that I want a kiss and he always gives me one :-) The cue must be exactly the same each time and the horse must totally understands what it means (it mustn’t look like any other cues).

      To teach a horse to come to you, I would just break the trick into lots of very small parts (as I do with all tricks). Here’s a video of Bella coming when called.

      http://youtu.be/kkQI8A2AO2U

      When she first arrived here she was hard to catch and would walk away from me. I just started small. Asking her to come to me from a step away. The cue is that I hold my hands up (so my horses can see me if they are a long way away). I then give her the Marker (as explained in the training ebook) and then a reward. She learns very quickly that if she sees my hands up that she if she comes to me she gets a reward. I then just start asking her to come to me from further and further away. Hope that helps.

      Happy tricks!
      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  4. Lucy says

    Hiya! I really love your page and I’m working on signing up yay! I have a welsh section A called Spellbound and I’ve been with him since last summer (early on in may), back then he nipped and would stop suddenly and seriously hated being groomed. Un-luckily and luckily he acquired a back injury during my test ride on him as he had just arrived at my stables and he had previously been brought up in an academy (being the prissy pony he is). Long story short during that time I gained his trust and I can now pick out his hooves, wiggle his legs and sit on him and actually read a magazine while he eats. But my issue is I’m very keen to start trick training during the summer but my yard is very strict on tricks as he is in a working livery so others ride him durning the week as I work at school 8-6 and have Saturday school too so I ride him on Sundays and Saturday afternoons. If I started training with him I know he picks up quickly as he picked up dressage moves extremely quickly I would be worried that he would try and do these in a lesson when other people were riding him. They may be simple tricks but he’s not stupid and knows when he wants food, I don’t want some poor kid flying or the instructor getting confused as he keeps lowering his head and sticking his foot out! How could I teach him so he only responds to me to make it safer? Thank you and sorry for the paragraph :D <3 – Lucy

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Lucy, That’s wonderful that you’ve been able gain the trust of your Welshy and do so many things with him now. ‘Trust’ is the key :)

      However, I think it would be very difficult to teach him to just do tricks only when YOU ask. I find that once a horse learns to do tricks they are super keen to do them and someone may give him a cue, not meaning to, and he will do a trick you had taught him. Unfortunately then he may get a bad name at your yard.

      My only suggestion would be to think of tricks that would never be asked for by other people at your yard. Maybe something like ‘Fetch’. Teach him that when you throw a ball he should go after it and bring it back to you or drop it in a bucket. Don’t show him that ball at any time when others are working with him.

      You will also have to be careful with food. I really like to use treats as rewards when my horses do what I ask. However if you would like to train him using food, you need to make sure that no one else gives him food from their hand. Otherwise he may get confused or become nippy.

      Keep up the good work with him! :)

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  5. Ellie says

    Hi! I would really like to trick train my horse Kiya, but I only get to see him about every six weeks for a week or two since he lives at my grandmother’s farm. I will be spending lots of time up there this summer, but I would love to start some training now. what should I do?

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Ellie,

      You can teach your horse some simple tricks if you have a few days together. I would recommend teaching Kiya to touch an object first. This helps to build an understanding between you and it will make it easier to teach him other tricks. Rather than try and teach him in one big lesson, visit him several times a day and do very short little training sessions (maximum of 5 minutes). I like to teach my horse to touch a target. Here’s a video I made about this: http://youtu.be/A_kyklhfbxs

      Happy tricks!

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  6. Jushan Heer says

    I have a pony called Suprise and whenever I try and get him to do a trick he gets confused. I have tried breaking it up but he still gets confused. I know he knows a couple of tricks from his old owner as he does them sometimes however he won’t do them for me so I must have the wrong cue. I can’t get in contact so what should I do?

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Jushan, You are doing the right thing by breaking the trick up into small parts. Sometimes you have to make each step super small. For example when I am teaching my horses to drop their heads, I may only ask them for an eighth of an inch the first time. I keep doing this until I am sure they understand what I am asking. I would also recommend trying to teach Surprise a new trick. Something very simple. That way you can teach him new tricks your way and teach him to understand your cues. Also make sure you give him lots of encouragement and rewards :) I like to teach my horses to ‘touch’ an object first. This is the beginning of tricks such as kiss, hug and fetch. If you’d like to know more about trick training have a look at my ebook on the products page: http://www.horsetricks101.com/horse-training-products/
      Happy tricks,
      Jain.

  7. Charlotte says

    Hi I love this! I have an old mare named gloria( we don’t know how old she is but we have been saying late 20s for a while now ) anyway I tried the touch trick with her and another horse today. Even though the younger horse picked it up faster Gloria started understanding it too! She’s extremely trusting but can be sort of distracted any tips for getting a horse friend to focus more? Thank you so much for sharing your tips its so great to find something for me and glo to do together that isnt too hard on her back.

    • Horse Tricks 101 says

      Hi Charlotte, Great to hear that your horses are learning the touch trick. And good on you for teaching an older horse :) Some horses, especially the older ones, can be a bit reluctant to try new things. They might have been punished for exploring or doing something different and they have ‘switched off’. You will find that over time she will become more and more interested if you encourage her (even the smallest try). I really like to work with treats – this makes most horses more enthusiastic and focused. You need to find something she really likes. I use small pieces of carrots most of the time but also bake special treats for times when my horses do something really well (or I want extra focus). Here’s a molasses treat that Trigger LOVES! http://www.horsetricks101.com/2014/02/molasses-trick-training-treat/
      Good luck with the training :)
      Jain.

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