Trick Training Tips

Tricks your horse already does

Your horse may already do tricks or he may do something that can be turned into a trick.

Watch them and think about what they do naturally each day, especially around feeding time or when you are grooming them.  Could this form part of a trick?  It makes it much easier to teach a trick if they already do part of it.  For example does your horse stamp his foot when waiting for his food?  This is the start of a trick where your horse can count by stomping.

Horse Trick Fetch
Does your horse like picking things up?

I have owned horses that love picking things up.  If I’m grooming them, they will pick up brushes, hoof picks – anything that is lying around.  This horse tends to be very good at the ‘fetch’ trick.  They can usually be taught very easily to run after a ball and return it to you, or pick up your hat if it falls off.

My horse can open gates.  He came with this trick.  I watched him one day playing with the latch on a gate until he worked out how to open it and then he just pushed the gate open with his nose.  He obviously knew what he was doing and had performed the same ‘trick’ on several other gates.  Without much work I have taught him to open gates while I’m out riding.  I don’t need to get off him.  I just undo the latch and he does the rest. 

Make a note of any ‘tricks’ your horse already does.  These are the best areas to work on when you first start trick training with you horse.

17 thoughts on “Tricks your horse already does”

  1. Hi Jain!

    A week ago we got a new horse and I have noticed that she already knows some tricks like smiling and perhaps even yawning (I don’t know for sure about the yawning yet). I noticed it when she kept smiling whenever I gave her some treats as if she were asking for more. I think it’s very cute, but I want to teach her to only do it when asked. Right now she’s rather unpredictable, when I wanted to show someone what she does I found it difficult to get her to smile and feeding treats until I get her to finally smile won’t really teach her anything new.
    I would like to work on the tricks she already knows and get her to do them on my command before teaching her any new ones, but I just don’t really know how to go about it. I don’t know what signals were used for different tricks so I may end up having to teach her new signals for tricks she already knows.
    I also want to teach her to stand still next to me. She keeps trying to smell my pockets where I keep treats while I’m trying to work with her. Usually if she crowds me too much I just turn my back on her.
    Unfortunatly I cannot ask her previous owner about this as she came from a farm where horses are bought and sold again. I don’t even know her name! All I know is that before she was on that horse farm she belonged to a girl.

    The last and probably the most important question isn’t much about tricks at all actually. There are two other horses that she isn’t getting along with yet. For now I’m keeping her where she can see them and, should they wish, they can also smell one another, but they can’t really kick each other. At this stage they’re still pinning their ears at one another from time to time and sometimes they attempt to bite. When will I be able to allow her to walk with the other horses in the same field? Right before she came here she actually had a fight with another horse and she still has bite marks that I apply ointment to. She doesn’t seem like the difficult type at all, but I think she’s scared of the other horses as they are usually the ones who try to bite her instead of the other way around. I don’t really know if you could offer advice about how I could help the horses to get to know one another safely and without injuries, but if you could it would really be very helpful.

    Thank you for this site. Trigger and Bella look really cute doing their tricks!

    Deisie

    1. Hi Deisie,

      I remember reading somewhere that all trick horses should be sold with instruction manuals 🙂

      If you don’t know what cues she understands then it’s best to go right back to basics and teach her using your own cues. If she has been taught tricks previously then she will understand that she gets rewards if she does something you want. (This is a really good start – and will make training a lot easier). You just need to help her to read your cues and perform the correct trick to get the reward.

      I would start by teaching her something very simple. I like to teach all my horses to touch an item with their nose. From this simple trick they learn about manners around treats, cues and a Marker – this is a word or sound that lets them know the instant that they are doing the right thing and helps to avoid confusion.

      Once she learns this basic trick then you have started to teach her your language of cues and it will get easier to teach her other tricks. Take your time with this first simple trick, because it will lay a good foundation for lots of others 🙂

      I use a ‘target’ to teach my horses to touch an item. Here is a video I made about this: http://youtu.be/A_kyklhfbxs

      When you first start trick training it is common for horses to try and get some free treats from you, without doing a trick. But if you lay down some rules about treats then you will find that this behavior will stop. You must only feed her treats if you ask her to do something and she does it as asked. No feeding treats from your hands at any other times. I like to keep my treats in a treat pouch so my horses can’t get to them. I let them investigate the pouch and look for treats but they soon learn that they can’t get any that way. I also like to use a Marker because this separates the treat from the trick and horses become less focused on the treats. I never use a treat to lure a horse into position. For example there are lots of videos around of people asking a horse to bow by placing a treat between their front legs. This only encourages the horse to follow that treat and can lead to a nippy horse.

      I hope that helps a bit. If you’d like to teach your horse some simple tricks then I have an ebook that covers all the steps to get started and is available from my website: https://www.horsetricks101.com/products/

      Re: your question about introducing a new horse to a herd. I know this can be a stressful time for horses and humans. I’m reluctant to recommend anything without seeing the horses and the setup. Do you have a nice, kind trainer in your area that might be able to help with this?

      I would love to hear how your training goes. You can contact me via the Contact page on this website: https://www.horsetricks101.com/contact-us/

      All the best.

      Jain, Trigger and Bella.

  2. My horse ls very playful and likes too pick things up but when I try to get him to pick things up he is unresponsive. What should I do???

    1. That’s really good that your horse will pick up things naturally and it is a great place to start for teaching him to fetch and other tricks. There might be a couple of reasons why he won’t pick things up when you ask. Number one reason is the item that you are asking him to pick up might be uncomfortable in his mouth or smells funny. Try asking him using items that he already picks up and ask him when he is in an area or situation where he picks things up naturally. If none of this works then go right back to basics. I use a ‘Marker’ and treats to teach horses tricks. I would start by asking my horse to just ‘touch’ the item…. then give them the Marker and then a treat. Once they are touching the item happily I would ask them mouth the item and gradually ask more and more until they are biting and holding on to the item. From there you can teach ‘fetch’. Happy tricks, Jain & Trigger.

    1. Hi Adrianne,

      Good to hear you like this site 🙂

      Due to privacy (and to make sure that we aren’t spamming anyone) we send you a confirmation email first to make sure that it’s okay to send you the ebooks. I’ve just checked our records and this email was sent to you a little while ago. You need to click on the link in the email to say it’s okay and then you will be sent the 2 x free trick training ebooks.

      It might have ended up in your Spam folder? If it’s not there let me now via the Contact form on this website. You might need to add our email to your address book to make sure that you receive future emails.

      Jain & Trigger & Bella.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Rearing is probably one of the most dangerous things a horse can do. They can fall over backward and really do damage to themselves and their riders. I don’t recommend teaching horses to rear as a ‘trick’ for this reason. Once a horse starts rearing it can be a very hard habit to break. I would recommend contacting a trainer (a good, kind one) in your area and work with them to try to stop your from horse rearing. Good luck.

      Jain & Trigger.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      It’s good to hear that trick training is helping you to bond with your horse 🙂 All the horses I have worked with have really enjoyed it.

      There isn’t a Part 3 at the moment. We had planned to write Part 1 and Part 2 as just introductions to teaching your horse the basics of trick training. We are now working on step-by-step instructions for some of the simpler tricks which include photos and videos. We will be emailing them out to everyone on our email list.

      In the meantime you can use the things you learnt in Part 1 and Part 2 to teach your horse simple tricks. Just think of something you would like to teach your horse. Break it into as many small parts as possible. Practice each part until your horse knows it really well, then move onto the next part. Follow the treat guidelines in the ebooks eg only give a treat when your horse does what you ask. If you practice just for a few minutes every day using these tips you will be able to teach your horse just about anything!

      Most importantly – Have Fun! 🙂

      Happy tricks!

      Jain & Trigger.

  3. Jain, Am I missing Training 101 Part III? I’ve been through 101 Parts I and II. Do you offer Part II?

    Your methods of training and the tricks/fun you propose are really helping to bond me with my horse and visa versa. He’s doing very well and we look forward to teaching/learning more.

    Thank you very much. Barbara

  4. Hi,
    My friend and I want to learn tricks to our horses, mine already know kiss but my friend’s horse don’t know a trick, we want them to hug us, get up, lay down (so we can sit on them),shake leg,talk(if its possible. Can you tell us some advice and trick to make then do it?

    Thanks

    Jessie and Ariane

    1. Hi Jessie and Ariane,

      Yes, all these tricks are possible 🙂 Start by reading our free trick training ebooks which will teach you the basics of how to teach a trick (very important). All tricks are taught the same way and if you can teach your horse a simple trick you will be able to teach them a more complicated trick.

      Trigger and I are working on a series of step-by-step instructions for some of the simpler tricks. These include photos and videos. We will be sending these out to everyone on our email list.

      Happy tricks!

      Jain & Trigger.

  5. Hi Jain! I’m trying to teach my gelding to pick up a hat. The idea being eventually having him pick stuff up, like a hat, on the trail when we are riding. So far I have him picking up a hat when asked. But I have not been able to get him to hold on to it until I am ready for him to release it when I ask him for it. What should my next step be?
    Thanks,love your site. So excited about teaching Eddy more tricks, once we master this one!

    1. Hi Denise,

      Glad you like this site and you’re enjoying trick training. Picking things up is a great place to start. As you mention…. It can be a useful trick to teach your horse. It’s really good when you don’t have to get off your horse if you drop something. Just ask them to pick it up 🙂

      It’s great that you have your horse picking up a hat. Some horses will hold onto an item for ages and I even had one that would try and eat my hat! But most horses will only hold an item for a short while then drop it and expect a treat. They must also realise that they need to get rid of the item so they can fit a treat in their mouth! 🙂

      Getting your horse to hold the item for a length of time takes a bit of patience and good timing. As with most tricks, we teach our horse the basics and then we increase the time or complexity of the trick. To teach your horse to hold an item for longer we have to start by asking him to hold it for just a few short time and then each day build on this time.

      In the beginning we will be giving our horse the RWS (right word or sound – covered in Part 1 of the ebooks) just for picking the item up. But as we increase the timing of the trick we will only give him the RWS and then the treat when they hold it for longer and longer. If we want to increase the time a horse holds onto the item we mustn’t give them a treat if they drop the item.

      But we also want to make sure that our horse gets a treat sometimes, otherwise they may not want to do the trick. When we first start teaching this trick, we do this by giving him the RWS if he just holds the item for half a second but before he decides to drop it. This is where timing is important. You need to judge when your horse is about to drop the item and give the RWS just before he thinks about dropping it. If he drops it before you give the RWS, he doesn’t get a treat.

      Each day you need to increase the time that your horse must hold the item by only a very small margin – just a second. Using a verbal or physical cue that tells them they need to hold the item can also help. The word “hold” or a hand gesture will work. Your horse will eventually learn that he will only get a treat if he holds the ball till you give the RWS.

      Remember also to make it fun. If your horse doesn’t seem to ‘getting it’ or is getting frustrated, leave the trick alone for a while and come back to it. Trick training has to be fun and something you both enjoy.

      Hope this helps.

      Happy Tricks!

      Jain & Trigger.

  6. I thought my horse didn’t do any tricks, but after reading this I just realized she does the beginnings of a few. She picks up her feed bucket. She ‘smiles’ if I scratch her withers. She lifts her feet really easily. I’m going to start working on these areas. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      You’ve got the right idea. If you start with these things she already does as a basis for a trick you will find she will learn very quickly. Have fun 🙂 Jain & Trigger.

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