Think carefully about which tricks you want to teach your horse.
Some tricks can be dangerous if not performed in a safe area and by an experienced person, for example, rearing or laying down.
Horses will sometimes do tricks without being asked, particularly in the early stages of training. They haven’t yet learned that they ONLY get a reward when ASKED to do the trick.
You don’t want to be out riding one day, and your horse decides to perform his newest trick (without being asked) – laying down with you and your saddle on board.
Or even more dangerous – your horse decides to rear. Rearing is a trick that requires strength, calmness, and excellent balance from your horse. If he doesn’t get it right, your horse could do enormous damage to himself (and you) by flipping over backward.
Consider if children will be riding or handling the horse. A trick such as counting with their front foot could knock a child flying. Or a child might mistakenly give a horse a cue to rear.
If there is a chance you might sell your horse at any stage, think about how future owners might view your horse’s tricks. I believe that simple, well-done tricks add to the value and appeal of a horse, but some people might misunderstand some tricks.
I remember reading an old book that showed how to teach a horse to pull a mean face as if the horse was about to attack. Imagine if you sold this horse to someone who then sold the horse to someone else that didn’t understand that this horrible face was just a trick. They would most likely reprimand the horse, which would cause the horse to become very confused.
Even worse, if you teach your horse to rear and a future owner accidentally gives him the cue to rear, this horse would quickly get a reputation as a difficult or dangerous horse when all they were trying to do was perform a trick.
Some safer tricks include hug, yes, no, fetch, and smile. There are also many useful tricks you can teach your horse that will make life around them easier—for example, lining up at a mounting block, waiting without being tied up, and picking up things that you have dropped.
So think carefully about which tricks you want to teach your horse and who might be around your horse. Your horse can learn lots of fun, safe tricks that will be enjoyable for you both and won’t cause your horse to develop a bad reputation.
We recommend teaching your horse to ‘touch’ (target) different items first. This is the beginning of so many tricks and is a very handy trick…