Most tricks, even the complicated ones, start with a simple trick or are made up of several simple tricks joined together.
The same applies to really anything you want to teach your horse. Start by teaching your horse some simple basics and then use them to help your horse learn lots of different things!
For example, to teach your horse to do a ‘Simple Bow’, break the trick into small steps. First, teach your horse to put his head down, and then teach him to put his leg forward. Then ask your horse to do the two movements together.
And there you have a ‘Simple Bow’!
Here’s a video of Trigger doing the Simple Bow…
Below is a list of simple tricks that you can teach your horse in a fairly short time.
Once your horse has mastered these tricks, they can be used as the beginnings of a whole range of tricks or activities that are fun and useful.
1. Touch. I like teaching this one first. It is an easy trick to teach your horse, and it will really help your horse understand the principles of learning new things.
Ask your horse to ‘touch’ different items, such as a ball, a soft toy, or a traffic cone. This is the beginning of several tricks, including fetch, kiss, hug… and lots of others.
Teaching your horse to ‘touch’ is also an excellent way to help them get used to scary things, like plastic bags, tarps, rubbish bins, and bicycles, and to become braver.
Just ask your horse to ‘touch’ the scary thing with their nose. I get lots of emails from people who tell me that this simple trick has really changed how brave their horses have become around new and different objects.
Here’s a video where I teach Bella to ‘touch’ a big scary piece of black plastic board…
Also, check out the ‘cow audience’ in the background 🙂
2. Follow a target. Teach your horse to follow a ‘target’. You can make a target or use something simple like a fly swatter.
This trick will help your horse learn other tricks such as ‘yes’ and perform liberty work.
You can also use it to ask your horse to go somewhere that they might be a bit nervous about, for example, to follow the target onto a trailer.
3. Move sideways (by just pointing at your horse’s neck and side). This trick will help you move your horse easily and get them into the correct position for many tricks. It is also how you begin to teach your horse to ‘twirl’.
Here’s a video where Trigger is just starting to learn how to Twirl…
4. Back up (by just pointing at your horse’s nose or chest). This also helps to get your horse into position for other tricks or make it easier to move them around.
You can then teach your horse fun tricks like backing by just tugging (gently) on his tail, or you can even stand behind him, and he will follow you back while you step backward (see the video at the end of this post to see Bella doing this).
5. Leg forward This trick is used to teach the following tricks: counting, Spanish walk, and the simple bow.
It is also useful to get your horse to easily put his foot up on a stand for a hoof trim (a favorite with the farriers!).
6. Leg up (by just pointing at your horse’s foot). This trick is the beginning of the bow and laying down.
It is also beneficial when you want to check your horse’s feet. No more having to lift your horse’s feet – just point, and your horse lifts his feet for you. (Another favorite with the farriers!)
7. Look away. Useful for those horses that are food hogs and can get pushy around treats. This trick keeps their nose away from you and the treats! 🙂
If you have a horse that is pushy around treats, here are some helpful ideas on how to get them beautifully behaved around food:
8. Wait or Stand. One of my favorite tricks! Ask your horse to stand still without any restraints.
I use this to teach many tricks, including standing on a pedestal (or if I want my horse to wait while I do something else). It is so nice to have a horse that waits patiently! ❤️
9. Head Down. This is used to start to teach your horse the Bow or to lay down. It can also help to calm your horse.
10. Come. This trick is used in fetch (once your horse picks up the ball or item) and is needed for liberty work. Plus, it is really nice to have a horse that comes running to you whenever you call.
If you teach your horse these 10 simple tricks, you will have developed a wonderful relationship with your horse, and you can use them to teach your horse lots of new and fun things!