Featured, Trick Training Tips

10 Simple Tricks You Should Teach Your Horse

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’ just 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 just 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 to 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.

ball touch

Teaching your horse to ‘touch’ is also a really good 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’. I use a brightly colored foam pool noodle stuck on a dressage whip or you can use a fly swatter.  This trick will help your horse to learn other tricks such as ‘yes’ and to 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.

If you would like to learn more about targets and how to make your own then watch this video:

3. Move sideways (by just pointing at your horse’s neck and side).  This trick will help you to move your horse easily and get them into the correct position for lots of 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 just to 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 backward while you step backwards (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!).

 

In this video I’m using Leg Forward to teach Bella the Horsey Pokey…

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 really helpful when you want to check your horse’s feet.  No more having to lift your horse’s feet up – 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’s some helpful ideas on how to get them beautifully behaved around food:

HOW TO TEACH YOUR HORSE TREAT MANNERS

8. Wait or Stand.  One of my favorite tricks!  Ask your horse to stand still without any restraints.

I use this to teach lots of tricks including standing on a pedestal (or if I just want my horse to wait while I do something else).  It is so nice to have a horse that waits patiently! ❤️

Stand pedestal

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.

How these simple tricks can change everything…

Teaching your horse these simple tricks can not only make life easier and more fun, it will also make a big difference in your horse’s attitude and their relationship with you. 

Here is a video that shows Bella doing some simple tricks like Head Down and Backing.  Notice the difference in her willingness and attitude…

If you teach your horse these 10 simple tricks you will have developed an wonderful relationship with your horse and you can use them to teach your horse lots of new and fun things!

 


40 thoughts on “10 Simple Tricks You Should Teach Your Horse”

  1. Hi jain, I have a 9 or 10 year old horse. her name is adlina, when I go to catch her she runs away so I can never catch her and ride her. Do u think you can give me tips on how to get her to trust me more.thank you

    1. Hi Jamie,

      My two horses (Trigger & Bella) both ran away when I first got them. Now they come running. Have you seen this video?

      Bella coming when called: https://youtu.be/ur7wg5ysOXY

      I think the most important thing to improve the trust and relationship with your horse is to spend time with her doing things she enjoys (other than riding). She just needs to see you as someone who is fun and interesting to be around. Then she will come running to you!

      Here are some ideas: https://www.horsetricks101.com/2015/09/31-things-to-do-with-your-horse-other-than-riding/

      Our favorites are just hanging out together. Going for walks (not ridden) and exploring. Giving my horses treats they like. Scratching them in their favorite spot. Playing with toys. And of course my top favorite….. teaching them tricks.

      Have fun with your horse and you will see your relationship get better and better 🙂

      Jain.

      1. Yh my pony has the same issue. If you like, you can also bring some treats in a bowl/scoop and shake it. Remember to reward your horse with only a few treats though.

    2. I’d suggest every time she comes to you that you give her a treat, let her know that every time she comes to you, that Oh this is worth being caught for

    3. I have had this problem with my gelding quite a while ago. The thing you can do to bond with them more is to just spend a lot of time with her. You don’t have to ride them or halter her just hang around her and let her get use to you. Then just start bringing a halter out and hang around with the halter and so on. Till she gets use to you. 🙂 hope this helped! ❤️

    4. hi there, I my boy used to do the same thing. and there is anther mare at the place I ride who also did this and still does with other people. for your horses I would recommend just spending time in there with them not always to catch them. I would always bring treats for the mare at first just to get her to come up to me. eventually I gave her a treat every time I caught her and then every time she let me put it on. now she is very easy for me to bring out and is much better with other people.

  2. Hi Jain, I have a nearly 3 year old mare. We have a GREAT relationship that includes a lot of trust, she is the reason I get out of bed everyday lol. Anyways I started to tack her with saddles and bittless bridles but everytime I go to tighten the saddle she gets very eager and moves around. I dont tighten it enough that it hurts her though, infact she actually starts to get mean before I tighten it, do you have any advice. Ive tried lots of methods like stopping ang giving her a break and/or giving her treats in between but its just not working.

    I also have another problem.
    Shes very bad with other people. Though she is the best horse ever with me and never tries to hurt me, she is completly different when it comes to other people. For example with my Mom and my best friend she tries to kick them. And they have never done anything to her. I want to socialize her more but people dont really trust her. My friend was housesitting for me while I was away and she tried to go into the fence but couldnt. Shes a little better now but still not great. Im never there to see all of this though because the second that Im there with her she is perfect!

    Thanks a lot!

    Larissa and Vienna

    1. Hi Larissa and Vienna,

      Really good to hear that you have a great relationship. This is SO important! Also good that you are using a bitless bridle – I am a big fan of these 🙂

      If a horse is misbehaving then many times that can be an indication of pain. If she has been checked by a vet and given the all clear then it is time to look at ways to teach her new, nicer behaviors.

      If you want to teach your horse anything or ‘undo’ bad habits and do it in a way that maintains the relationship (eg doesn’t use force or punishment) then you need to get creative 🙂

      Some important things to think about are:

      1. How can you ask her to do something that makes it hard for her to do the undesirable behavior?

      2. What do you want her to do instead of the undesirable behavior?

      So, for example if she is moving about while you are trying to tighten the girth then you need to teach her to stand still really well. (I like to teach my horses to stand on a mat – then they really understand the concept of staying in one place).

      If she tries to spin her head around to bite when you do up the girth, then teach her to stand still with her head facing forward.

      3. Can you also go back a step or two (or five) and make it easier for her to accept a girth?

      For example rather than trying to do up the girth, could you spend lots of time just stroking her and scratching her in the girth area (if she likes this). Show her that when your hand is around this area it is nice. Bella LOVES a scratch between her front legs! 🙂

      Next, rather than putting on a saddle, just try holding a nice light rope around her belly or use an elastic surcingle.

      Just make sure that she stands still, with her head forward and is relaxed and happy at each step before you move onto the next.

      Also use rewards to reinforce this good behavior.

      The same steps apply to getting her used to other people.

      I trained our rather large bull to let me pat him and to line up along the fence for medications by this method 🙂

      If she is spinning around to kick then teach her something that makes her do the opposite. I started by dropping small bits of hay just inside the fence line for the bull. This kept his back end away from me, taught him that I was a good thing and we slowly became friends.

      Could you have a small supply of hay or treats that your friends could drop in her paddock for her? Or hand feed her across the fence? If everyone that visited her gave her a bit of hay then I think she would soon like people a lot more 🙂

      I hope this helps a bit. You might like to sign up for my free eBook that will give you some more ideas: https://horsetricks101.com/6-ways-to-make-your-horse-fall-in-love-with-you

      Let me know how you go. I would be really interested to hear how she progresses.

      All the best,

      Jain.

    2. I used to ride a mare called holly and she HATED having her girth done up.
      Your horse probably associates girths with riding and your friend and mum with work. Try walking her about a bit or hand grazing her with tack on.
      Yours
      Horse lover.

  3. Jain, I have a horse named scout he’s a red roan quarter horse. I have taught to do a simple bow. After awhile I tried to teach him another trick but he will not stop doing the simple bow. So how do I stop him from doing it.

  4. Hi.
    I have an 8 year old Standardbred mare who I’ve tried working with on teaching her a few tricks to give her a break from the rodeos access she’s just not interested in anything I do. She’d much rather eat grass and sniff around the round pen or talk to the other horses. Is there something I can do to catch her attention?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Emily,

      Some horses aren’t used to playing or doing tricks with people. They can be very good at their jobs but don’t really know how to interact with us like this. She might need to learn that there are other things she can do with people. You could try getting her attention by introducing her to interesting toys or objects. (For example balls).

      You might also like to find a treat that she really, really, really likes 🙂 Try things like baked biscuits or fruit and see if there is something that she is really keen to eat. Then try teaching her a very simple trick like touching the ball using her favorite treat. Once she gets the idea she will become more and more keen to try this new training with you.

      Have fun and let us know how you go 🙂

      Jain.

  5. Hi jain, trigger & bella

    First of all i appreciate that you are sharing your knowledge and your experience!

    I have an foal and he is 3 months old, and we are very connected from a month. His name is rüzgar (wind). First 2 months his mother didint want me near them. But from a month we are very fine and well connected.

    I taught him kiss and come to me when i whistle. But he is beware still. I wonder when he will be confortable with me and when can i start to train well him?

    Finally we have a little bite and kick problem. How can i teach him that its bad attitudes?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    ahmet & ruzgar

    1. Hi Ahmet and Ruzgar,

      That’s wonderful that you’ve taught Ruzgar to kiss and come to you 🙂

      You want to build on that relationship but also let him know what is not allowed (biting, kicking etc). It can be hard to find a good balance between teaching horses about good behavior and not scaring them or causing problems. For example I disagree with hitting a horse on the nose if they try to bite – that just makes them head shy.

      It also depends on the horse. I could jump up and down and scream at Trigger and he would look at me as if to say “crazy lady!” but wouldn’t be scared in the least. (Not that I need to do this, he is a real gentleman and very well behaved). Other horses, like Bella, are sensitive and if I even growl at her she gets worried.

      Usually if a horse does something I don’t like (and it’s usually just because they are trying to play or don’t know the rules yet) then I will start by just growling at them. I will usually just say “arrrgggghhhhh” in a stern voice. If they need a bit more correction then I find that clapping my hands is effective. Do it just once softly and if that doesn’t have any effect then clap louder.

      It’s also a really good to think about things that you can teach him that won’t allow him to bite. For example if there are certain situations where he likes to try and nip then teach him that he only gets a treat or pat if he turns his head away from you.

      All the best with the training. I would love to hear about your progress.

      Jain, Trigger and Bella.

  6. I just signed up to your Weekly Training tips! I can’t wait!
    Also, how can I get a copy of your trick training booklet? 🙂
    Ellie and I have just started liberty work and she’s been going AMAZING! So far she can copy my leg movement when I paw and step up onto a block just by me tapping it! Can’t wait to see how much further she will go!

    1. Hi Chloe & Ellie,

      Welcome 🙂

      That’s really good that you are working at liberty. I like to do most of my tricks like that because then I know that Trigger & Bella really want to be there 🙂

      It’s also wonderful that she is copying your movements – that shows that she is really in-tune with you and you have a good relationship.

      The Horse Trick Training ebook is available from the product page on this website:
      https://www.horsetricks101.com/products/ It covers the basics of getting started with trick training.

      I would love to hear about your progress.

      Happy tricks!

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  7. Hi Trigger and Jain! I have a 10 year old mare called Quimera. We currently do showjumping in 1.20 m, but I want to strengthen our bond with trick training. How can I start? Do you have any advice for the first session?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Ana, It’s good to hear that you want to strengthen the bond with your horse 🙂 The first trick I like to teach all my horses is to ‘touch’ an object. This teaches them the basics of trick training and can be used to teach them lots of other tricks like kiss, hug and fetch. I like to use a target. Here’s a video I made about this: http://youtu.be/A_kyklhfbxs
      Happy tricks!
      Jain, Trigger & Bella

  8. I have a 3 yr old mutt horse. I groom and spend time with him every day, he isn’t broken, (I hate that word too) and I want to know if trick training him will not only improve our bond, but make him ridable? I can sit on him bareback and walk him around (he just won’t go the way I want, he goes in circles) but as soon as you put a saddle on and sit on him, he goes bezerck! I need a safe and easy way to break him. Can you help?

    1. Hi Faith,

      I’m currently training my horse Bella to be ridden. I decided to take it really slowly and I’m using the same principles that I use for trick training. I break everything down into small parts and only teach her in short session (maximum of 10 minutes). I also use treats and a Marker (a special sound or word to let her know she has done the right thing).

      I spent ages getting her used to a saddle, firstly just asking her to touch it and then just holding it near her and then just putting it on and taking it straight off. Recently we have been going for long walks with the saddle on. (I use a very lightweight comfortable saddle). I have also practiced leaning across her and standing above her on a fence. All these things help to get her used to being ridden.

      I’m also asking her to do lots of movements on the ground. She will back, turn and yield with just a tiny bit of pressure on the halter. You can do a LOT of work on the ground to prepare a horse to be ridden.

      If you horse goes ‘bezerck’ when it is saddled then something must have happened to cause that. Maybe someone tried to put a uncomfortable saddle on him or did up the girth too tight. Or he got a fright when first saddled. Firstly get a vet to check your horse out to make sure there is no physical problems. He could have an issue that is causing him lots of pain.

      If the vet gives the go ahead then I would go right back to basics and start again, teaching him that saddles are good things. I would also teach him to be really responsive on the ground, walking forward, turning, backing etc. Finally I would HIGHLY recommend getting help from a good, kind, trainer in your area. If he is super scared of being ridden in a saddle then he could be really dangerous (to you and himself). Sometimes a few lessons and advice from a good trainer can make a big difference.

      Good luck with the training. You sound like you are doing lots of good things, like just spending time with him and grooming him – this really helps to build the bond with your horse 🙂

      Happy tricks!

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  9. Hi guys,
    I’m new to this “trick training” and the like, although I’ve been around horses since I was born and I’m almost 18 now. I have a 6 y/o mare called Ebony who was imprinted to me at her birth. I taught her to “hug” from a couple of months old by putting my shoulder under her neck and gently pulling down on her neck. I’m not sure if this is the same way you teach, but it worked for her. I gradually reduced the pressure on her neck and by the time she was about a year old, I only needed to place my shoulder under her neck and she would automatically perform hug.

    Unfortunately through a series of complicated events I couldn’t see for about 3 years, although she stayed on my dad’s farm the whole time. When she first saw me after this period, she didn’t remember who I was. I just treated her the same as I always had and she knew me by the third time she saw me (about 4 months after she saw me again). Now, a year after I “re-introduced myself” to her, I see her 2-3 times a week and she gets really excited when she sees me (part of the imprinting I assume).

    I have to admit I was surprised to see “come” on the trick list… My parents had a series of commands we taught every horse we owned (about 12 over 25 years I think) and “come up” was one of these, as was “back” taught by pushing on the horse’s chest and saying the word. Ebony automatically comes to me when she see me (again, part of the imprinting), and she “taught” herself “follow”. If I pat her and then walk away, she’ll follow me wherever I go.

    I’m currently trying to halter train her, which may seem strange, but the 3 years I didn’t see her have a lot to do with it. I’m a bit afraid to get her “broken in” because where I live in Australia doesn’t have a lot of trainers and I’m scared she’ll come back to me with a broken spirit. She is so sweet, and I don’t want that for her. I’ve been looking for alternates to work with her on and my dad suggested liberty training and trick training. Ebony’s very smart and completely trusts me, but she can be incredibly stubborn when she wants to be.

    Do you think this path will be a good one for us to go down? I’d love to teach her to do this kind of thing, even just to impress my friends (who all adore Ebony).

    Sorry this is kinda long…

    1. Dear Bernie & Ebony,

      It was really good to hear about the work you have been doing together 🙂 The more I learn the more I realise that the best trainers are the ones who are self taught and have learnt from their horses. It sounds like you two have a really good relationship – trust is SO important.

      I agree with you about finding a trainer. I have a new horse called Bella and she is unbroken (hate the ‘broken’ word – but you know what I mean). I can’t stand the thought of sending her to someone else who won’t take the time to understand her. I suppose most trainers can’t afford to spend a lot of the time on an individual horse. I wish I could recommend someone here in Australia but I haven’t come across anyone yet that I would be happy to send Bella to. If you find someone or I do… let’s tell each other about them 🙂

      So I have started to work on all the preparation stuff myself. I use the same method as I do for trick training, so she just thinks it’s a bit of fun and a game 🙂 She will now accept a saddle and a bridle (I use a bitless one). I do lots of liberty work with her. You will find that this comes as a natural part of doing good, kind, training and having fun with your horse – they just want to be around you.

      A lot of what I teach is about building the bond and communication with your horse. Once you have this you can teach your horse just about anything. All you need is a way to communicate to your horse what you want. Most horses really, really, really want to do what we ask, it’s just that sometimes they don’t understand what we want.

      I’m not sure if I’ve answered all your questions. Please feel free to contact me via this post or you can use the Contact form on this website.

      It’s really good that you are trying to do the right thing by Ebony 🙂

      I would love to hear how your training progresses.

      Happy tricks!

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  10. Hi Jain and Trigger! I have been teaching my 19 year old horse tricks and she loves learning them! She can bow, but just by putting her leg forward and touching her knee with her muzzle. She can also lift her other leg on command. I want to find a way to combine these tricks and teach her to get down on one knee and bow, but she’s quite old, and I don’t want her to hurt herself! Do you think I should try this, or just keep the more simple bow? I have been watching youtube videos and many horses seem to drop down quite hard… I’m not sure if an older horse would be able to! I want her to stay really safe, and enjoy trick training as she does now, not worry about falling over! Thank you! 🙂

    1. Good on you Isobel for really thinking about your horse’s wellbeing!! 🙂 I think the ‘Simple bow’ looks really nice and is great for older horses as it doesn’t put any strain on their legs or back. A horse needs to have good balance and strength to do a full bow. I don’t ask Trigger to do the full bow much anymore (he’s about 23). If I do, I make sure he is wearing knee pads and I bandage his legs. I don’t want him to ever hurt himself doing something I have asked him to do. If you do decide to teach your horse the full bow then teach her in very small parts and make sure she is happy with each part before moving on to the next. For example teach her to lift her leg, then drop her head, then lean back. Then gradually increase the amount that she leans back until she kneels (very gently) on one knee. If you can’t do this on VERY soft ground / sand then always make sure your horse’s legs are well padded. Let her ‘tell’ you if she is happy doing this trick. If she is reluctant to do it or you think she is uncomfortable then I would stop immediately and practice other tricks instead. Good luck with the training! Jain & Trigger.

  11. Hi there, I don’t think hotmail likes receiving e-books :D, anyways, I’ve watched some of the you-tube clips you have and so far I am thoroughly enjoying trick training Kota, but I’d really love to know how to teach him how to head but/kick a small ball back to me, if there is anyway you could get at least those steps to me it would be greatly appreciated.

    Maddy and Kota

    1. Hi Maddy & Kota,

      Sorry to hear that the ebook didn’t get through. You might like to add our email to your address book so that Hotmail lets our emails through.
      You can also purchase the ebook from our Products Page.

      It takes quite a few steps to teach a horse to fetch or push a ball back to you. But you are best starting by teaching your horse to ‘Touch’ a ball. Then work on moving the ball further and further away from your horse.

      I find that every horse that I have trained to play with a ball has developed their own trick with them. Trigger likes to pick it up and shake it and then throw it (for me to get!). Bella likes to chase it and push it back to me. A horse I owned a few years ago was happy to canter after the ball, pick it up and bring it back to me (like a very big dog!).

      Have fun with your trick training 🙂

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  12. Hi I’ve been reading your trick lessons and love them.
    I have a 6 yr old TB Gelding who is still a racehorse but he is really smart and soo ambitious. I taught him to kiss for carrots, he even purses his lips to kiss!
    So just wanted to let everyone know that even an on track TB can learn tricks. They always say racehorses are high strung and a little wild from being on the track.

    1. Great to hear you are enjoying the Trick lessons Michele 🙂

      I’ve trained a few ex-racehorses to do tricks and they have all really enjoyed it. I found them very keen to learn. It was also a good way to get them focused and calmer about new situations and objects.

      Keep up the good work!

      Jain, Trigger & Bella

  13. These are great tricks, but I think you should do a how to guide online. I have never seen your book so it might be useful. I am trying to teach my horse, Gypsy Rose, to kiss and smile. Can you help me? You seen to know what you are doing.

    1. Hi Carrie & Gypsy Rose,

      Yes, have a look at the ebooks and they will give you lots of information on how to teach your horse some simple tricks.

      To teach my horses to ‘kiss’ or ‘smile’ I first teach them to ‘touch’ different items. ‘Touch’ is a simple trick that can be used to build lots of other tricks such as fetch, hug, and for liberty work.

      Start with something really simple, that your horse can understand and build from there 🙂

      Have fun,

      Jain, Trigger & Bella.

  14. I love your site and your ebook. my horse is hard to catch so i thought mabey this would work. she is such a fast learner. i taught her loads tricks,
    Thanks for your advice 🙂

    1. Hi Kailee,

      Really good to hear that you are enjoying the site and ebook 🙂

      Trigger used to be very difficult to catch when I first got him. He’d be in the furthest corner of the paddock and you couldn’t get near him. Now he watches out for me and as soon as he sees me heading toward his paddock he heads over to greet me. Love that ! He wants to be with me 🙂

      Happy tricks!

      Jain & Trigger

  15. Dear Jain and Trigger, this could not have come at a better time. Thanks for reminding me how to make my horse time fun for her. I am having a rough day (so unusual, truly) because she for the first time in a long time, walked away from me when I went to get her for (so-called) Play. Obviously, our play time has become work time to her. Depressed does not cover my emotional state since then. I will print and paste this list of tricks on the inside of my front windscreen (not really) to remind myself that tricks make for fun time. Thank you again. I have bought Trigger a bag of carrots and horse cookies. ~Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn,

      Yes it’s really important to make training fun and enjoyable for our four-legged friends (otherwise why would they want to do it?). But don’t get down if your horse walks away sometimes and doesn’t seem interested in training. I’ve had horses that have been super keen all the time to learn new things and work with me, but others have days (just like us) when they’d rather not do any work (or play).

      Sometimes Trigger just wants to stand in the sun with his other friends. I will usually wait awhile and see if he changes his mind but unless I have to do something with him (for example I’ve organised a ride) then I’ll just blow him a kiss and let him be 🙂 I nearly always find that later that day or the next day he’s super keen again to try some training.

      Trigger says to send you a big “Thank You” for the carrots and cookies 🙂

      Happy tricks!

      Jain & Trigger

    2. Yay! you have saved my life. My horse Olly knows most of those tricks now because of you. I’m very grateful. He is a wonderful liberty horse!!

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