Most horses enjoy learning and working things out (just like us humans).
But if a task is too difficult, the horse can become frustrated or confused.
To avoid this, make learning easy and enjoyable for your horse by breaking the task down into super-simple steps. The more things you can teach your horse, the stronger your communication, trust, and bond will become.
STEP-BY-STEP TRICK TRAINING
Here’s an example of some trick training I’ve been doing recently with my horse Bella…
First, I thought of my end goal, and then I broke the task down into smaller steps.
GOAL: Teach Bella to put her foot up on the hoof stand, out in her paddock, without restraint.
WHY: To make it easier to trim her hooves.
To start, I just wanted to teach her to put her foot ON something.
Then I slowly increased the height of the stand so she could learn to balance with one foot up and forward.
Then finally, I introduced the hoof stand.
1. Put hoof on a small mat on the ground.
2. Put hoof on a small block of wood.
3. Put hoof on two blocks of wood.
4. Put hoof on hoof stand.
I made sure she really understood what I wanted at each step before moving onto the following (and more complex) stage. This meant I needed to practice some steps for a few days.
I kept the sessions very short (just 5 minutes each time) and practiced a couple of times a day when I could. Horses only have short attention spans, and keeping the sessions short keeps them interested and motivated.
I rewarded her the instant she did the correct thing.
If she showed any sign of frustration or confusion, it meant I hadn’t made the next step easy enough for her to understand. So I thought about ways to make it even easier or go back to a previous step and practice that more.
Once she was happy to put her foot up on the stand, I then increased the time that she kept it there.
Within 2 weeks, she would put her foot up on the hoof stand while free out in her paddock. She then stood calmly while I gave her a quick trim.
Learning this new ‘trick’ was fun for her and me!