Here are 7 things to consider before you start trick training.
Answering these questions will determine the types of tricks you should teach your horse.
- What type of personality does your horse have?
- What does your horse like to do?
- Are there things your horse doesn’t like to do?
- Is there anything your horse can’t do because of age or injury?
- Does your horse have any behavioral or training issues?
- How much time can you spend on trick training?
- What are your trick training goals?
ACTION STEPS: Download and print out a copy of the Assessment Worksheet. Read the article below and fill in the Worksheet. Keep a copy to review over the next few months of your trick training.
1. WHAT TYPE OF PERSONALITY DOES YOUR HORSE HAVE?
Horses with different personalities usually like to learn different tricks in different ways. Here are some of the main types of horse personalities and how they like to learn:
Bored / ‘switched off’
This horse isn’t interested in much. Some rescue horses can also be ‘switched off’ due to treatment in their past. They will enjoy training that includes:
- Toys or interesting things to investigate
- Very yummy treats
- Short training sessions to keep their interest
Nervous / flighty
This horse tends to react to anything new but they need to be in a calmer state to learn. They will enjoy training that includes:
- Slow, relaxed sessions
- Being introduced to new things slowly
- Lots of repetitions
Clever / curious
This horse is happy to try just about anything. You can usually let them decide what pace to go. If they are learning things quickly then speed up the training but if they appear to get stuck slow things down. They will enjoy training that includes:
- Learning a few things at the same time
- Toys and interesting things to investigate
- Adding their own flair and ideas to the tricks
2. WHAT DOES YOUR HORSE LIKE TO DO?
If you start by teaching your horse a trick that includes something they already like to do it will make it a lot easier for them to learn.
Refer to the video DISCOVER TRICKS TO TEACH YOUR HORSE
3. ARE THERE THINGS YOUR HORSE DOESN’T LIKE TO DO?
There may be things that your horse doesn’t like to do. Trick training should be fun for you and your horse so only practice those tricks that you both enjoy.
For example, some horses love to chase things and enjoy fetch but for others they would rather do tricks that weren’t so energetic, such as hug or smile 🙂
4. IS THERE ANYTHING YOUR HORSE CAN’T DO BECAUSE OF AGE OR INJURY?
Trick training is a really good way to keep horses on restricted activities (due to injury or age) from getting bored. However, you may just need to do a simpler version of each trick or do tricks that don’t put strain on the injury.
For example, the Full Bow is hard on horses legs and backs but a simpler version is to do a Simple Bow. It still looks nice but is easy for older and injured horses to do.
5. DOES YOUR HORSE HAVE ANY BEHAVIORAL OR TRAINING ISSUES?
You can use exactly the same method you will use for trick training to also help your horse overcome other behavioral and training issues.
For example, if you horse doesn’t like their ears being touched or they are difficult to catch, just use the same steps and your horse will soon be happy to have their ears touched and will come running when you call.
6. HOW MUCH TIME CAN YOU SPEND ON TRICK TRAINING?
The optimal trick training schedule is to do several short sessions each day (just 5 to 10 mins). Horses learn faster in quick sessions that are repeated regularly.
You can easily fit these session in around your every day horse chores and activities. Here’s some suggestions for how to do this:
If you don’t get to see your horse every day then it will be harder to teach them more complicated tricks, but even a short trick training session once or twice a week will still see you both making progress.
7. WHAT ARE YOUR TRAINING GOALS?
There are lots of reasons to teach your horse tricks. Your goals will determine the types of tricks that you teach your horse. Some reasons to start trick training include:
- To teach your horse a specific trick (eg to bow)
- To fix a behavioral or training issue
- To increase your horse’s trust and confidence
- To improve the bond and communication with your horse
Over time your goals may change. A lot of people start out by just wanting to teach their horse a specific trick but find that they can do so much more now that they have these new training tools.