Teaching horses tricks

teaching scottie tricks
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It’s not unusual for people to teach their horse’s tricks. It might be something small like giving kisses or really helpful like getting them to line themselves up to the mounting block for you to get on. Those who practice things like Liberty work with horses might teach more complex tricks like rear, bow etc.

I have always had mixed opinions on people keeping their horse’s tricks, purely because while the tricks might be fine in your hands, if you sell that horse, those tricks could cause dangerous accidents for someone else. This is mainly around tricks such as rearing and waving legs around etc. So when I have been asked, my response has always been, “if you think you might end up selling/loaning the horse, don’t teach it tricks.” I still stand by this.

Teaching Scottie tricks

However, I have recently been dabbling in teaching Scottie some tricks. I have a few reasons for doing this and these are just a few of them:

  • Scottie is not going to be sold/go on loan
  • Scottie is still out of work and needs to have something to think about
  • If Scottie can’t return to ridden work, it is something else for us to do together.

This is something I have been thinking about for a while. Last year I started teaching him clicker and target training. My main reason for this was to find a different way to get him to do his stretches without him getting too treat obsessed. But it was also something new for him to think about.

Teaching tricks slowly

I am taking it very slow with him and building on things he already knows. I have always been quite consistent with him on the ground, pointing and clicking at his chest when he is in my space and he took to target training pretty well. So I’m starting with these and a few extras.

Back Up

Building on what he already knows, I am using the back up command a bit more. I point at his chest and click my fingers with my pointing hand. I sometimes also say “back” but he seems to know what this means now so I don’t really have to. We can go back a lot, but also just do one leg or just a step or two.

Touch

Since he already understands the target, I am working on getting him to follow and touch the target, but also follow my hand and touch what I am tapping. He’s getting the following, but not getting the touch the object every time.

I’m hoping that this trick could also evolve into pick up and fetch.

Wait

This is something I have semi done with him since I’ve had him. But I’m starting to really enforce it, making it simpler for him. I hold my hand up and say “wait” which means he stops and stand where he is. If we are walking together, it means stop and wait. If we are stood somewhere, it means stay even if I move. He is starting to get this.

Come

As you can probably guess, this just means come here/follow me. I also do a low point from him to me/to the direction I’m headed in to encourage him to follow. He is fairly inconsistent with this one where I think he understands what I mean, he just sometimes chooses to ignore it!

Head Down

This is simply lower your head to the ground. I ask this by raising my arm above my head in a point and lowering it down to the ground with “down.” He is getting this pretty quickly and it would be good to be able to combine it with head up for a nod or leg forward for a bow. But again, early days.

Lift Legs

A new one we have started doing is asking Scottie to lift each front leg. I started teaching him this by tapping his knee with a whip. But now I usually just point the whip at the leg, while lifting my own leg I want him to lift and saying “lift.” He picked it up really quickly but often gets confused between what leg to lift up, but he is getting better and better.

Those are all the tricks we are currently doing, but I am already thinking about how I can build it into more. You can see him doing some of his tricks below.

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