Teaching your horse to do simple tricks can be fun. Especially when they perform the tricks on cue. Here you will learn a few “tricks” you can easily teach your horse. The “lift your hoof”, “bow” and the “hug”. These aren’t difficult or stunning tricks to teach, like rearing up, but they are good stretching exercises and it aides in creating a bond of trust between you and your horse.
Lift Your Hoof
Lift Your Hoof is a trick that can cut your grooming time down and eliminate the occasional disregard your horse presents when you are trying to lift its foot to clean it. Your farrier will appreciate this one also!
- Set aside about twenty minutes for two or three days for this trick.
- Starting at the horses front left foot, gently pinch the tendon on the back of their leg until your horse lifts its foot up. Hold the foot for twenty to thirty seconds, then lower it to the ground. Do NOT drop your horses foot.
- Move to the left rear and do the same thing.
- Then the right rear and right front.
- Step back for a few minutes and starting at step two, do it again, all four hooves.
- Again, step back for a few minutes and start at step two and do it again.
- Keep doing this until you get to ten times around. By the tenth time your horse will get the idea of what you’re going to do and he/she will either shift his/her weight when you move from hoof to hoof or tilt it up for you.
- Call it a day after ten times or the routine gets mundane to you and your horse. You don’t want to lose his/her interest because then they are not paying attention and will not learn.
The next day, starting at the front left, do your round of hooves ten times. At the end of day two your horse will be presenting, if not lifting, his/her hoof for you when you move around to each hoof.
By day three when you move to the first hoof, front left, your horse will lift it in anticipation of the routine! If not, then continue the routine to day four or even day five if that is what it takes for your horse to pick up the routine. The routine becomes imprinted and will continue when ever anyone wants to lift their hoof!
Tricks For YOU!
Some horses are resistant about having their hooves picked up. There’s a few tricks you can use to get him/her past this.
1. If, when you pinch the tendon on the back of the leg, the horse merely stands there like he/she doesn’t care, lean into him/her at the same time as pinching the tendon. This will push the horse off center and encourage him/her to lift their hoof.
2. If you have a horse that will lift his foot, then try to put it right back down, try holding the front edge of the hoof when you’ve lifted it (where your toes would be if it was a human foot). Holding the front edge instead of, let’s say the ankle, gives you leverage on the hoof, that isn’t hard on you to hold, but will make it more uncomfortable for the horse to try and put the hoof back down.
3. BEWARE! If you’re working with a horse that insists he/she is going to put his/her hoof back down, and the toe hold doesn’t change his/her mind about it, don’t try to force the issue, let go!
Trying to force a horse to keep his foot up can hurt you. The horse will win. When you’re teaching a horse to lift his foot, notice the words, “Teaching him/her to lift his/her foot.” NOT, “You lifting his/her foot.” If the horse is putting his/her foot right back down, just do it again. Repeat the steps, pinch, lean into him/her, lift, hold the toe, and let him put it down if he insists, every time. Then, do it again.
When you hold the toe up it is fairly uncomfortable for the horse if he/she leans on it to put it down. So, try to hold onto it so he/she causes his/her own discomfort but not to the point where you risk having your hand stepped on or worse.
He/she will get tired of the game and let you hold it up longer, and longer, until finally he/she holds it up until YOU decide to set it back down. Setting it down is important. Dropping the hoof unexpectedly, and the resulting hoof hitting the ground will not endear you to the horse lifting his hoof for you, right? He/she will be of the mindset, “If I lift my hoof it will be dropped and that doesn’t feel so good, so forget that.” If you become frustrated because he/she keeps putting his/her hoof back down and you walk away, he/she won, and they’ll do it again.
The “bow” is so easy you won’t believe it and it looks so cute when they perform it. Its also a very good stretching exercise for your horse! Set aside about twenty minutes to teach this trick. Its progressive, meaning: the training moves further along each time.
- Have several pieces of your horses favorite treat in the hand furthest away from the horses head.
- Say the command, “bow” while presenting the treat near the shoulder. When your horse reaches for it, allow him/her to take it from your hand gently, no twisting their head and snapping it from you allowed.
- The next piece hold just a bit further down nearer to their foot and give the command, “bow” along your horse to have the treat when they reach their head down to get it.
- Continue lowering the treat until your horse reaches down to their heel to retrieve it. Always using the command, “bow”.
Once you can get your horse to reach to their heel for the treat call it a day and work on it again tomorrow.
- This time start, at the heel. Hold the treat at your horses heel and say the command, “bow”. If your training the previous day went well then your horse will immediately lower its head to retrieve the treat from its heel. If not, then raise the treat up a little and work your way down to the heel.
- Once you have your horse taking the treat from its heel readily move the treat back further so your horse must bend its knee to reach the treat. If your horse tries to back up to reach the treat position him/her with a wall or fence behind him/her so backing up is not an option.
- As your horse becomes better at reaching for the treat behind its heel, move the treat further and further back until you get the deep bow you are looking for.
Always have a word of praise ready for when your horse does well. Any time your horse doesn’t readily reach for the treat, move it forward to where he/she will readily reach for it and work your way back again.
The “bow” is a sign of trust between you and your horse. It’s a vulnerable position for your horse to assume, so be sure you make it a safe environment for him/her to perform it for you. Other horses in the area or a dog nipping its nose will only cause your horse a great deal of stress, a total lack of concentration and a lack of trust in you to protect him/her.
The Horsey Hug
Everybody likes a hug from their horse and this trick couldn’t be easier than giving a hug! When your horse performs this trick you’ll really feel like they are enjoying hugging you as much as you’re enjoying the hug.
- Stand on the right side of your horse facing outward.
- Holding your horses favorite treat in your right hand, present the treat to your horse and as your horse reaches for the treat slowly draw your hand back away until your horse has brought its face around your body in a Hug.