Trick training is becoming more and more common as a supplemental means of engaging the horse, adding interest to standard conditioning regimens, and above all, ensuring you and your horse have fun together, even as you focus on reaching specific goals. It is easy to add a few tricks to your repertoire, and the payoff can be big: just wait until you wow your barnmates with a surprise routine!
Here are the four keys to successfully training your horse tricks, as explained by Sigrid Schöpe in her approachable new manual THE HANDY BOOK OF HORSE TRICKS:
Praise is the most important feedback you can give. This can consist of saying “Good!” in a happy voice, a gentle stroke on the neck, or a food treat. In the beginning, it’s often wise to reward even small successes with treats, and later make your praise more verbal and only give treats now and then. After you praise the horse, allow him a short pause to think so that he can process what he’s learned. Praise is so crucial to training that I will frequently remind you about it.
2 IGNORE UNWANTED BEHAVIOR
When the horse doesn’t behave how you want him to, the best strategy is to ignore him. Perhaps he hasn’t understood correctly, or doesn’t yet know what he should do and has, therefore, become insecure. Repeat your signal and praise him as soon as he takes the smallest step toward the correct reaction.
3 TAKE YOUR TIME
Like people, horses learn very poorly when they’re stressed. If you notice your horse getting nervous, the first thing to do is check in with your own state of mind. Are you calm and relaxed or have you brought the aggravations of your day with you to the barn? What signals might your body be sending without you even realizing it? How is your facial expression? Friendly? Or, is there perhaps a frown there?
Some horses get worked up when they don’t understand what they’re supposed to do. When this happens, go back in your training until you come to a task that your horse can do reliably. When he does it, praise him extensively. Most of the time you can resume the next day and you’ll find the horse is ready for the next step. Sometimes, it simply takes longer to learn a certain trick. You should stay friendly, relaxed, and patient.
4 QUIT AT THE RIGHT MOMENT
With trick training, horses often cooperate with a high level of concentration and enjoy the recognition you give them for a job well done. Despite the enthusiasm on both sides, make sure you do not overwhelm your horse by practicing too much or too long. End your training in a good moment, which will increase the horse’s motivation going forward.
For more clear, concise, illustrated instruction in trick training for horses, check out THE HANDY BOOK OF HORSE TRICKS, available now from TSB, where shipping in the US is FREE.
CLICK HERE for more information or to order.
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