Horses are extremely intelligent animals and are able to learn new skills and tricks fairly easily. This means that teaching your horse some cool and easy tricks can be a rewarding task.
Cool and easy tricks to teach your horse
Horses are able to learn new tricks fairly quickly. Horses respond to clear body language and consistency when it comes to learning and reinforcing the behavior. If you are wanting to embark on teaching a horse new tricks, make sure that you start with simple tricks that are fairly easy to learn and work your way up to more challenging tasks.
From teaching your horse to come when being called, how to bow, how to hug, or how to jump, there are many cool things horses are able to learn. Each trick requires a slightly different approach (and a lot of reinforcement) but the reward will be worth it.
What is the easiest trick to teach a horse?
Lifting legs is one of the easiest tricks you can teach your horse. Not only is this a cool trick but once your horse lifts their legs on command, mucking out their feet becomes a lot easier.
- Stand by your horse’s shoulder facing backward with your back facing their head. Using your hand closest to the horse, stroke your horse down the neck, over the shoulder, and past their knee.
- If your horse is still comfortable, gently squeeze their leg with this hand while gently placing pressure on your horse’s shoulder by leaning into them. While doing this, use a common word such as ‘foot’ to accompany this action.
- As your horse starts to lift their leg, remove the pressure on their shoulder by no longer leaning on them and lift their leg up.
- Once your horse’s leg is off the ground, lift it further until you can cup the front of your horse’s hoof can rest in your hand.
- Repeat this process a few times each day until your horse starts to respond to your action word alone by lifting its foot.
How do I teach my horse to come when called?
Just like many other domesticated animals, horses can be trained to come when they are called. The best way to start encouraging this behavior is by using treats and repeat this until no treats are needed. Here are the exact steps to follow:
- Begin by placing a handful of treats in your pocket and out of your horses reach.
- Decide on a reward word such as ‘yes’, which you will use when your horse reacts in the way you are trying to train.
- Standing in front of your horse, get their attention with your reward word and as soon as you have their full attention, give them a treat. It is important that the use of your reward word and resting your horse happen one after the other. This is so that your horse starts to associate your giving of treats with your reward word.
- Only reward desired behavior. Your horse may naturally become quite pushy when they know you have treats and may be able to smell them out. Make sure that you do not reward this pushy behavior. You want to encourage your horse to follow specific cues and not to reward them for being demanding.
- If your horse is not familiar with their name, now is the time to start teaching them. Use your horse’s name whenever you are around them and only in positive situations. You want your horse to associate the use of their name with pleasant experiences.
- Use a variety of your horse’s favorite treats when training, especially ones they may not get every day. This includes apples, carrots, or horse-specific store-bought treats. Make sure to cut them into small pieces so that they are easy for your horse to eat. Each time you use your horse’s name, give them a treat. Slowly but surely, your horse will respond to hearing their name and walk in your direction when called.
How do I get my horse to hug me?
Just as with all other training, make sure you have some of your horse’s favorite treats on hand. Before attempting to teach this trick, it is important that you are starting off with some groundwork basics in place.
Teaching your horse to hug you could be dangerous if your horse does not yet respect your personal space and understand how to interact with you.
Here is how to get started:
- The first step is to introduce the treats to your horse and let them know you have them on you. This piques their interest and gets them engaged.
- Before you can get your horse in the ‘hugging’ position, you need to get them to follow the treat you have in your hand with their head and mouth. Start by holding the treat at a normal height and distance, so they can easily eat the treat.
- Next, hold the treat higher up at your horse’s eye level and let them stretch up to get the treat. Follow this with holding the treat low down, about 3 inches from the ground, and let them stretch down to get the treat.
- Now it’s time to get your horse stretching left and right. Horses who are stubborn and expect you to give them a treat directly where they can see it, may take a while to stretch in either direction. Make sure you have your horse’s full attention and start with holding the treat just a few inches left. When your horse follows your hand and the treat, reward them with it. Repeat the same to the right-hand side.
- Once your horse is comfortable following your hand with treats up, down and left and right, it’s time to start introducing them to the concept of hugging. Stand on the left-hand side of your horse facing their chest. Place your left arm up and around their neck in a hugging motion.
- With treats in your right hand, use the word ‘hug’ and place your hand behind your back to catch your horse’s attention. As they reach across your back to find the treat, respond with an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and give them the treat.
- Repeat step 6 a number of times each day. Don’t be frustrated if your horse takes a while to follow your lead and reach across your back. Consistency and practice is key. Keep practicing until your horse responds by hugging you using just your common word of ‘hug’.
Well done! You have just taught your horse how to hug you.
How to teach a horse to bow
There are a number of different ways to teach your horse how to bow. Some methods use ropes but I prefer a softer approach which includes no ropes at all.
This is not the easiest of tricks to teach your horse and requires a lot of confidence as a horse handler. Here are the steps to follow:
- Stand on the left-hand side of your horse and ask them to lift their leg. Hold their leg and cup their hoof in your hand as you would to muck out their feet.
- While holding their left foot, use your other hand to press backwards on their chest, encouraging them to stay standing but lean backwards. This will be a completely foreign position to your horse so you will need to take it very slowly. As soon as they start leaning back into this position, remove the pressure and give them a treat.
- Once your horse no longer tries to hop on three legs and starts to resists less to the pressure to lean backwards, you can start slowly increasing how far back you ask your horse to lean. Getting your horse to a point where their knee touches the ground can take from between one or two days to up to one week. However long it takes your horse to progress through this training, make sure to reward them every step of the way.
- As your horse gets used to dipping down until their knee touches the group, introduce the word ‘alright’ as you apply pressure for your horse to stay in this position. Over time, and with a lot of practice, your horse will associate this word with staying in the same position and ‘freezing’. This allows you to start controlling when they come out of the trick.
- One of the final steps is to introduce the soft tap of a whip on their cannon bone as you ask them to bow. This slowly transitions your horse’s cue to bow from having their leg picked up and pressure applied to their chest to reacting to a soft tap on their knee.
- You need to balance your cue words and actions with the correct timing. Eventually you want your horse to bow down when they get the ‘cue’ of light tapping on their cannon bone and only come out of this move when you use the word ‘alright’. Timing is everything.
You need to make sure you use your cues, rewards and words at the precise moment that your horse is either performing the right move or you want them to come out of that move. Make sure to reward your horse with words, patting and a positive tone.
How to teach a horse to jump
Teaching your horse to jump is actually a lot easier than it sounds or may seem. This is because horses are naturally athletic and have the inherent ability to jump. Training this trick revolves more around getting your horse comfortable with the idea of jumping, especially if it includes having you on their back. Here are my top … steps in teaching your horse to jump.
- The first step in getting your horse to jump is getting them comfortable walking, trotting and then cantering over trotting poles. Start with one pole on its own and get your horse used to judging its distance and strides over the pole.
- Next, trot your horse over trotting poles. Increase the number of poles your horse moves over in succession in the trot by trotting them over two poles straight after each other.
Note: when setting up trotting poles, they should be two of your evenly spaced steps apart. Once your horse is comfortable with two poles, increase this to three and then to four poles.
- Now it’s time for canter poles. As you are increasing your gait and considering that trotting paces are quite different to cantering strides, start with one pole. Cantering over one pole gets your horse used to adjusting their stride and their eye to move over the pole. Once they are comfortable, increase this to two, three and eventually four poles.
Note: when setting up cantering poles, they should be four of your evenly paced steps apart.
- Now that your horse is used to moving over poles, set up a small cross jump. Make this cross jump as small as possible and only attempt one cross jump at a time. As your horse becomes comfortable with this jump, you can slowly increase the height and get them used to the jumping movement.
Make sure that, when moving over jumps, you go into a ‘light’ seat. This means you have the balls of your feet firmly in the stirrups and are lifted out of the saddle, leaving slightly forward.
- Once your horse is comfortable over a cross-jump, change the jump to an upright. This is a jump with a single pole on the floor and an elevated pole going across, resting on uprights. Keep your horse’s first upright as small as possible as they will need to practice their depth perception and strides leading up to a jump.
And that’s it! Voilà! You have taught your horse how to jump!