HORSE TRICKS WHY TEACH YOUR HORSE TRICKS First, you will see marvelous changes in the horse you love. He will get brighter, more interesting and shine with intelligence. You will learn how to communicate with himn on a finer and higher level--and he will learn to listen and to communicate with you. You, not only he, will get attention and praise. Inside you, there's a ham waiting to break into show "biz." With your trick horse as your sidekick, you can do it. You can entertain in your barn or on stage. How far you take it is entirely up to you. One thing about tricks and entertaining, often to do a show does not take allot of hard tricks, it's the script and the humor that usually makes the show. What Trick? What trick you will need will depend on allot of things. 1. Will your act be a talking comedy script or an action packed scene to music? 2. Do you plan to be riding the horse or not? 3. What will be your costumes? 4. What will be the your horse"s charetor? Your Charector?. 5. What will be the conditions of your stage or arena? Examples of making a good charector is Mr. Ed, Minnie Pearle, Gizmo the Rodeo Clown and many more........... They are funny and entertaining because they are so beleivable, people can't seperate them from their charector.That's what makes a good show. IF you plan to use the tricks for entertainment( I know many of you don't) 1. Do you have a charector in mind? 2. What will be the script? 3. What tricks and stunts will be needed? These are good things to ask yourself as you begin the trick process. WHY A SEQUENCE In the first place, you will be teaching your horses tricks with some easy, fun and delightful tricks that will not become nuisance behaviors, and which will build up his confidence and trust. They will be easy for you to teach and easy for him to learn. If you started off with counting, for example, this might cause the horse to start pawing (which resembles counting) off cue, and which might cause someone who stands directly in front of him to get hurt. These tricks come with warning labels! People ALWAYS ask me how to make a horse rear, and that is one of the LAST tricks they should teach a horse! Tricks which center around using the horse's head and neck are more appropriate to start with. Remember--the horse is learning HOW to learn tricks, and this foundation will pave the way for more difficult tricks as you go on. You will be learning to use conditioning and positive reinforcement, in the form of food rewards, pats and verbal praise. Positive reinforcement has been used among circus trainers for hundreds of years--it's nothing new under the sun!! You will be learning how to put the trick behaviors on "cue," and to reward your horse for "correct" answers. There's nothing that builds enthusiasm as quickly as food treats used for motivation, and in performing tricks, you definitely want to encourage enthusiasm! For those of you concerned with food rewards leading to biting--well, you won't reward poor manners in accepting food treats. Obedience must be a priority! That is why a SOLID foundation of manners and groundwork is necessary for your horse before you start trick-training. An out-of-control horse doing a trick is NOT CUTE! He can be dangerous to himself and to you and others. With the proper handling and manners in place, both you and your horses will have lots of fun trick-training! So, after some thinking of the above, get out your carrots, cut them into small pieces, and get ready to begin with a simple, fun trick! BACKGROUND Where did the notion of trick horses begin? Back in medieval days, the village horseman would demonstrate his horsemanship by showing off his horse's skills. The Greeks and Romans used Trick Horses for their spectacles, as did the circuses, always including spectacular feats and movements as part of their entertainment. Borrowing the circus horse's movements, The Spanish Riding School incorporated them into their routine training, calling them "high school" movements. They all included breathtaking poses and movements by and on horses that were crowd-pleasing and breath taking. Then came the cowboys on film and tv. Them and there horses enchanted their audiences with their delightful gestures and almost human-like intelligence. How do you choose a horse for tricktraining? OK, you have a smart, beautiful horse that you would like to teach tricks. Here are some factors to consider. First: age. You can train a weanling to do tricks as well as an older horse; however, you should take into account that the younger the horse, the shorter the attention span. You should have BASIC MANNERS and GROUND TRAINING solidly in place before tricks: leading, stopping, standing quietly for grooming, picking up feet, tying, and preferably lungeing. A solid foundation of trust and respect makes teaching tricks a lot easier. If your horse has some age, make sure he is sound and fit enough to do the movements these tricks require. Second: soundness. To train your horse to do tricks, he should have good vision, hearing, and general soundness. You will need to slowly build up his agility, athletic ability and balance to do some of the more complex tricks. Sex: There are trick horses of all sexes. However, why do you think many movie trick horses are stallions? Because of their charisma and presence! If you ever decide you want to "show" your trick horse, then a mare in heat may not be as reliable as a gelding, if she shows strong heats. Size: You see minis and draft horses, and everything in between. Think about the equipment you have to lug around, plus think about where you have to take your horse: in gyms, through doors and on elevators and the like so size should be a consideration when deciding on what you want to do. When you ride your trick horse you want his size to "fit" you, your legs, be able to mount and dismount easily, a good moving, relaxed and supple horse. Color: Ideally, a horse that is pleasing to look at. One whose color stands out is one people will remember easily. Disposition: that is, his willingness to work or conform. This may be changed to some degree by the trainer. Temperament: this is inherited and cannot be changed. Note: Horses are like people. Some calmly accept training, while others become restless and nervous, and these horses will be harder to teach and take longer to learn. Generally, the horse you have is the one to teach tricks to, because you need a horse to practice with, and YOU need the practice work. The first horse you teach tricks to is going to be your "guinea pig," the one you are going to make many mistakes on in training. Each succeeding one will turn out better than the first. Take a moment to think about these questions and this information. Then ask yourself this question: Given the above factors, how will your my measure up? I do believe you can teach ANY horse tricks if you can effectively communicate with him. Remember--a horse will perform to the best knowledge of his rider/handler. To clarify some things above, First, there is no appropriate horse to teach tricks to--any horse can learn! However, some horses will make the job of teaching or performing tricks easier than others. The criteria offered for choosing a horse just gives you some qualities to think about. What is said about size, though, is true. Yet, there are qualities about any horse that can be played up to its advantage, . The term "tricks," actually has gotten a bad rap, perhaps because people don't take the training of tricks seriously, not realizing there is a TREMENDOUS amount of horsemanship involved. "Tricks" are really gestures, feats and spectacular movements, many of these movements which are called high school training, which is a continuation of dressage, and really dressage and high school training are very closely related. In dressage, the levade and pesade are similar to the rear. The "courbette" is similar to the hind leg walk in trick-training. In complex trick-training (high school training), the horse does a turn on the forehand with one leg extended (a continuation of dressage), and a Spanish Walk, sometimes called the march, using leg extensions (as does dressage). The "plie" of dressage is actually the circus bow. This is difficult horsemanship!! 8 easy, fun tricks to start your horse with: Kiss,shaking the head "no," nodding "yes," smile, waving a hanky (the start of using a horse's mouth), counting, acting drunk, and bowing (using the CORRECT leg, I might add, so that you can mount and dismount properly. You can hold your head up very high when you do those tricks, because real horsepeople will recognize the kind of horsemanship you possess. Take your own CREATIVITY and IMAGINATION let your mind dream up new tricks you could do with it. Should a horse be "in condition" to bow or lie down? The answer is "yes." When you practice these tricks, you should not ask the horse to do them too often at first because of the agility and elasticity it requires. This doesn't mean a half-bow either, all the way down on one knee like the way it should be done. But more importantly, in bowing, kneeling on both knees and lying down, the horse is in a vulnerable position from which he can't easily escape. A suggestion is doing other tricks first using the feet and legs BEFORE the bow so you can get the horse used to handling those parts and build up his confidence. Building trust and confidence between you and your horse is a necessity. In trick-training, as with any other kind of horse training, you need a good foundation of simple, easy, fun tricks that are easy for the horse to learn and easy for you to teach. Think about this: How will your horse's personality affect his learning tricks? SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT These first few tricks will begin with the simplest ones that require no elaborate equipment, but are essentially taught with patience, companionship and reward. Your horse's foundation of trick-training will consist of his learning such things as tone of voice, changes in body position and other body cues. Remember- all of his trick-training will be put ON CUE. He will begin to recognize praise and irritation in your voice, and that giving the reward means he is doing what you ask of him and witholding it means he is not. In other words, you are establishing his desire to please you. This suggested sequence of training is not cemented in stone, but it has its merits. While the food reward system of training is the greatest in the world, even it can be overdone or applied at the wrong time. In these initial training stages, be sure your horse has done exactly what you asked of him and in the desired manner before you reward him with a treat. Unless you demand absolute perfection in whatever you ask of him, it cannot only confuse him but will definitely slow down the process of training. Be sure he knows what you expect of him, that he understands what you want him to do for you and then see that he does it. The following general suggestions will help you throughout all of the tricks. It is important that you try to stick to the exact words and cues recommended. Your horse will learn 5o new word commands if you teach him all of these tricks. Consistency in using the same words, the same body cues, the same method of speaking is necessary for clear communication. The cues used are each unique from the horse's point of view. Teach these early lessons in frequent brief sessions, gearing the length of your training sessions to your horse's attention span. Allow your horse to succeed throughout each session and be sure to end on a high note. Five minute training sessions at the beginning are fine. The first tricks will center around using the horse's head. Begin all of your training with a halter and lead rope, in an area that is free from distractions, so that his attention can be focused on YOU. You need to find SOME tidbit or treat your horse REALLY likes (you can teach him to eat carrots, but it may take time). Alfalfa cubes, or even sweet feed, maybe. Carrots are a good choice since they are plentiful, cheap and easy to feed without losing fingers. Anyway, find something he won't choke on that will motivate him. Reward in the beginning of teaching a trick for any likeness of the trick. Don't let him get away with half-way responses! Demand perfection and you will get it! Some will try to have the horse mimic them. Such as shaking your head and the horse mimics you. Well, there is more than one way to skin a cat, for sure. Yes, horses will imitate us humans for certain movements (don't think you can sit down and they will, too!), but those cues are not very subtle! What this is teaching you here are cues that are so refined that noone will recognize them,and people will wonder, "How did he/she get the horse to do that?" Sure, people can bend over, shake their hands head, arms, pick up their feet or legs, but those cues are not polished. Your cues should be IMPERCEPTIBLE to those watching you. That's what makes great showmanship. Presentation is everything. A horse running "through his bag of tricks" is very common at the beginning stage. He is only trying to please you, to do anything that will produce a yummy carrot! But you don't want him doing these tricks off cue, and you certainly won't reward him for them when you haven't "asked." Just say "no," (to thugs!) like you MEAN it-- a smack isn't necessary. Keep him occupied doing something else. It's suggested that you do not ask for the trick, say a "kiss," when you go into his stall or corral, or reward it there off cue. Demand obedience, respect and good manners from your horse. Only reward it during a "work" session, and he will come to expect it then and offer the action then (this is part of being consistent). At the beginning of teaching a trick, there should only be ONE trainer so as not to confuse the horse. When the horse learns the trick really well, then you can instruct others to cue. Be careful with children, however, and supervise them carefully, so that noone gets hurt. Especially when offering a face to a horse to kiss! A word of caution here folks: TEACHING YOUR HORSE TRICKS COMES WITH WARNING LABELS! You are working with big animals and you need to be aware of the risks involved at all times. The more difficult the trick, the greater the risk. This trick of "kissing" places you near the horse's mouth and teeth. Imagine what is yet to come when you eventually teach your horse to "wave" a foreleg, lie down, sit up, march, turn on the forehand with one leg extended and pivot, Spanish Trot, Three Step and Rear. I'd never want a horse to get hurt, and I wouldn't want you to, either. You need to always be on your guard when working around a horse's mouth. Can't emphasize safety enough! TIPS You are building a foundation with these fun, simple tricks--one of patience, trust and manners. Later on, you will teach your horse tricks and high school movements that require gymnastic ability and balance, such as those you see with circus horses-- marching, Spanish Walk and Trot to the front and rear, Three Step, Curtsy, waltz, rumba, pivots and dancing, hind leg walk--all built on these early lessons. That is why we start with these "ABC's" and get the foundation set first. Very often it is the simple delightful tricks such as a "kiss" that melts peoples' hearts rather than the really difficult and spec- tacular maneuvers. The "kiss" is a sure bet to endear you and those watching you to your horse. Which is best? Stallion, gelding or mare? Some horses can be nippy or witchy, and you need to always be aware of that. It all depends on the individual horse. You know your horse's tendencies better than anyone. No two horses temperment is the same and that is what you must take into consideration when deciding to teach your horse tricks. Before teaching tricks you should start training your horse to take treats in a mannerly fashion from your hand, repeating this until he takes it gently, telling him "easy does it," or something like that. You are teaching him HOW to take treats from your hand, and to be careful with their lips and teeth. Since all of trick-training will take place with food in the beginning of teaching the trick, you need to get these manners in place. Then you can put the carrot anywhere, and won't need to be so concerned about biting. The cue resembles a person presenting their face when they want a kiss on the cheek. These beginning tricks using the horse's head, neck and mouth will set the stage for more complex tricks down the road.