Trick Tips MANNERS & DISCIPLINE The importance of absolute manners in teaching these tricks cannot be stressed enough. Anyone who really knows horses watching you show off these tricks will first see if you have your horse's obedience, respect and if he is listening to you. THEN he will notice how you are producing the tricks. In the beginning sessions, it is critical to establish obedience, because if you don't have it now, then imagine what it will be like later on when hoofs and legs are moving every which way. CUES The cues indicated interlock each trick. Although a horse has a large vocabulary, it is through our body movements that the horse learns cues best. When performing, NEVER talk to your horse while giving him commands. If you did, the audience would hear you, and as an entertainer, you don't want them to hear. Always give the cues in body movement. Every trick taught has a cue which will not conflict with other cues in more difficult tricks later on. You can't safely play with tricks until this is established. You will need to discipline your horse when he missbehaves, just as you would a child. DISCIPLINE? Is this a dirty word? You cannot guess how useful the "Ashamed " trick can be in your routines! You will have to make adjustments depending on what type and size of horse you are working with. This will be the only trick that you raise your right arm for standing directly in front of him-no other tricks will use this cue. If your horse is responding well to your body movements alone, you know you've done a job well-done! Remarks: These are the building blocks of learning. You have spent 2-3 hours or so with your horse on the beginning tricks..just the two of you.. no props...nothing! He is learning to respond to commands, tone of voice, changes in your body position. He is also learning obedience, respect and to listen. But of prime importance is the fact that he has BEGUN TO LEARN! And you are all becoming the first wave of trick horse trainers! Excellent manners is the cornerstone for ALL of a horse's training, and no matter how cute the trick looks, you need to insist on obedience at all times. Especially with a young horse. PEOPLE WHO ARE/WAS INJURED? People who have been injured do not need to suffer from E.D.-- EQUINE DEPRIVATION--and can still teach their horses many things. There is much you can do on the ground with the right horse, and even those who are injured are encouraged to work with their horses as best as they can. The key word here is "right" horse! Enough said. TREATS You need to find SOME 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 plentiful, cheap and easy to feed without losing fingers. Anyway, find something he won't choke on that will motivate him. When to reward? To start out 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! Will horses imitate us? Yes, horses will imitate us humans for certain movements but those cues are not very subtle! These cues 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?" You want your cues to be subtle. You should hardly see their hands, legs or seat move. Your cues should be IMPERCEPTIBLE to those watching you. That's what makes great showmanship. Presentation is everything. RUNNING THROUGH THE TRICK BAG? This 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," like you MEAN it-- a smack isn't necessary. Keep him occupied doing something else. 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. You never want a horse to get hurt, nor yourself. You need to always be on your guard when working around a horse's mouth. Can't emphasize safety enough! HOW LONG SHOULD IT TAKE TO TEACH A TRICK? Answer: It depends. Each horse, like people, will learn at varying rates. Some learn faster than others. Spend as much time as you think necessary in teaching these first few tricks. Don't hurry, be patient, go slow, especially in the beginning when he is just starting trick-training. He will learn each trick faster, as soon as he figures out he'll get goodies for right answers. If you haven't the time to make him follow through, or if you feel your patience is waning, on this or any other trick, turn and walk away. Wait until you have ample time and regain your composure. WHAT ELSE IS PROPER TO TEACH A YOUNG HORSE? I guess you can teach a young horse almost any trick - they seem to learn better and faster while young. But it can become common of trick horses, to become a pest, doing a trick at any time they feel like it, so that they get their treat or pat. For instance, if you taught him to remove a cloth from his back each time you placed it there, he may continue to do this when you saddle train him. Its often a good idea to stick to a particular place and/or equipment (ie a particular halter that you keep for when teaching or performing tricks). And refuse to reward him when he does things without being asked. Is there anything that could be harmfull? See above. What are some basics on the how to's on basic tricks? You can use a pin to teach your horse to shake his head - touch him with it on the neck, so that he shakes his head to get away from it. Just because a trick is easier to teach does not make it better. Some will be downright difficult to get your horse to understand, but worth every minute of the effort! One reward is showing off how smart a horse can be, but another is to have realized that my horse has to be qualified to show off his talents, and I have a lot of work to do to get him "ready." Your goal should be to want your horse to look polished. Some may want to teach your horse tricks for the simple challenge of the training. Others way want to do it to delight friends and family with some fun, entertaining tricks. Some even want to put on little "shows" for fun and profit. Whatever your reasons, a never-give-up attitude will help you through all of these tricks. The sequence of teaching tricks is important--many tricks can become nuisance behaviors. The cues should interlock. What that means is that you give the verbal cue with your movement. The movements you make with the command for the trick should trigger the desired reaction in your horse. Your cues have to be almost unrecognizable and subtle. There are very few people who perform with trick horses. Training and then performing with trick animals is such an art!! It is very demanding on both humans and animals to perform beautifully in front of thousands of people. Imagine you and your horse in the spotlight, and the announcer gives you this big build-up of what the horse will perform---and he doesn't!! This is precisely why you need to have your horse's full focus, respect and attention at home when teaching tricks, because when he gets to an arena or stage with a tremendous amount of distractions, you want to be sure his attention will only be on you. You come up the ranks by going out to every school, hospital, nursing home, camp, horse show, horse club, etc. who will have you perform with your horses just so you can season them to all the distractions they could possibly encounter, and learn from your mistakes, before taking your show "on the road" and get paid for your performances. So there are going to be oodles of freebies you'll do just to get exposure. As your act gets more polished and in demand, you may need to get an agent (who will a "cut" of the jobs, too), get more elaborate outfits and really go "professional!" Most of all, though, your horses will really improve with the exposure, and you will learn so very much from each performance, trying to improve on the last one. As always, only teach one trick during your brief training session, but rehearse those tricks you have taught thoroughly first. Each one of your horses is an individual, and so will respond diferently.