What counts as a trick?
People, who don’t do trick training, often discount tricks as silly, pointless, even teaching bad habits.
We know better of course.
But seriously, what counts as a trick?
Smiling? Sure. Bowing? Yes. And also as a bit of horse yoga to get them stretching and limber, work those muscles. Spanish walk? It depends, are you calling it a trick or high school dressage. Side stepping towards you? I guess, unless it’s to get your horse to the mounting block so you can get on. Then it’s a much sought after ability that you see people on horse pages asking about constantly because they can’t get their horses up to the mounting block.
A trick is only defined as a trick by people. Horses don’t know the difference between trick training and all the rest of the training we do in their lives. Except maybe that they like the trick training part best.
In the teaching of tricks we are helping our horses learn to be confident and to trust us as well as how to listen when we ask them for something. Many tricks have very practical applications. Mat training teaches them to stand quietly and wait. A good recall means we never have to chase a horse down in the pasture. Pedestal training teaches them to be comfortable stepping onto different surfaces and makes trailer loading much easier.
We can of course teach tricks directly aimed at husbandry. A horse can be trained the wonderful trick of allowing you to give a shot or to happily eat worming medicine. Then there’s hoof care. So much easier to clean feet and trim when a horse picks their feet up as you point at them.
The principles of trick training can be used to better teach anything we want to do with our horses. By making the time we spend together enjoyable for horse and human, horses magically become easier to catch and more willing to work. Instead of fighting to accomplish goals we can work together and enjoy the time with our horses. That is the most useful trick of all.
- Cow Work
- The Downtrodden