All horse training is trick training, right?

I have posted several videos of my horse, Newt, learning how to stand on a box and I have received lots of feedback. Most of the comments are fun, or people have questions about the box, but a few were more bold in calling it 1) unnecessary, 2) dangerous or 3) ‘just a trick’.

In my blog titled What’s the purpose behind getting a horse to stand on a box? I explain some of the benefits. I understand that not everyone wants to do this type of stuff but that doesn’t mean that it is without benefits. I actually think that it was part of the success that I had in teaching my horses to ride bridleless…which also isn’t necessary.

In my blog titled Newt conquers standing on the box…but what motivates my horse? I describe how children, at a very young age, are allowed to play on things like this and even bigger at a playground…but some people feel more of a need to protect the horse. It is interesting to me that a horse or a dog can learn to be responsible. Think of a seeing-eye dog. That is an animal that has been taught responsibility. At some point people, dogs and horses that grow up to be responsible are given challenges, allowed to learn from their mistakes and are held accountable.

That leaves the idea that this is ‘just a trick’, which I happen to agree with.

Teaching a horse to stand on a box is a trick… but when I stop to think about where did I cross that line? Was it ‘just a trick’ when I taught the horse to come to me? To lower his head? To accept the bridle, the saddle, the rider?

Or better yet, lets ask the question: Which of those were not tricks? If you ask the person who cannot catch their horse if catching is ‘tricky’ they may even say yes…and most would happily agree to learn that trick. If saddling becomes ‘tricky’ is it because the horse hasn’t learned that trick yet?

Maybe all horse training is trick training…or maybe if all horse training WAS viewed as trick training everyone would have more fun.




  1. Lesia Lowe on January 20, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Stacy??…… if you have the time to answer……just curious……. what is your FAVORITE trick to teach a horse?? ….and do all of your horses know tricks??

  2. johanna on January 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    there are SO MANY great reasons why teaching Newt, or any horse, to stand on a box is great endeavor!
    not the least of which, it increases the level of communication and deepens the relationship between the horse and human. i taught both my my little American Pitbull Terriers (and others’ dogs) to climb up a high jungle gym ladder, slide down the longest, largest slides, balance on the high bars and stop, go and come from the top of very high narrow stone walls, as directed. they absolutely LOVE it and the extra level of trust and communication that results from it has served me and my clients well in every public and private scenario.

    stacy you are also so spot on with the ”responsibility” discussion–in my experience most domestic animals can learn it, and love it. and it’s a win-win situation all ’round–animals (and humans, kids) feel good when they learn self responsibility–they feel more secure because they feel more in control of their environment. learning increasingly difficult tasks come with a sense of accomplishment and joy that are very gratifying pursuits for both the animal and the human.

  3. Lynda Lafontaine on January 15, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Good on you Stacy. You should not have had to explain…but you did it well…your success speaks volumes…keep up the good work. Horses love challenges and love to learn in a caring, safe environment. Most horses need a leader..a kind, intelligent leader. Most also need a job and are happier and mentally healthier with a job.

  4. Anita on January 15, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    so true about learning or trick
    a horse that is not learning is bored

  5. Laura on January 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I agree with what people have been saying. I think that everything you do, whether positive or negative can and will affect your relationship with your horse.

  6. horsegentler on January 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Wow, I love that view! But how do you train a horse to come to you? I’ve only figured as far as keeping him from running away, but if I can get him to come, that would be just awesome.

  7. Janette on January 15, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Where do we draw the line? Just as soon as we put a fence around any animal it becomes our responsibility to care for their mental and physical health. Is eating from a bucket natural or a trick? Is eating from a haynet natural or a trick? Just because some things the horses learn with little effort from us doesn’t mean it is not a trick. Too many take for granted that it is a privilege, not a right to have an animal as a pet. What gives us the right to grant animals with a job, anyway?
    I live in the wilderness surrounded by the wild and I see many naturally cruel things, nature can be very cruel. We as humans should be humane not natural, if we choose to domesticate anything. A well trained animal has a much greater chance of a human life.

    Just as we learn to advance our capabilitys the animals can also. Why stop at what is considered normal? If we must domesticate them.

    I have found teaching a horse to stand on a box has many benefits for their physical and mental health. If we choose to ride a horse it becomes our responsibility to teach them the safest way to carry our unnatural weight on their back. Teaching them to get their hind quarter under them is for their benefit if we are going to ride them. The box is a unique way to help the horse understand they can move their hind feet under their body. It is a reflex for a horse to move it’s front foot to make way for the back foot to come forward. The box “trick” really gets them thinking.

    Every horse I have trained to stand on the box is empowered mentally and physically. Once they understand it is possible for them to keep their front feet still while bringing their back feet forward, they love the box “trick”.

  8. Cher Golden Lago on January 15, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you. Very well said. Another thought is that you never should have had to explain. Thanks again.

  9. lauryn zepeda on January 15, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Stacy your my hero! What an open mind. I am super passionate about positive reinforcement and how far I can go with it. I get comments how you mentioned all the time! To see role model of mine address this is AWESOME! Thank you!

  10. Rene on January 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    There are two ways to train …. brute force or praise and reinforcement. I know where I stand… my horse will play interact and ride bitless. He is my partner forever…

  11. mrsjohnnyboy on January 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree Stacy! Every task you teach your horse (or allow them to learn) is building on the bond and mutual respect you have with your horse. I realize there are certain things they need to learn to do their job, but the actual task (or trick) itself is not the important part really. It’s about furthering their willingness and scope of learning so they can navigate any forthcoming challenges with less fear and more confidence. I am planning to teach my horse the box ‘trick’. Thanks for sharing all that you do. I thoroughly enjoy it.

  12. Kym Calvert on January 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I think spending time bonding with your horse is always a productive exercise. As long as you are taking safe measures, what is wrong with doing any type of activity? Keep up the good work representing a true horse lover using very successful training techniques. Your success speaks volumes.

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