Episode 67: Teaching horses tricks…or problems?

Can training horses to do tricks like rearing, bowing or lying down cause problems? I answer this question by using examples of six different horses to illustrate my answer…which is sometimes yes and sometimes no.
I also explain how I decide which horses are better candidates than others…and how timing does matter.

I discuss a comment left on the show notes of the last podcast and expand a bit more on the idea of dismounting as a way to avoid problems.

In keeping with the seasons theme, ‘What’s going on in my barn.’ I also take you behind the scenes and fill you in on the training progress with Willow, Gabby and Presto.

Click Here For The Full Show Notes

[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses in this podcast. I’ll give you an update on the horses, do some follow up on last week’s podcast and then answer a listener question about teaching horses tricks in the barn. There’s nothing really exciting to report on. I guess the most exciting thing might be that the mares are all starting to cycle, which means that they’re transitional in their cycles, which means they’re kind of friendly, but they’re kind of not. And last year, this proved to be a dangerous time of year for Presto who who couldn’t quite figure out why the mares were friendly one day and then really not friendly the next day. And he came in from the pasture sporting some pretty good kicks from not understanding why the day before they would really tolerate him scratching and pushing and shoving, and then the next day they were willing to kick his head off. So technically they were hitting him more on the shoulders. But anyway, we’ll see if Presto has learned anything over the last 12 months to see if he survives this season a little bit better. He’s always entertaining, I have to say. And riding wise, it’s kind of a plateau, which is really kind of nice, actually, because it means a couple things. It means that we can all get comfortable here. So all three, my horses have to be kind of in this plateau phase.

[00:01:53] And I think those are important to recognize because it doesn’t always have to be moving up. You can actually get really solid if you allow plateaus. And the other thing is that in a couple weeks, I’m headed to Washington State for a horse expo. So if you happen to be in the area, you can come out and see me at the at the Washington State Horse Expo. But the other thing it means for me at home is that a plateau right now would be really nice. I would actually I will actually try to keep this plateau going from now until I leave. And what that means is that as much as possible, I won’t introduce anything new. I don’t want to start something and leave it half unfinished. So the way that I like to approach my training is that I like to be able to predict and create and control the fact that we have kind of ups and downs. What that means is that instead of me reacting to the horses, I’m actually choosing how this moves. And right now, in order to maintain a plateau, that means not a lot of time off. So, I mean, they’ll get worked probably four or five days a week just depending on my schedule and I won’t introduce any new concept. So, for example, I won’t start doing lead changes on Gabby and Willow and kind of wake up something that I might not be able to kind of put away before I go on that trip.

[00:03:22] And then same thing with Presto. It’s like now with him, it’s a little more interesting because when you have the younger horses, sometimes they’ll ask a question that you have to answer. So a while back when I talked about spooking, those are questions where, yeah, I might not want it to happen, but I don’t have full control over it happening. But what this means is I won’t introduce any major new concepts to Presto and I’ll keep it kind of, you know, this medium. So it’s not such a light work that he’s more likely to be fresh and ask fresh kind of questions. And I won’t be introducing anything new to him that’s more likely to cause issues where later on when I get back and I want to move up through, I’ll introduce ideas that I fully know he won’t be able to fully do. But that’s how I’m going to stretch his comfort zone. So I basically am just spent a lot of words to say. I’m not going to stretch anybody’s comfort zone while we’re on this plateau. It’s kind of learning how to stay in the middle. And I think it’s valuable to know how to create that for periods of time. But I think it’s also super valuable to know how to take the training up and down so you can create these peaks of work and then you can back off and have weeks of low work, because I think it’s that compare and contrast that is just a beautiful thing to do in horse training.

[00:04:46] I’d like to do a little follow up from last week’s podcast. There was a comment left over at the show, notes from Roisin (Rosheen). I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly and I’ve abbreviated it here. But feel free to jump over and read the full comment over there. I abbreviated it because of the one main point that I would like to make and what the comment says is,

[00:05:09] “I also thank you for allowing the notion that it’s OK to dismount and walk your horse at anytime you feel that’s the safest option. The other day my horse became slightly anxious while trail riding, so I dismounted and we walked for a while until I noticed him completely relax. And then I got back on and rode. I wanted to share that moment that I dismounted and walked with him, and I stressed with him not so much leading him. He immediately changed. I could see his confidence increase when he realized I was with him. We are a team and I am his leader. Thanks again and keep up the podcasting. Well, thank you for your comment, Roisin (Rosheen).”

[00:05:49] And it made me remember something else that I could have mentioned for anybody who is worried about dismounting, becoming a reward for nervousness or poor behavior in your horse.

[00:06:02] I think this is the answer dismount more often. So I think a lot of times this is what people do, they think in their mind, if my horse is acting up a little bit, I propose the idea of like dismounting at a 15 percent drop last week. So if the horse is acting up a little bit, you’re afraid to get off because you’re afraid you’ll reward that problem. But if you can remember back to me talking about clinics that I hold here at my house and I’ve mentioned that I have people get on and off a lot. I bet if I timed it, they’re probably on for 15 or 20 minutes and then off and sometimes they’re on for seven minutes and then off, but they’re on and off a lot. It’s like a workout just on and off. And there are all kinds of reasons for that. But one of the big reasons is because I want to reward the horses. And so in my world, I didn’t mention last week in the podcast in my world, there’s already so much on and off that it’s not going to stand out as this glaring thing, like, oh, I got a little bit nervous and they got off because I get on and off a lot.

[00:07:13] I like to work on ground tying. Maybe I’ll be riding a horse. I will dismount, ground tie my horse…Go use the restroom…Come back, mount back up on my horse. I will dismount, ground tie my horse…Go do something else…Come back. So there is a lot of on and off of my horses that is unrelated to their behavior. And then there’s a fair amount that is related to good behavior. So with that mix, the problem of dismounting with a 10 percent loss the couple times that you or a 15 percent loss when you’re on the trail, it is so mixed in that it doesn’t become this big stand out moment. And the other thing that this made me remember when I was reading this comment is that you might have heard me talk last year, that I was doing some trail running with Willow, which meant that I would saddle up, get on ride about five or 10 minutes out, dismount and do like a walk/run program on my own two feet leading her. And then when we would get to water, I would get on, ride across the water, get off. And it was really funny to see Willow’s reaction to that. The first few times that I did it because she was like, yeah, this is really weird. And that made me remember that when we first moved here, Jesse and I left for a trail ride because we lived behind a state park.

[00:08:37] All kinds of trails. And we left for a trail ride at probably 2:00 in the afternoon. And it was in the summer. And we started riding and it was a combination. I’m going to say maybe we misjudge it somewhat..lost, not exactly lost. A little bit lost but definitely disoriented as to where we were and totally misjudged how long it was gonna be. So by the time we actually got turned around the direction that we thought we should be in, it turned out to be right. It was clear we were getting home after dark. And it was also clear that the horses were going to have been out on like an I forget what it turned out. Five our trail. Just some crazy thing. It was like ridiculously long because of the confusion. And as we were getting closer to home, we knew where we were on the trails at this point. We knew how far we had to go. But we also knew the horses were a little tired because they weren’t as fit as we would have had them for a trail ride like this. And so we decided to start getting off and leading them from time to time, especially up the hills. And these were two older horses that were more seasoned and had been around the block. And it was really funny.

[00:09:48] I’m not kidding you when we got off and led them up the really steep hill that’s out back here. I think if you could have done a little cartoon of their jaws like hanging and it wasn’t just you would stop and you’d be catching your breath because, you know, you’d walk one hundred feet up this hill, that was like really steep and you’d stop and be catching your breath. And the horse was catching like they were there, both mares. They were catching their breath and they’re looking at you like, what are you doing? This is the strangest thing. And it was really funny, but this was several years ago and it just really drove home that idea that it’s like these horses are experiencing things with us and they’re definitely having thoughts about, you know, about work and about what this means. And horses have all kinds of different thoughts about what’s going on. And for sure, if you want to surprise your horse, then this is not part of your normal routine. Go out for a ride and dismount and lead them because it’s it’s worth the look on their face. They’re kind of funny. But what’s it like to transition into now is answering a question that came in over on my voice mail line that you can access on my website. This is a question from Sarah.

[00:10:59] “Hi, Stacy. It’s Sarah from Ontario. Again, thank you for answering my last question. I’m excited because I just signed up for your online courses, so I’m really looking forward to listening to those and using the audio guides while I work with my horses. My question for you is I’ve heard mixed messages about teaching tricks to your horses. So things like bowing or laying down or rearing up intentionally or, you know, the types of tricks you think of when you think of Western movies. And I’m just wondering if it is true or false, whether teaching those types of things to your horses is good for them or bad for them, or if it interferes with their training in other ways. Or are there ways you can do it that are better and more appropriate? Or are there certain tricks that are okay and certain tricks that you should avoid because they might encourage bad habits? Thank you again so much for all of the content. And it just gets me through the winter months in Canada when I can’t do a lot of riding because of the snow and the darkness, and I can at least listen to the podcasts and now watch the videos. It has really helped me get through the winter. Thank you.”

[00:12:19] Thank you for your question, Sarah. And I just had to smile when I was listening to it because I’m going to answer it like this. The question. True or false? My answer is true and false. So let’s take a look at why I arrive at that. And I want to do this by looking at four different horses that I’ve trained to do these different tricks throughout my life. I’ve trained more horses than this, but I want to highlight four different horses. And another thing I want to highlight is the age I was at when I was dealing with some of this, because I think maybe age experience will experience more than age, but you’ll see that because I start at age six in my examples, that age might be slightly related to experience, at least in that one. But just think about me at different ages and the different horses and what you can hear ringing in these answers, where maybe the answer is that it could be true that it could possibly cause problems and that it could be false, that it could cause problems. And let’s see how that plays out. The first horse that I want to talk about was my very first equine partner, and that would have been Misty and I would have been age six, and she came to me already knowing some tricks and her number one trick was rearing.

[00:13:47] This was a trained cue trick that she would do and she would rear on command. And when we got her, the first thing we were told was that we should never pull back on the reins and kick at the same time. That was her cue to rear. So, of course, do you know exactly the first thing that a 6-year-old wants to do if you tell them they can’t do that? Of course. But my mom was really, really good and my mom really explained a lot of things. And she even taught us how to do the cue so it wasn’t a problem. So Misty had been passed around a lot from family to family because she did this trick. And when kids would do it, they could scare themselves. So my mom taught us how to do it and not scare ourselves. And really, even now, looking back as a professional and looking back, there are times when I look back at the first horse I owned and it was a train wreck. There were all kinds of stuff that was going on that was dangerous and all kinds of interesting things that I can go back and I can remember all the mistakes I have to say. Looking back, that pony was so honest, she did not abuse this rearing trick, which is quite miraculous actually when you have a pony involved in this with kids anyway.

[00:15:10] So her rearing trick did cause problems, which it caused her to be passed from home to home because of the number of people that weren’t equipped to handle this cue. And it was false because in the right hands she was with us for the whole rest of her life. And so it was a great thing. And she never abused it. And there were all kinds of fun memories that I have about her knowing this trick. So that’s the first horse and the first example. Then we jump to me at age 22 and my first foal that I raised. So I had Misty my pony and then I had Bay. You’ll never guess what color she was. That was my first horse. And I bred her once and I got Scrapper and Scrapper went to college with me, which is a whole nother story. But he went to the University of Findlay with me. But about the age of 22, I was 22 and he was around three. I started teaching him to bow, but back then I did bow with a carrot. So basically luring him down into a bow. So by luring him down into about this requires a hungry horse. And it requires that you can kind of like kind of almost kneel down in this awkward position to to bring the horse’s head down between their legs and down and underneath.

[00:16:41] But I’ll tell you that, first of all, it never became a standalone cue that I could just. It never became a standalone trick that I could just cue because the cue was always the carrot. And if he had like enough to you know, if he was satisfied from other treats or other things we’d done, he would be like. No, I don’t feel like bowing. And that kind of left me with a not committed horse, but it also didn’t cause any problems. So this half functional, half dysfunctional trick training didn’t cause any problems because it was basically almost like, have you ever seen a horse do a carrot, bend? Like maybe you’ll have a chiropractor come and they’ll say, you know, ask the horse to bend around to the side, like back where your saddle would be, but lure them around with a carrot and they can stretch themselves that way. So that’s called like a carrot bend. Basically, I was doing like a glorified bowing carrot bend. So no harm, no foul, no side effect except for horses trying to eat carrots between their legs. They’re completely blind down there, so beware. There’s just like flapping lips trying to grab for food. So that’ll be my only caution there. Then we have me at age. Mm hmm.

[00:17:55] This is funny because this is the one that has the least negative consequences and I can’t remember the age. So this tells you that the problems kind of help highlight things. So me somewhere around age 33, 34 and Popcorn, the horse that I won the Road to the Horse with. I taught him. He probably I’m trying to think if there’s any horse that has more tricks that I’ve trained at one at one spot, but I trained him to bow, to lie down and to sit and to do some different things like that. And really, no real. No real negative consequences there. There was a time period when you’re teaching them to bow in particular, that I always said that when I’m teaching one about maybe you like have the farrier do their work and then begin your bowing training because depending on the horse I’ve taught a lot of horses to bow, sometimes some of them will get this idea that like you pick up their foot, they can bow. It is very tiny window. It’s like a little tiny question. And if you answer it with no, it goes away really quickly. But if I were going to try to like try to, you know, come up with some kind of a problem, that could happen. There’s a little bit of a glitch that can happen there. If you pick up their foot and they think a little bit about laying down or bowing, because the way I teach the lay down is completely different.

[00:19:18] So it doesn’t get triggered. But. You know, he never really, never really caused any kind of problems. And he’s a really smart horse and he never, never picked up and did anything with that. So I don’t know. Oh, that reminds me. Because in this list… was sitting. So actually when I rewind. So it would have been me between the ages of like I was probably. Mm hmm. Let’s just say that maybe I was maybe I was eight or nine. I wasn’t very old. My friend and I used to ride and she had a young, young gelding that was just really quiet. And we I’m from Maine and the snow had been plowed up and we were riding in the driveway because there was nowhere else to ride. And we were messing around and she was backing up her horse and she backed it up and accidentally without thinking back to it, kind of into a snowbank. And this is like we’re talking like a decent size snowbank. So it actually would get that C shape of the snowplow pushed into it. And it happened to make him sit down because he kind of just pushed his horse over underneath and sat down and he was super quiet.

[00:20:24] Of course, two little girls, we just cracked up and we thought it was funny. And he was like, okay. They like it. So the horse stood up and I’m like, do that again. And so she backed him up again. Well, by the time we hit summertime, you could get any kind of a ditch. You could just back up. And when he would bump into something like that, he would just sit down. So technically, we taught to sit down at a really early age, just playing around with horses. Way back then. And that horse never abused in any kind of a way. So there I’ll just add that to the list.

[00:20:24] But now we get to the one that might be the most interesting as far as can this cause problems? So me around the age of 40, I’ve got a fair amount of experience at this point. And Newt, if you’ve been on my YouTube channel in the video where I’m riding to Starbucks, it’s one of my favorite videos. I think it was just it was really fun. It’s on my YouTube channel and I’m navigating on the way to Starbucks while riding my horse. Newt is the horse that is in that Starbucks video. And it was interesting because I decided to teach him some tricks while we were out on the road.

[00:21:32] So we’d sold our house. We were driving around and I was teaching him some different tricks and I taught him to lie down. And it was kind of interesting because my husband’s a professional trainer also. And I was teaching Newt and Jesse said, I don’t know if you should teach him that, you know, he might just do it. And that could be really inconvenient when you’re showing him. And I said, oh, no, that’s not a problem. You know, I’ve taught this all kinds of different times and it’s not a problem. So, of course, you’d know how the story ends, right? So I taught him. I taught him to lie down. And the way that I do it, I teach them to bring all of their feet. I teach and to bring their back feet up close to their front feet and drop their head down. And that brings him into a position that’s very close to what they would do when they’re in the pasture to lie down. And so I keep bringing them into this position and and I teach him to lie down like that. So he had it. And it was in this. I’m gonna say that there’s whenever you teach a trick, it’s not that different than teaching a dog a trick. When you teach a trick, there’s this window where they kind of want to give that answer more frequently than normal.

[00:22:42] And technically, even when you go back, when I think about raising my kids, there’s that same window when you’re teaching kids different things, like there’s just it’s fresh on the top of their mind. So Newt was very well-trained at this point, had been shown in training and all this stuff. And I happened to be teaching him to lie down on cue from the ground only because this was the deal I made with my husband. I’m like, he won’t ever transition over because I’m not going to cue it from on his back. I’m just going to cue it from on the ground because I might sell this horse someday. And I don’t need him, like you’re saying, like accidentally just lying down. So I train him and I’m out riding him one day. And we’re still within that window of it being new enough that it must be on their minds more. And this is kind of interesting. Follow along. I’m sitting on his back. I’ve never cued this from his back before. And my cue, just to make it a little more clear, my cue to lie down is literally tapping the middle of the bottom of their belly. It was the furthest thing I thought you could ever touch when riding. So I thought if I tap them underneath the belly and teach them the cue from under here, there is no chance this is going to be triggered.

[00:23:50] So I’m riding him and I’m practicing reining. And I asked him to do a left lead departure. And so if you can picture me sitting on a reining horse and I’m standing like in the middle of the pen, middle of the show arena, I’m practicing at home and I’m pretending I’m going to move over, move his hip, I’m gonna move his hip to the left, I’m going to take the left lead. I move his hip to the left and the reins are very loose. We can do whatever he wants with his head. And he would put his head down a little bit lower and he’s kind of prepared. So he’s got his head a little bit lower. I move his hip over when I move that hip. They kind of are moving the hip over but up underneath a little bit too, at the same time. And I’m doing this just with leg cues and I’m moving him forward and up like that because he needs to feel like a little ball of energy. Like you shake up a can of soda or pop or soda pop. You shake up this can and you need this energy ready to go as soon as you cue for the lope because he’s standing still and he needs to go from a standstill to a lope.

[00:24:49] Well, this physically has him kind of bring his hand up on hind end up underneath him and kind of ball up like this and because he’s on a loose rein, and he’s choosing to put his head down? Yeah. Guess who decided to fill in the dots on his own? Fill in the blanks on his own. At this this moment. So Newt notices as I’m getting ready to ask him to lope off. He has loped off a thousand times. Compare especially he’s looked of hundreds and hundreds of times compared to the handful of times he’s laid down, even on the like my groundwork stuff.

[00:25:24] But what he saw he saw the commonness between my head is low. She’s bringing my legs close together. I think I’ll try this. And he buckled his front knees and went to lie down. Now, me being a professional at this point, I’m like, this is not a good choice. My husband is definitely right in the arena because this is going to happen with him watching. So Newt buckles his knees and he goes down onto his knees. Well, I kick him with both legs to say no. Like, I kind of, like, bump him with both legs to say no. Well, he stops now. He’s on two knees. I’m sitting on him. My husband is giving me that. Look, the I told you so. Look, that doesn’t even need words. And I’m like, oh, man, because I know Newt. I raised him. So I know at this point I know he’s not the athletic type in the sense of like he’s not going to explode and jump up from this. In fact, he’s slightly confused because he was on his way to lie down nice and polite, because, by the way, Newt is naturally lazy from day one all the way through.

[00:26:33] He’s been lazy. This is why I believe he filled in this dot, because let’s take Popcorn. Who knows the same exact stuff and does all the same stuff. Never tried this, but Popcorn is not lazy. I think Newt was like, I’ve been learning the coolest trick ever, which is the laziest trick ever, which is like lie down and eat treats. So Newt saw the similarities and he was like, yes, this is everything I’ve ever wanted when being ridden. So he dropped to his knees. And as soon as I bumped him with both legs, he went, Oh, OK, this is wrong. But I also went, oh, this horse, I’m not going to like do whatever it would take to make him try to jump up from this. So now. He’s got he’s down on his knees. His butt is way up in the air. This is a totally awkward position to be sitting on. If you haven’t ever done this before. So I step off knowing that this is like maybe this is not a good time to be dismounting from your horse. But I step off and.

[00:27:38] And then I ask him to move forward. Step right back on. Knowing that there’s a ninety-nine percent chance of what’s about to come next. And it does. So I step off. I mount up. I set up the exact same queue system again, because it’s very important to me that we answer this question right now. So I set up exactly the same queue system, but this time I’m prepared and I feel that kind of buckling motion. And I just go, bump bump bump bump bump. Like I call it Woody Woodpecker. But my husband informed me that this is too old of a reference anymore. So everybody knows what a woodpecker is, right? So sometimes when I’m kicking, my horses are what I call bumping. It’s just like a quick it’s a quick bump above a bump. And it’s this quick enough that it is very clear to them that it’s not correct, but it’s not harsh. It doesn’t have to be super hard. It just has to be very quick, quick, quick. So I go bump, bump, bump, bump. And he’s slightly confused, but he’s not actually. He hasn’t actually started to buckle and go down and we trot forward. And I literally set the same thing up four or five times in a row.

[00:28:39] I would push his hip over. He would he always naturally dropped his head down. He would drop it down. I would feel just the tiniest thought, like let’s say that it was like a like well, obviously, the first time it was 100 percent thought. That’s how we ended up on his knees. And then like the second time, let’s say it was like…it got to like 75 percent thought because he was like, I’m really confident that this should be I really want this to be the answer. But I went bump, bump, bump, bump, bump and trotted him forward. Well, then the next time a move is hip over and I only at that it’s a big, pretty big jump down because I answered the question so quickly. He probably maybe it was like a 40 percent thought like there were just a little bit more of a hitch in the thought about moving forward than what was normal. So I bump, bump, bump and then he then the next time I ask him, maybe there was only like a like a 10 percent thought of it and I bump, bump, bump. And then I just stay aware. So this is how I quickly answer the question to the horse that no, this is not what I want.

[00:29:38] So it wasn’t harsh. It wasn’t mean. But I did trigger it in quick succession over and over again just to be able to say, here’s the question. No, that’s the wrong. Here’s the question. No, that’s the wrong answer. Here’s the question. No, that’s the wrong answer. And I did not stop doing my groundwork bowing because at this point I was like, we might as well finish this both places or lying down, sorry. And so I kept doing that on the ground. I just made it really clear to him that, no, that was not the answer on the back. And then actually months later, I did transition it to an on the back lie down cue also and it was never a problem ever again. And I did eventually sell him and the lady that owns him now. Molly. Molly owns him now and she’s never had a problem and he’s been ridden by other people and he gives trail rides to little kids and he does all this stuff and it’s never an issue. So moral of the story, it’s true and false and for sure. Part of it that can be true is there is a window of time in there when there’s a bigger chance for it to be an issue.

[00:30:49] And in that window of time, you could cause a problem. So, for example, with Newt and the lie-down, if I hadn’t answered that, if I had gotten off and I hadn’t answered that question right away, that could have become a thing. Which makes me remember when I was in college, when I was in college, I saw someone accidentally teach their horse to lie down because there’s a window of time when you’re teaching spin that they can get dizzy. And they can get dizzy, just like ballerinas can get dizzy or anything else. And so this horse got dizzy. And they don’t get. You don’t notice they’re dizzy when they’re spinning. You don’t notice it when you say, well, when they stop. Well, this horse was spinning. The young lady said, Whoa. The horse stopped. And then it just kind of politely laid down. And it was kind of really funny because most horses don’t have that thought. A lot of times they kind of stagger a little bit and they get through this really quickly. Well, this one laid down. Well, of course, everyone, the arena cracked up because this is a very unusual set of circumstances. But. Everybody cracked up and the horse recovered and the horse got up.

[00:31:57] And then. A day or two later, it happened again.

[00:32:01] And then it happened again and it became that this horse would spin a number of revolutions and then automatically lie down on its own. I think this is the coolest stuff in the world when you can see this stuff come together because you can literally at the moment. This is why I’ve always loved problem horses because I love looking at what people want to label as problems. It’s a glimpse into the horse’s mind. It’s a glimpse into how this logic is working. And this when you look at it …the idea that it’s a problem when you look at it, this is totally exactly what the horse was rewarded for.

[00:32:39] And so, yes, this horse ended up having a spin to lay down transition. We all left for the summer. I don’t know exactly how that ended. So maybe off to reach out and find out. But. Moral of the story, technique matters. Also, the horse’s temperament matters, and you know, my recommendation from last week for trail riding, I recommended that one the things you can do is picture the worst-case scenario and figure out how you would handle it. And so you can do that here. So you can imagine that, for example, if you teach your horse to smile, which is just lifting up their upper lip, you’re like, OK. Worst case scenario, my horse is smiling. OK, where’s this gonna be like a worst case scenario? Well, let’s just say you’re gonna go show it a really big horse show and you show and showmanship classes. And so you’re thinking I could go into this showmanship class. I could be in the runoff for a championship and I could be standing there and switch sides and my horse might smile at the judge. So you can think make your decision. Do you want to introduce this trick into your horse’s world? How does it overlap with the rest of what’s going on with your horse? Because really, at the end of the day, your horse smiles at the judge. You’re probably not going to go so well for the showmanship class, but you’ll probably make a really famous video online. So could be, you know, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Some of the other tricks you can see where there could be more issues.

[00:34:09] I have hesitated. I have been so close. I’ve taught horses to rear from the ground. Like you can see videos of Roxy doing that. I’ve taught horses to rear from the ground, but I haven’t taught any to rear from the back because I sit, I get to I get the chance to go out to dinner with these professionals and talk. And that is one of those tricks that people, professional horse trainer people, and they are a little bit more like you got to be careful about that one. And I can appreciate it because I saw the problems that it caused my pony when even when she wasn’t the one that was kind of taking advantage of it. But then you take what I just taught you about Newt and you go, well, there could be a horse that could be more likely to take advantage of that. You know, if you teach it as a ridden trick and then I just think as a professional myself, I think, well, which horse would be most likely to do that? Well, the horse that practices that all the time. So Newt was lazy, so lying down came natural to him. If you see one that rears all the time or you spent, you know, the first year of riding and had this huge rearing problem, maybe this horse would be, you know, of one that would abuse it more, but maybe not, because basically then today you just have to have an answer to the question when they ask it.

[00:35:23] So when Newt says, hey, I get this brilliant idea and really, I’d been teaching that idea the whole time. So it’s kind of a compliment that he’s taking hold of that idea, but it’s also a mistake. You just have to have a confident way to answer that mistake. So thanks again for the question. I hope that gives you plenty of food for thought. The last one I’ll leave you with because I just can’t stop talking. I really like this question is that when you can look at all horse training as tricks, all of a sudden it will free you up a lot more for what’s possible.

[00:35:59] A trick that would be awesome to work on if you were, say, in Canada in the freezing cold would be being able to have your horse move around the stall while you stand in the doorway. Can you stand in the doorway as signal to your horse? Horse side pass up against the back wall with your left side facing me. Good job. Now horse pivot. Bring your head towards me. And now take your side up against the other wall. So first your left side was to me. Now I want you to to turn towards me, face me and then turn. And now you’re right side is towards me. And then now, horse, I want you to back up and stand along the left hand wall with your right side facing me. OK, horse.

[00:36:44] Now I want you to turn your head to the inside of the stall and then pivot and put your opposite side up against the wall. These are really helpful.

[00:36:55] If you want to be to clean a stall with a horse without them trying to dump the wheelbarrow or leave through the door or anything. But it’s a trick. I remember going back to the University of Findlay and I remember teaching and I remember telling the students I remember when I was here, I remember hating teaching horses showmanship because I just want to be on riding. And I didn’t want to teach them how to stand square and how to pivot on the correct pivot foot and how to do all this. But now when I look back, it was trick training.

[00:37:25] It’s all true training. And that’s just one way you can look at it. But that’s what I have for you this week. Thank you for listening. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.


Links mentioned in podcast:


  1. KAREN L FORGIONE on February 26, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    I took a negative behavior or pawing at feeding time ,that left holes two feet deep, and turned it into a say please. My mare will hold her foot tucked under her chest for her feed. She will hold it up and hold it higher and higher til it is so tucked under her chest if can’t go any higher. It worked out well. It’s quite cute. She gets her head all tucked up with it also.

    • Claudia Jones on July 22, 2020 at 5:31 pm

      That’s so cute! What a great idea. I have one that paws too. This would be a good one for him.

Leave a Comment

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.