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Trick Training for Horses
Teaching Your Horse To Shake His Head "No"
WRITTEN BY: Carole Fletcher
This trick is based on the natural reflex action of a horse shaking his head when a fly bites him on the neck. The following procedures may be taught several times a day, for short periods. In the beginning of all trick-training, the horse’s attention span is very short, so several brief sessions are recommended, and only when the horse is attentive and quietly standing still and relaxed.
Have a halter and lead rope on your horse and keep him from moving off with the lead rope in your left hand. Do not hold his head tightly since this will keep him from shaking it. Stand on the left side of the horse and with some pointed object, such as a nail, in your right hand, prick his neck lightly near the withers (you are trying to simulate a fly bite). Be sure and prick lightly, do not jab. Experiment until you find the right spot that produces a head shake. If he shakes his head slightly, reward with a small piece of carrot, pat and praise him. Ask a couple of more times, then put the horse away for an hour or so.
Prick the same spot one more until your horse responds slighly and reward the same as above, only this time, add a question requiring a "no" answer, using a certain tone of voice and allowing the last word to fall; For example, "Are you a bad boy?" Repeat this several times in one session, then put him away.
Standing in the same position, cue the horse with a prick, but use the butt end of a whip to tap him. If he doesn’t respond with a head shake when you have asked the question and used the whip, go back and use the nail as before to remind him. Praise him lavishly for a correct response. Repeat this several times in one session, then put him away.
Eventually, when you cue the horse with the whip and your hand starts to approach the horse’s withers or neck, your horse should respond to your question by shaking his head.
Note: Consistency is the key to teaching these tricks--same position, same question, same cue with your hand and later on the whip. When he knows it well, then you can ask any questions you like of him.
Congratulations--your horse is now talking back to you!
- Basics of Trick Training
1. Teach your horse to act "Ashamed"
2. Teach your horse to shake his head "No"
3. Teach your horse to nod his head "Yes"
4. Teach a horse to "Smile"
Carole Fletcher has trained and performed with several trick and high school exhibition horses for more than 23 years on the East Coast at state fairs, rodeos, expos, horse shows, parades, camps, schools, and on TV commercials and advertising promos. She presently performs exhibitions and gives clinics with her Paint stallion, “Heza Night Train.” She operates Singin’ Saddles Ranch at 8100 NW 120th St., Reddick, FL 32686. She has a video available, “Training the Trick Horse,” that can be ordered through her online at: www.trickhorse.com. You can also order it by phoning: 352-369-0950. There is also a new book available by Carole Fletcher, "Trickonometry: Secrets of Teaching Your Horse Tricks." This book can be ordered at her website, www.trickhorse.com.