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Trick Training for Horses
Teaching Your Horse To Nod "Yes"
WRITTEN BY: Carole Fletcher

Assemble the equipment needed for this trick: a pointed object, like a nail, a whip approximately 39"long.

Rehearse the "No" question with your horse first, refreshing his memory. Have a halter and lead rope on your horse, holding the head so he can move it around.

Step 1:
Standing at the horse's left shoulder and facing forward with the lead rope in your left hand, take a pointed object, such as a nail (as in the "no" question), in your right hand and lightly prick your horse on the chest. If the horse bites at your hand, you are pricking too hard! The horse, acting as if a fly bit him on the chest, will bring his head down to bite at the fly. The moment the horse makes any downward movement with his head, reward him with a small piece of carrot and praise him generously.

Try various places on the chest to get the result you want. Each horse has a spot that is more responsive than another, and you, the trainer, should find the spot that works best for your horse. The nail is the reinforcing aid for this movement. Gradually you will eliminate it. Try twice more, and return your horse to his corral for an hour.

Step 2:
Decide what question you want the horse to respond "yes" to. For example, "Do you love me?" Your tone of voice is important here, so make it a question. Stand by the horse’s left shoulder and cue with the nail on the chest, same as before. Your horse should make some movement down and up with his head. For any likeness of a nod, reward him with a carot and try several more times, rewarding generously. Return him to his stall or corral.

Step 3:
Repeat as in Step 2 only substitute the butt end of the whip for the nail, tapping him with it. Reward often and only return to using the nail if he doesn’t respond to the whip. Return him to his stall or corral.

Step 4:
In the final phase, the horse begins to respond to the whip before it actually touches his chest. After he successfully responds several times, reward him and put him away.

Soon, just by pointing the whip at his chest and asking the question, he will respond by nodding "yes". When he is reliably doing so, you can ask him any question you like. You can toss any playful question at him and he will give you the answer straight from the horse’s mouth!

Note: As your horse performs the trick more reliably, reduce the amount of treats, and praise and pats will be reward enough.

 - 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 your 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.

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