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Teach Your Horse to Shake Hands
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [1997]



This trick is a little more difficult to teach. If you haven't already, I'd recommend starting with a few simpler tricks such as the Hug and the Kiss. Equipment that you'll need: a long dressage whip and a bucket of your horse's favorite grain.

The Shake is a somewhat difficult trick to teach. You will need alot of patience. Take your time, and complete each lesson thoroughly.

Be aware that teaching this trick incorrectly will cause a dangerous habit to form: pawing or striking. This bad habit is not learned from these lessons if taught correctly (on command only), but inconsistent cues and/or follow-up training will invite this bad behavior. Can you be consistent and patient enough to teach this trick?

Each session should be no longer than 15 minutes. However, it is best to do 2-3 short sessions a day, with a few hours between each one. The horse will remember these lessons better if they are short and often.

Take your time and don't move to the next lesson until your horse has learned the previous one thoroughly. This will avoid confusion for your horse.

When teaching this trick, it is easiest to have your horse tied (and away from distractions). This way you don't have to hold him while teaching him to raise his leg up to shake.

Always end the lesson on a good note...if this means you must go back and practice the previous lesson at the end of each session...do it. This will benefit your horse in many ways.


Lesson One:

The first thing you need to teach your horse is to raise his leg with the light tap of a whip on his knee or cannon bone.

1. You'll start off by standing beside the leg you want him to shake with.

2. Tap his knee or cannon bone with the whip for 2-3 seconds (very lightly - the whip should never be used roughly - it is simply an extention of your arm). As you tap verbally say "Shake". Once you stop tapping, do not give any further verbal cues (only while you are tapping).

3. Right after you have tapped his leg with the whip, run your and down his leg and lift his foot (as if to pick it out). Put the foot down gently.

4. Immediately give him a bite of his favorite treat - so he knows that he did something good, (have the bucket close to you for easy, quick access) and praise him verbally.

5. As you progress with this lesson, begin to move to the front of the horse and tap his leg from in front of him.

Repeat this lesson until he learns to pick his foot up with only the whip cue. This may take a few minutes, or even a few weeks - depending on how consistent you are with your cues. The very first time your horse picks his foot up on his own, off of your cue...praise him very generously!


Lesson Two:

The second thing you need to teach your horse is to bring his foot forward when he raises it.

1. Start off by practicing a couple repetitions of lesson one. If he has forgotten how to do this, go back and teach lesson one over again (horses learn best through repetition).

2. Stand in front of your horse and ask him to raise his leg by tapping lightly on his knee or cannon bone, verbally say "Shake".

3. When he raises his leg, take a gentle hold on his pastern and stretch his leg slightly forward. (Be careful when doing this to avoid over-stretching your horse's limb).

4. Gently set your horse's leg back on the ground, give him a bite of his favorite grain, and praise him.

Repeat this lesson until he learns to pick his foot up and bring it forward on his own off your cue. The very first time your horse does this on his own, off of your cue...praise him very generously!


Lesson Three:

The third thing you need to teach your horse is to bring his foot up and forward without the cue from the whip - with only the verbal cue.

1. Start off by practicing a couple repetitions of lesson two. If he has forgotten how to do this, go back and teach lesson two over again.

2. Stand in front of your horse and this time, verbally say "Shake" without cueing with the whip.

3. Wait about 2-3 seconds for his response. If there is no response, tap him with the whip and ask to "Shake" again.

4. When he raises his foot to shake, give him a handful of his favorite grain and praise him.

Repeat this lesson until he learns to lift his leg and bring it forward off your verbal cue only. The very first time your horse does this on his own, off of your cue...praise him generously!





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This article was published in 1997. Last updated in 1997.