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Trick Training for Horses
Teaching a Horse to "Smile"

There are so many amusing and clever tricks a horse can do with his mouth alone. The horse’s mouth is almost as versatile as the human hand. He can pick up and hold things, carry items, fetch and retrieve, wave objects, push or roll them, untie knots, drink from a bottle (plastic, please!), smile and many other tricks. The possibilities are endless, and it only takes your imagination to conjure them up.

Remember to keep your training sessions brief, continue regularity, and be certain your horse has mastered each trick before moving on to the next one. Ideally, you should rehearse the previously-learned tricks at least once a day. You will have to be the judge of how many sessions it will take to teach one trick. Some horses learn faster than others and some trainers teach slower than others. There is no set rule--just be sure you have taught well whatever you have taught, otherwise the horse will end up confused.

Smile! Photo © 1999 Cynthia McFarland

This trick usually brings roars of laughter from people, and will even bring a smile to your face. Many horses curl up their upper lips when they smell something strange, or when a stallion, for example, smells a mare in heat. It appears when they turn up their upper lip that they are smiling or laughing.

Equipment needed: halter, lead rope, ammonia, feather, carrots.

Step 1:
Outfit your horse in a halter and lead rope, standing him in a stall, aisle, or next to a fence. Stand directly in front of him, and place a strange-smelling odor, such as ammonia or a cut onion, under his nostrils, and tell him, "Smile!" Generally, with most horses, this strong odor will achieve the desired effect. If he does not react to the strong odor, try tickling him on the upper lip with a feather or your finger to get it to curl.

Step 2:
Reward your horse with a small piece of carrot when he rolls up his upper lip, even ever so slightly in the beginning, and generously praise him, telling him, "Good boy!" (Some horses have very agile lips, and others will only "grin")

Step 3:
Repeat Steps #1 and #2 over and over again for as many BRIEF sessions as it takes, dispensing with the ammonia, until your horse is conditioned to roll back his lip whenever your finger approaches his muzzle and you say the word, "Smile!"

Note: You and your horse will both enjoy this trick. You can practice this trick often, whenever you go out to the corral or to the barn. You can even ask others to make your horse smile, since they don’t have to touch him and will get a lot of pleasure from seeing him "laugh."

 - 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"

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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