|Trick or Treat
Mar. 26, 2008
To trick or to treat? Why
not both? Well that’s what I do when
teaching my horse tricks: he tricks, I
treat. That is what this article is about:
Trick training your horse. There are
different ways to teach your horse tricks,
but I decided I would use treats as a
reward. So far, I have made excellent
About the Tricker and Treater
Training a horse to do tricks is completely
new for me. I have trained horses in
western, English, and trail riding, but I
have never asked my horses to do tricks. So
as I write these articles, you will be
seeing my first struggles at trick training.
My horse, Jackson, is a 4-year-old quarter
horse/paint cross. I have had him since he
was a weanling and I started him under
saddle a year ago. Jackson is a great horse
to start training something new with because
he is the calmest horse I have ever seen. He
has always been calm, and with trick
training, this is a huge asset.
When I first started training Jackson tricks
(beginning of March) he was always falling
asleep where he was standing (one of the
downsides of a really calm horse). After a
week or so of the training though, he
started to pay more attention to me. This is
a very normal beginning. If you decide to
teach your horse tricks, be prepared to do
short lessons until your horse has a longer
Before you start trick training your horse,
make sure that you have a good relationship
with your horse; this means your horse
should have manners and respect you. I
really recommend Jackie Johnson’s book Step
by Step Trick Training. It is very good.
When I started with Jackson, I only worked
on 2 or 3 tricks a day. Now I do around 10
and that number is growing. As his attention
span grows, I can add new tricks. You are
only limited as to what you can do with your
horse by how much time you are willing to
work with him. I try to work with Jackson
every day when the weather is nice and twice
a day is even better. I plan to teach
Jackson a whole lot of tricks, but here is a
list of the ones we are currently working
on. The trick is listed and is followed by a
description of the finished trick, not what
my horse now does.
KISS: I lean slightly forward and ask
Jackson for a “kiss.” Jackson reaches
forward and touches my face with his nose.
YES: I ask a question and Jackson and he
answers by nodding his head yes.
SMILE: I tell Jackson to “smile” and he
lifts his lip in a smile. : )
NO: I ask Jackson another question and he
shakes his head no.
STEP: I tell Jackson to “go step” and he
walks to the pedestal and steps up.
SALUTE: While on the pedestal, I tell
Jackson “salute” and he extends his right
leg in a salute.
CHUP: “Chup” is the cue that I use for
Jackson to touch a target, in this case, a
plastic bag at the end of a whip. When I say
“chup”, Jackson touches the bag with his
GROUND REAR: Facing Jackson, I raise the
whip in the air and say “up.” Jackson
responds by calmly rearing up where he is
MARCH: The March is similar to the Spanish
walk. While riding Jackson I say “march” and
he walks forward and extends his front legs
farther than normal.
ROLL the BALL: I tell Jackson “roll the
ball,” he walks to the ball and pushes it
with his nose.
BOW: I tell Jackson “bow” and tap his right
shoulder, he then bends his right leg and
These tricks are listed as a finished trick
horse would perform them. When the horse
knows these tricks, he should be able to do
the tricks when cued from a distance. There
are, of course, many more tricks that can be
taught. The ones listed are just the ones
that I am working on now. Jackson can do
“yes,” “step,” and “salute” fairly well. He
is quickly learning some of the other ones.
The way I am training Jackson is to give him
a treat as a reward when he is trying or
completes a trick. As a result, I go through
a lot of treats. I was very disappointed
when I started looking for bulk horse
treats; everything that I found had
artificial flavors it. I have found that
animals, as well as people, don’t react well
to the artificial in food. So I have been
making all my own horse treats.
I also had to come up with my own recipe for
treats. My original recipe wasn’t very good
and then went through three revisions. I now
have a recipe that’s easy to make, easy to
bake, and cheap. It still takes time to
make, but I have a safe, healthful horse
Trick training is very fun. You can never
run out of things to do with your horse. As
you teach your horse tricks, you and your
horse will learn to communicate better with
each other. Your horse will learn to give
you his full attention.
Once your horse starts to learn some tricks,
you will have the added pleasure of being
able to show off your horse. Have fun.
Don’t forget: Trick and Treat!
December 09, 2013