Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Archive for April 16, 2011

Smile, You’re on Candid Camera!

I am sure you have met a few horses who you thought were absolute geniuses, having amazed you by performing a trick, maybe even two, and their owners loved owning the smartest horse in the barn.  People want to believe they’ve met a wonder horse, not just a horse that has been cleverly trained.

Horses have long been used for entertaining people.  Recently, I have been watching old TV shows,  Roy Rogers, My Friend Flika and the Lone Ranger.  Yes, my mother would be proud as these were her favorite shows when she was younger.  I was so entertained by these horses and I must say that Trigger was simply amazing, which made me think that this would be great blog posts on how horses learn to do such wonderful tricks.  Trigger was really good at pulling a hanky from a pocket and taking a hat off a head!

Believe it or not, many of the movements or tricks we want to ask of our horses, they already know how to do without commands.  Your horse already knows how to shake his head, curl his lip, sit up, kneel and lie down.  He’s done all of these “tricks” every day on his own without any encouragement from you.  But now, we are going to ask him to do them on cue…should be fun.  However, before you start teaching your horse anything, you must have his attention.  This means your horse must listen to you and watch you with both his eyes and ears.  Your horse should be solid in basic groundwork and handling, respectful and obedient.

The first trick – Smile for the Camera!


This trick has always brought out roars of laughter when Bruq performed it for people.  People would pose next to Bruq to have their picture taken when he curled up his upper lip.  I have to say that this trick always brings a smile to my face.

Equipment needed:  Halter, lead rope, ammonia, feather and carrots.

Put on the halter onto your horse and stand him in his stall, aisle or outside next to a fence and stand directly in front of him.  Bring out the ammonia (or other strange smelling odor.  I thought I would be smart and use a cut onion, as that I thought was foul smelling, it didn’t work because Bruq ate it!) and hold it under his nostrils and tell him to “Smile”.  Generally, most horses will react to a strong smelling odor and if they don’t that’s where the feather come in!  Tickle your horse on the upper lip with the feather to get the curl and say “SMILE.”

Reward your horse with a piece of carrot when he rolls back his upper lip, even if does so ever so slightly in the beginning and heap on the praise.

Repeat the steps over and over again for as many brief sessions as it takes until your horse is conditioned to roll back his lip whenever your finger approaches his muzzle and you say the word “Smile!”

You and your horse will enjoy this trick and now you can show off his Pepsodent Smile!  Your horse has learned the body cue of  you standing in front of  him and the hand cue in front of his face together with the command “Smile.”  You can practice this trick often and everywhere…in the field, in the stall, amongst other horses and people.  This trick is very easy because you don’t need any tools except your hand and a carrot or a treat.

Have fun, Larissa!

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