Teach your horse some tricks!

Tricks training is a great way to enhance your relationship with your horse by opening a channel of communication using body language, the natural way horses interact in the wild. Understanding body language helps to handle your horse more easily on the ground and the heightened communication will help under saddle too! It's also a fun thing to do at times when it's not possible to ride your horse (if injured or snow-bound), or your horse is retired! Who says you can't teach an old horse new tricks? Vanessa Bee teaches horse agility (negotiating obstacles and hazards at liberty) and Rosie Howard is a tricks performer at shows who teaches 'the kiss' and 'the Spanish Walk' among other things. Teach your horse something new and have a lot of fun with them!

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Teach your horse some tricks! Teach your horse some tricks!
Tricks trainer and performer Rosie Howard from Jive Pony teaches Aristo, a young unbroken stallion a few tricks. Aristo quickly learns to kiss, cross his legs and shake his head, on demand. Rosie says it's about using your imagination and that of your horse, creating a strong association between a cue and an action, then repetition, consistency, patience and reward! According to Rosie, "tricks are a great way to enjoy your horse and enhance your relationship with him; they are also a clever way to get focused quickly when you need to at a show!" Rosie demonstrates the fully trained tricks on her obliging youngster Caspar!

Vanessa Bee teaches horse agility in-hand and at liberty Vanessa Bee teaches horse agility in-hand and at liberty
Vanessa takes 15 year old Secret though horse agility exercises which require pinpoint accuracy when backing, turning and bending. Working on a loose rope to start, the aim is to let Secret free and to work in partnership with her without any devises, gadgets or treats! First, Vanessa takes us through the fundamentals, which are the use of body language and energy as core tools of communication. Secret backs up between poles, negotiates the tricky labyrinth and cones and finishes with bending poles, where she is let loose. The aim of the work is to connect with the horse, essential in all activities, both ridden and in-hand!

Vanessa Bee builds trust with the curtain exercise Vanessa Bee builds trust with the curtain exercise
Horse Agility expert Vanessa Bee says that for the horse, 'trust' is built of performing a task, surviving and being safe! The curtain exercise asks the horse to walk through a seemingly solid object. Vanessa explains that hazards involve going under, through or over something and this one involves the first two. Chunking the task down, Vanessa begins by moving Secret safely through a narrow gap. She progresses to hazards to deal with the mare's spookiness and finally, the 'curtain'! Vanessa says, "never tell the horse off for being a horse! Remain calm and allow them to find their own way." (See Vanessa's ground-work video first.)

Vanessa Bee teaches Secret to walk over bridges Vanessa Bee teaches Secret to walk over bridges
Secret, who is experienced at horse-agility, demonstrates her skills at walking over different surfaces with trainer Vanessa Bee. Starting with tarpaulin, Vanessa 'invites' Secret to walk over the plastic and back up. Progressing to a small non-slip bridge, Vanessa says that even experienced horses put their heads down to examine the surface. Secret negotiates a see-saw and, finally, a raised bridge. Vanessa sets the mare free and renegotiates obstacles pulling an imaginary whisker to guide her. "It tells you a lot about your horse," says Vanessa. "Keep it slow, calm, quiet and simple." (See the ground-work video first.)

Secret jumps through a hoop for Vanessa Bee Secret jumps through a hoop for Vanessa Bee
A horse jumping through a hoop at liberty is the ultimate test of obedience and an exciting exercise to perform. "Chunking things down into very simple steps takes time and patience," says horse agility trainer Vanessa Bee. Vanessa stresses the importance of groundwork training and safety of the equipment. She begins by asking Secret to walk though an arch, then progresses to jumping the bottom of the hoop, all the while on a long, loose rope. "Communication has nothing to do with the rope", says Vanessa. "It's down to body language and talking to Secret with my energy." The proof is when Vanessa sets Secret free!

The basics of clicker training with Amanda Martin The basics of clicker training with Amanda Martin
Clicker trainer Amanda Martin, uses 20 year old Aero to demonstrate three foundation lessons which are the basis of further training, both in-hand and under saddle. Amanda explains, "clicker training finds ways of saying 'yes' to the horse and shifts emotions so they 'stay' with us because they want to, not because they have to!" It also teaches the art of great timing. The first lesson is 'target training' where Aero makes an association between click and treat. The second lesson teaches him to move back out of Amanda's space and the third, 'grown-ups are talking', ensures the safe delivery of food. A fascinating training insight!

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