Over time, it’s easy to fall into the same, stagnant schooling routine. The one that feels like you’re making all the right moves but, really, sends both you and your horse into autopilot. If this sounds familiar, take a second to remember why you got into riding in the first place – it would’ve been for fun, right? Well, that’s exactly how it should be. That’s why this month, I’ve got an exercise to help you and your horse enjoy your time in the school together to the max. Practical? Of course. A bit of fun? Most importantly, yes.
Real life applications
As well as being a bit of fun, this trick is super practical. Maybe you’ve dropped your whip or a glove while out riding – if your horse understands when you’re asking him to pick something up, it’ll save you having to hop off and find a suitable place to remount.
Trick – pick me up
Props?The props are pivotal to this trick but don’t worry – you’re bound to have these at home or in the tack room. To start with, you’ll need a cloth or handkerchief in which you can put something tasty – perhaps a treat or a few pony nuts – before tying the corners together to create a bundle. The nuts act as motivation – it’s important that there’s something in it for your horse if you want to gain his interest. As he progresses, you can swap the treat bundle for a small soft toy – I use a small, plush football.
Cue?I use the word ‘grab’ and repeat it as often as possible while my horse engages and eventually starts to pick up the items.
When teaching tricks from scratch, don’t be disheartened if you can’t fit in all of the steps in one day. It’s not unusual to have to spread the learning out over a few sessions.
If your horse doesn’t understand the challenge or can’t see a way to win, he probably won’t try, so be realistic with what you aim to achieve in one session. Set the bar at a point you know he can feasibly reach, even if it’s not your end goal. Then, hopefully, he’ll come back keener for your next session, at which point you’ll be able to raise the bar a little higher. What’s more, this handy takeaway is just as applicable to trick training as it is to ridden work.
Follow Emma’s easy steps in September Horse&Rider, on sale 23 July 2020, to teach your horse this handy trick.