Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The New Trickster

Tuesday October 14 2014

Steph has found her new passion of learning Natural Horsemanship in her journey with 5-year-old Smokey. Smokey went to school in Ted Nicholes' training program, and Steph and Smokey just attended a 3-day clinic with him.

Dudley has been my spring-summer-fall project. He's also Steph's horse, and I adopted him as my personal project when he got fat (i.e. obese) last winter. I stuck him in my ODE Program: the Owyhee Diet and Exercise Program. Over the Tough Love months, he lost weight, did his first 50-mile endurance ride in 6 years, and in fact completed 3 50-mile rides so far this year (aiming for the last one of the season in 2 weeks!).

So now what?

Dudley is a smart horse. A good local cowboy broke him about 10 years ago, and had him doing tricks then: While standing on Dudley's back he could crack a whip; he could lay Dudley down. So Dudley already has some trick training in his foundation, and he learns fast, especially when treats are involved. (Once years ago, I gave him a treat when he first stopped and peed out on the trail, since that is a good endurance horse trait to have; after I gave him a treat the second time he peed, he started stopping every half a mile, trying to squeeze something out so he'd get a treat. He didn't forget that for years. Years.)

I've long had it in the back of my mind that shoot, Dudley could learn tricks. Somebody just needs to teach him. He'd look mighty snazzy doing the Spanish Walk, or bowing beside someone. Then I thought, wait, why don't *I* try to learn to teach him tricks? Dudley can become a Trick Horse. He can Spanish Walk beside me! He can bow beside me!

So I joined the Horse Academy.

Horsetricks101.com, the Horse Tricks Academy, is Jain from Australia, with her horses Trigger and Bella. Her method is a well-explained step by step process of building the basic steps and foundations of tricks. She's got videos and ebooks and worksheets, and she uses her horses in her videos to demonstrate the process.

Interacting with your horse by teaching tricks is not only fun, but it improves your communication and trust with your horse. I am lucky (says Jain) that even though Dudley has a weight challenge, he is motivated by food, and he loves treats; and those kinds of horses are easiest to train (I just need to find some very low-cal, or very tiny treats!). I really am lucky that he is already a well-behaved horse who respects my space and won't hog me for treats, and will back up out of my space with a flick of my hands and stand there. (And backing up, and standing and waiting, are two of the foundation tricks!)

The Dude started 2 days ago, and I'd have to say he's already got one of the basics, Touch, down already. He made me laugh today, because he already gets it.

I have a feeling Dudley is going to be teaching me a lot more things than he's already taught me.


  1. Frosted (or even non-frosted) shredded mini-wheat. Best treats for tricks! Cheap and not too bad health wise. Or little bits of baby carrots.

  2. Yep, I like frosted mini-wheats. You can also try cheerios (they're even smaller but they crush easier) or carrot "coins" (they go bad when you leave them in your pockets, precious).

  3. I laughed about the pee-treat connection, and lots of unnecessary trying to pee!
    I could see teaching tricks could be lots of fun for teacher and student.