Continuing on from the last blog – the Trick Training clinic with Lisa Dixon (Freelance Equine) at Truesdale Equestrian – after a little break we moved on to being taught two tricks which are stepping stones to having your horse or pony work at liberty.

Woman and horse

The first one was to teach your horse or pony to spin. As you would expect, this trick involves your pony turning away from you in a tight circle and finishing next to you again. We were also taught the cue of raising your left hand, clicking your fingers and saying “spin”.

Initially, though, you start with your pony standing next to you. You then put the lead rein over the neck to the right-hand side. Next, you gently bring the lead rope towards the pony’s tail, running your hand on their side to get them to focus on turning away from you as their natural reaction is usually to turn towards you. Keeping your right hand with the lead rope low, you encourage the pony to turn a circle, ensuring you move a little to allow them to complete the turn easily.

Black horse

Lisa used Diva to demonstrate the technique, and I have to say it looks a lot easier to do with a small pony than the bigger horses in the class. She returned her to me and I did some practice spins. Diva is a very bright pony and soon got the hang of it, even if I fumbled a bit and had trouble clicking my fingers!

Black horse

Lisa then took Diva back and explained that, as we were in a class situation, asking the horses to do it off lead wasn’t appropriate. But she began to demonstrate the next step, which was to leave the rope over the pony’s neck and just use your raised hand, clicking fingers and the spin command. As Lisa said this, Diva obediently did a spin without Lisa touching the rope at all. I was very proud of her.

Horse on lead

Another trick we learned was to teach the pony to back up, with the cue being your raised right hand with the palm flat. Once the pony learns this, you should be able to raise your right hand and the pony should come up to you and “park” their bottom next to you. I had to slightly modify the use of the rope to encourage Diva to step back as she already had a back-up command and I needed to get her to understand the new focus of going to my hand.

As ever, the time went so fast and we had so much fun. Diva and I have lots to practise with during the summer, before Lisa starts her clinics again in the autumn.

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