As the miserable, cold and wet weather is continuing, I decided to take Diva (Melland Queen of Scots) to another clinic with Lisa Dixon (Freelance Equine) back at Truesdale Equestrian Centre. Last time it was a gym training session and this time it was tricks!

I didn’t know what to expect, as I haven’t done any trick training, but I had read Lisa’s book, Harmony In-Hand, as it is a guide to starting to do tricks with your horse or pony.

On the day, with Diva brushed and tidy, we headed off to the equestrian centre. The forecast was for strong winds, but I felt it was still safe to travel. We arrived in good time and I watched the end of the ridden obstacle clinic that was before our class. All the horses and riders came out looking happy and relaxed despite the gusty weather.

Horse outside

This time our classmates were two grey Andalusian horses. Lisa asked us to walk our horses around to let them get oriented and settle. I took the opportunity to have a little go round some of the obstacles. Diva marched through the pool noodle barrier, did not hesitate about going through the ribbon curtain and walked calmly past the flag, despite it fluttering strongly in the wind.

Then we were gathered together for Lisa to ask if there was anything in particular that we wanted to work towards. One of my classmates asked to be taught “pick up”, and I was happy to go along with this choice.

Horse

Pick up, as you would expect, consists of your horse picking up and giving to you any object that you point to. In a ridden horse this could be really useful if you drop your glove, for example.

But how do you teach it?

Lisa gave each of us a cloth tied into several knots with treats inside. We then threw the cloth on the ground in front of our equines to let their natural curiosity come into play. We were told to allow the horses to sniff and mouth at the cloths, but to lift their heads as soon as they bit onto it and give the command: “Pick up”. You then swapped the cloth for a treat, which Diva thought was a fair exchange. We all repeated this several times. Diva soon realised that picking it up meant a treat, and I was very proud of her. The long-term aim is that eventually the command alone would get them to pick things up, but the stages to get there involve tying cloth to the items initially so the horses understand what to do.

We did two more tricks during the lesson, and these are stepping stones to having your horse at liberty. I’ll tell you about it next time.

Woman and horse

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