Here is a list of things to try with your horse. I will list some additional resources at the bottom of the page.
I wrote the original version of this list a long time ago, when I was first clicker training and I wanted to help people who were running out of ideas for things to train. I titled it “winter exercises” because if you are like me, your riding is limited by the weather in the winter months. To keep my horse’s life more interesting and to keep us both mentally stimulated, I often play in the aisle or stall and try to come up with an assortment of games to play. These exercises would also be great for a horse that was on stall rest or limited exercise or for a new horse or youngster who wasn’t ready for work in a big area.
There are lots of tricks that are easy to teach with the clicker and horses seem to enjoy. Please be warned that horses do love to offer their favorite tricks off cue, so think carefully about your horse’s personality and who handles him or her before you teach some of these. There are also a lot of ground work and exercises that you can do in a small space. You will be surprised at how much this improves your horse’s suppleness and responsiveness when you do get out.
I have grouped the ideas into general categories, but there is a lot of overlap.
- Bow (one knee bow or obeisance/circus bow where the horse just rocks back) – for detailed instructions for this, click here
- Close up – stand with all 4 legs close together
- Cross the front legs (either as an X or interlocking)
- Count with a front foot (I wouldn’t teach this unless your horse understands stimulus control)
- Draw a picture with markers or paints
- Fetch – most horses love this one, a variation on this is playing basketball (teach your horse to put a ball in a kid’s basketball hoop). More detailed instructions can be found here.
- Hide and seek with an object ( I sent my horse off down the aisle to find a cone)
- Lie down on his sternum and also flat
- Nod yes and no
- Pick up trash (I use pretend trash) and put it in a bucket
- Play musical instruments, toot bike horns etc…
- Pushing a ball
- Sit up
- Stack cones
- Stand on a pedestal with 2 feet, 4 feet. You can combine the pedestal with the wave or turn on forehand for more fun.
- Stretch, park or stand square: or any kind of exercise where you teach your horse about foot placement
- Take off the saddle pad where the horse reaches around and removes it. A good stretch and this is an old circus clown trick
- Talk on command
- Wave or salute with a front foot – this can lead to Spanish Walk
- Wave a flag
- Come when called
- Go outs – teach your horse to go out around an object
- Ground tying
- Head lowering
- Lateral flexions
- Turn on forehand
- Turn on haunches
- mat work (front feet, hind feet, all four feet)
- Stand and pose (ears forward) for the camera
- Yield sideways
Work on perfecting behaviors such as:
- bridling – improve your horse’s behavior for bridling or teach self-bridling
- clipping – can you do it at liberty?
- eye and ear care – prepare for fly spray, eye ointment, etc.
- feeding time – is your horse polite? Do you have a routine for feeding grain?
- grooming – are there areas where your horse is reluctant to let you groom?
- haltering – does the horse put his own head in the halter?
- hoof care – improve your horse’s hoof handling in some way (duration, promptness, stillness…)
- shots – teach your horse to stand quietly for shots
- soaking a foot – can your horse keep his foot in a bucket or a soaking boot or plastic sleeves? You can practice even if it’s too cold to soak.
- taking your horse’s temperature
- worming – does your horse cooperate or assist with worming?
- Add new cues to some already trained behaviors
- Concept training – teach your horse his colors or shapes
- Object discrimination – teach your horse the names of several objects
- My A to Z blogs contain many more ideas, as well as some tips about how to train a lot of different behaviors. Many of them can be done in stalls, aisles and paddocks.
- Alexandra Kurland‘s Step by Step book has information on training a wide range of behaviors, many of which can be done in a small space.