The Savvy Station

Tricks Vs. Training

by Parelli Natural Horsemanship on Nov 16, 2022

Tricks Vs. Training

By Pat Parelli

Many years ago, I remember seeing a television commercial about cereal, and this silly rabbit always wanted to eat the cereal named Trix. Then, someone would say, "Trix are for kids, you silly rabbit."

Well, let's talk about tricks versus training. I've been doing clinics for the public for over four decades. The top training request was teaching horses to lie down when I started. When I was trying to be the ambassador of yes, I would say, "yes, as soon as you can do all the fundamentals in my program," which we now call Level Four. It took me a while to figure out why people wanted to lay their horses down.

I finally figured it out. They wanted to baffle their friends and impress their relatives. They wanted to have a trick up their sleeve, which made it look like they knew what they were doing. In other words, if I can lay my horse down, I know the other thousand things I should know. I found this, typically, not to be true. I found most people have followed the five lies about horses.

Horses are straightforward; catch them any way you can, saddle them up, and get on. How hard can it be?

There's a pedal for each foot. Kick them to go, pull them to stop, and number five, use the reins to turn. I've had a successful business for four decades because I go around the world teaching people not to do those things. I teach people connection is key.

  1. Teach your horse, like you do your dog, to want to come to you and to stay. Be connected and stay connected.
  2. Don't just saddle them up. Find out what side of the corral he woke up on first.
  3. Don't kick them to go; use your energy and squeeze, kiss if you please, and a little tap on the rump will get you moving forward.
  4. Don't pull to stop. Quit riding and lift a little.
  5. Don’t use the reins to turn; use your reins to shape and impede unwanted forward movement. That's how simple my program is. Now, if you want to learn a few tricks, that's okay if you understand that tricks are the icing and not the cake.

While we are talking about tricks, let's realize the difference between tricks and training. Training is communication and understanding using psychology. Tricks are repetitive behavior pattern that is easy to start but hard to stop.

I've seen many people teach their horse to lay down, and then when the farrier goes to pick up their feet, the horse lays down. They couldn't stop the trick. You will have a fantastic equine partner if you have communication, understanding, psychology versus mechanics, fear and intimidation, and tricks.

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