I see it happen quite often, teaching tricks to horses. Sure, it can be fun, but honestly not a fan, unless it has a purpose, an end game. Teaching your horse something just because it is cool or fun, is never a good reason. Not to forget that it can actually lead to dangerous situations. The other day I heard someone had a horse that could do the ‘box’ (touching of 2 fists, or in this case the horses knee). So, every time you moved your hand, the answer would be a flying front leg. Or teaching them to rear, I do not have to tell you that this could create serious problems….
Important is to look at the end game of an exercise you want to teach, what is the benefit and goal. Horses are very eager to learn and want to do well. So, if you start training and there is unclarity on what you are asking, they just start showing you things they can do to see if that was what you were asking, trail and error. They mean well, but it can cause some weird accidents when you are not paying attention for a second and your horse gives you a rondom answer. Secondly, be very clear in the signal that triggers the exercise so your horse can make the connection. It should also be a signal you cannot accidentally make,if y ou don’t, you probably guessed it: asking for trouble.
I learned one of my horses to park, so he parked towards the stepping stool. Sideway exercises he knows pretty well, so I often notice with the parking how flexible he is that day and if he is willing to work. The only problem was, that I didn’t clarify my signal properly, cause every time I would stand still during ground work, he would park. We praticed some more with a very clear signal (left arm up in the air) and we are making progress. It still is his go-to answer when he is confused. Also shows me he really likes this exercise, so doing more exercises with side steps where we work on more and more bending. Always look on the bright side of things. But I would never teach him something that could result in flying legs, just because he loves to show how well he can do things.
Dressage exercises are always good to do when you are on the ground, if they are executes properly. Same with letting them give their feet when you are picking hooves. Try to look at the different ground work exercises and see what it will do to your horse’s body, how can they benefit from it, and what are you training exactly? When we are riding our full focus is on that, why not when you are on the ground?
Think about the type of horse you have, and what the end game is of the trick. Will your horse benefit from it or is it just cool that he would be able to do it? You want to prevent your horse has rearing as his go-to answer when he gets confused and opens the trick can… Right?