Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price
Trick training is a great way to bond with your horse, and also change up your barn routine. A “smile” is just one of the basic tricks you can teach your horse.
When I refer to “smile”, it is mainly a horse’s response to flehmen. This is when a horse raises his upper lip and exhales, usually in an attempt to find a new taste or smell. It is often taught to horses as a trick because the horse’s natural flehmen response appears as if they are laughing or smiling. Here’s how it works!
Before you Start
You should ensure that your horse is properly dressed in a halter, lead rope and halter. Also make sure you’re in an area without distractions. This will help your horse be focused and safe. Keep some carrots or smaller treats handy as they will be used as rewards.
How to Teach a Horse Smile: Method One
First, catch your horse displaying his natural flehmen response. This is the first step in teaching smile. This is the hardest part of the process and the behavior you will eventually reward. Here are some ways to get it going!
1. You can give your horse something that smells interesting such as garlic, onion, or ammonia. You can also try to get your horse to respond naturally to the flehmen. My horse would do this every time he tried a new type of treat or grain.
2. Your horse will raise his eyebrows and begin his flehmen response. Combining verbal and pointing cues can produce the best results. This is because you’re giving your horse two options to understand what you want.
3. Use your other hand quickly to reward your horse with a treat.
4. Allow your horse to chew the treat, and then repeat the steps. He will soon realize that the flehmen response is rewarded by him.
Two Methods to Make a Horse Smile:
This second method of teaching smiles is ideal for horses who don’t naturally exhibit it. The primary goal of your training is to get your horse to lift his lips, which will eventually lead to a smile.
1. Place a treat above the horse’s nose.
2. Tap your horse’s upper lips with your index finger using the treat in your hand. Alternate between tapping the horse’s upper lip and pointing up. During this, you should also smile.
3. Give the treat to your horse if he lifts his upper lip in order to take it from you. Before rewarding, you must wait for your horse’s upper lip to raise high enough.
4. Keep going with the same steps. Your horse will eventually realize that he gets the treat only when he raises his upper lip.
Your horse will be more likely to smile on cue if he learns that smiling on cue is a reward. Your horse will learn this trick faster if he is more attentive and curious. Some horses learned this trick in just a few minutes while others took several days. The smile is a simple trick that you can teach your horse and will be loved by everyone.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!