December 20, 2015

Trick Training Your Equine: Frisbee

Ever since a video of Jethro playing Frisbee went viral, the most frequently asked question I receive is, "HOW ON EARTH DID YOU TEACH HIM THAT?!?!" Today, I am finally answering the question of how to teach this party trick.

Yup, I taught Jethro how to play frisbee! I think he may be part dog...Follow Jethro by liking The Moody Mare!
Posted by The Moody Mare on Friday, October 24, 2014

Step 1: Clicker training and targeting

Before you roll your eyes and tell me that clicker training will 100% ruin your animal, hear me out and check out these two good reads: Clicker Training Myths and The Click That Teaches.

Clicker training is simply a reinforcement method — something that concisely tells your animal, "YES, that is what I want!" if used correctly.  You can use it with any discipline — whether you are an eventer, barrel racer, or simply putz around — and with any training method such as natural horsemanship. It is simply a reinforcement tool that you don't even have to use 24/7.
  1. Buy a clicker and cut up some carrots/apples/treats.
  2. Choose a target. This can be anything. A cone, a water bottle, a pool noodle on the end of a whip, or my favorite, a Whips-a-Daisy.
  3. Go out to the barn.
  4. Stick your animal on the hitching post or in their stall (with a stall guard)
  5. Stand back. This is essential in the beginning.
  6. Hold out the target.
  7. Wait for them to touch it with their nose.
  8. Upon touching it, click and give them a treat.
  9. Repeat
NOTE: In the beginning, you may notice mouthy behavior. It is important to note that this is just a phase and 100% normal. The animal is new to this method, and thus does not know how to properly take a treat yet. If your horse attempts to mug you, push their head away and step back. Completely ignore them and pretend as if they do not exist. Eventually, they will lose interest and look away. When they do this, give them a click and a treat. Animals are not clueless, if you consistently do this they will likely put two and two together and realize that they do not get treats for being rude. Ypke, my Fjord, was completely horrible in the beginning, though we worked through it.

trick training your equine
Jethro targeting with his Whips-a-Daisy

Step 2: Introducing the Frisbee

Once your equine gets the hang of how to target and properly take a treat, you are ready for step 2.
  1. Purchase a Frisbee. I personally recommend getting one with a hole in the center since it makes it easier for the equine to grab.
  2. Introduce the Frisbee as a new target. Hold it out, have them touch it with their nose, and give them a click and a treat.
  3. Repeat step 2 until they understand the Frisbee is a target.
trick training frisbee

Step 3: Holding the Frisbee
  1. Touch the corner of their mouth, almost as if you are asking for them to accept the bit.
  2. Once their mouth opens, place in the Frisbee.  Immediately give them a click and a treat before they spit it out.
  3. Repeat step 5 until they realize that they are supposed to hold the Frisbee, not just touch it.  This is the most difficult step because with targeting, they are discouraged from biting their target, so they will be confused about why you are allowing this.
trick training frisbee

Step 4: Picking up the Frisbee
  1. Drop the Frisbee at your feet.
  2. Wait for them to pick it up.
  3. Once they pick it up, immediately click and give them a treat.
NOTE: They will likely just try to touch the Frisbee with their nose and become confused that you are not acknowledging their efforts. Simply wait it out, no matter how long it takes.

Step 5: Retrieving the Frisbee
  1. Throw the Frisbee.
From this point, one of two things will happen:

Option 1: They stare at you like you are an idiot. If this happens, walk with them to the Frisbee and point at it. At this point in their training, they have enough knowledge to pick it up. See option 2 for how to progress.

Option 2: They will immediately run after it, pick it up, but just stand there and not bring it back. The first few times they do, physically walk to them and give them the click/treat.  Eventually, you will want to stand your ground and wait for them to come to you. It may take a while, but they will come.

NOTE: It is imperative that you start out by throwing it short distances and gradually increasing the distance as the equine becomes more experienced.  Do not throw it 50 feet the first time you want them to fetch it. This is discouraging.

And there you have it!

Disclaimer because of people: This post is based off of my own personal experiences, and I am not a professional trainer. While my experiences have been positive and these steps worked for me, I cannot guarantee the same for you. Don't sue me if you or your animal suffer negative consequences. Train at your own risk. 


  1. I taught my mini gelding to honk a bike horn using clicker training. Its good for so many things. Every animal I have trailer loads from being taught to touch a target. Best training method ever in my view. Precious donkey you have!

    1. That is a cute trick! Targeting is definitely useful for a lot of things - whether it is trick training, trailer loading, or desensitizing.

      Thank you! :)

  2. tooooooo cute - i just love how focused and determined he looks. like "grrrr i'm playing FRISBEE and it's super SERIOUS and i am the BEST at it!!" lol

  3. I taught my Haflinger mare to play basketball with a little tykes basket ball hoop.

    1. Nice, that's a cool trick! I have been wanting to teach Jethro that one.

  4. This is so cool! I've been thinking about starting to train some tricks but I had no idea where to start. Thanks!


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