I Train Horses to Eat Carrots

It started out as a fun joke “I Train Horses to Eat Carrots”… What’s so hard about that, right? The idea behind allegedly teaching a horse to do something he already likes to do is far-reaching. And that’s what positive training does – it shifts your horse’s perspective so that he likes to do ALL the things you ask him to. Just like eating carrots. And it’s not that hard. Just use something your horse likes, to help him figure out what you want.

Dressage rider Ivetta Harte coined this cute phrase, and she’s written this short how-to article so that you, too, can train your horse to eat carrots! The horse in the picture with Ivetta is her own Zena. Ivetta trained A few years ago Zena was in an accident and fractured her neck. This serious injury required a lengthy stay at a vet hospital, and stall rest after that. Ivetta tells me that Zena recovered well, and that her portion of the proceeds from the sales of our “I Train Horses to Eat Carrots” garments will be put to good use – paying the hospital and vet bills!

Scroll down to read the article, and be sure to check out the “training tools” that HoofPrints offers: the perfect Horse Training Garments AND a super useful Treat Pouch – so you can keep your carrots close at hand. Enjoy!


How to teach your horse to smile! by Ivetta Harte

My mare Zena was on a layoff and we didn’t have much to do. Suddenly my highly trained equine athlete could have all of the treats for just standing in her stall and doing nothing. I felt like a carrot dispenser. So to make my horse “work for it” and to have some fun together, I started to train her to smile, before I give her a carrot. I started to train my horse to eat carrots!

If you feed your horse carrots, you can teach your horse how to smile for the carrot in about one month. The best thing is that it involves tasty carrots that horses love and you can train your horse a new way to eat carrots! So get several fresh training carrots and follow these fun, easy steps!

training_carrots1Step 1:

Touch the top of your horse’s nose with a training carrot and as soon as your horse will lift the upper lip to reach the training carrot, lift the carrot UP and say with your funny, high pitched animal voice: “SMILE!” Do not give your horse your training carrot yet, you need to continue teasing your horse with the training carrot to encourage him to lift his upper lip up.

If your horse stops and looks at you in disbelief and confusion, hide your carrot behind your back for a second or two.

training_carrots2Step 2:

Again, tap the nose of your horse with a carrot and lift the training carrot up, encourage your horse to try to reach the carrot by reaching UP and opening the upper lip up.

As soon as your horse lifts the upper lip up, repeat with a rewarding voice “SMILE!” Your voice should have a familiar energetic and rewarding intonation, the same as the one you say “good boy” or “good girl” with.

training_carrots3Step 3:

After minimum of three (3) repetitions you can give the training carrot to your horse and again say what a good pony he/she is.

training_carrots4Step 4:

Do this routine for a month or so. Lift your training carrot higher and higher as your carrot training progresses.

training_carrots5Step 5:

When your horse is willingly starting to curl the upper lip when he sees a carrot, you can position your training carrot aligned with your pointy finger. Your pointy finger and the training carrot should form the same shape.

This is the important transition from smiling for a carrot to smiling on your command.

training_carrots6-2017Step 6:

After some time, with your pointy finger in the carrot training position, raise just your hand without your training carrot and say “SMILE!” – if your horse is ready, your horse will give you a big energetic smile and will wait to get rewarded with a tasty training carrot or any other horse treats.


I love it when multiple products align for a common philosophy. The sweet quote above is from Anna Blake’s new book Relaxed and Forward – Relationship Advice from Your Horse, the T-shirt says I TRAIN HORSES TO EAT CARROTS, the horse is Billy – a worn out rental trail horse I bought in South Dakota. I spent considerable effort trying to locate his registration papers; the halter he was wearing when he was delivered is ironically embroidered  “Clue” on the noseband and it also contains a distinctive brand burned into the crownpiece – a brand owned by John Hauer, author of The Natural Superiority of Mules. Photo is by Lauren Duncan
Folks who are friends with me on Facebook (if you’re not, send me a request here) know that I quote Anna Blake – A LOT. So I am thrilled to announce that I have her latest book Relaxed & Forward here on the shelves at HoofPrints. This softcover book is just 301 pages, but it might as well be a million, for all the wisdom contained therein. Each chapter is short; just a few pages, but every single one contains profound words like those above, words that summarize a powerful, complex concept into a memorable, eloquent sentence or two with losing any of the meaning. Anna talks a lot about observing horses carefully, and appropriately rewarding their efforts for good behavior, but some of her best words come when she is talking about things going wrong:
quotation mark left

There will always be two stories about horses. One is that they are brainless tools; too crazy or lazy or just not worth the effort. That you’ll always be a victim of a horse’s whims and habits unless you dominate them to a stupor. The other story is that horses are mythical creatures with brave hearts who lift and carry us in perfect unity. That together, we can break free of earthly limitations.

Both stories actually start the same way. After that, we get just about what we think we deserve.”

To read an excerpt of Relaxed and Forward click here


  1. A relationship with a horse is the most awesome thing you can experience. My horses are gentle enough that they eat carrots and apples from my mouth. Simply therapeutic.


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