Is it Okay to Use Treats as a Reward

In
Questions and Answers
category
on
January 25, 2018

What do you think about using food treats as rewards while training horses. Is it effective, or does it just turn them into pushy, demanding horses? Does it encourage them to start nipping for treats, which is what we were told at pony club?

From Sharon

Hi Sharon

It’s okay to use treats as a reward when you train your horse. However, treats won’t help unless you’re consistent. You must have strict rules and discipline at all times, whether you give your horse treats or not. You must always be definite about what you want your horse to do. And most important of all, you must discipline yourself to concentrate on your horse at all times.

Many people say that giving a horse treats will teach him to bite and push over you. I disagree. Just because you give your horse treats doesn’t mean that he’s allowed to push over you or do whatever he wants. Treats don’t cause unwanted behaviour. It’s the lack of consistent rules and the lack of discipline that causes unwanted behaviour.

I always take feed to catch my horses – carrots, bread, apples or a small amount of feed in a bucket. They always come running whenever they see me in the paddock because they know I’ll have something for them. My horses all know that it’s a pleasant experience for them to come to me and to be with me. Quite often, we take our horses treats and give them a head rub even when we don’t want to catch them.

My horses all know that they can’t push over me or bite me when they come for their feed.

Whether you use treats or not, never be heavy handed and never harass any horse while he’s eating I’ve seen a trainer hitting a horse over the head, every time the horse tried to eat from his feed bin. This is cruel and it’s certainly not the way to stop your horse pushing over you or biting you. Never harass any horse while he’s eating.

 Feed time isn’t the time to try and teach your horse anything. Always let your horse eat his feed in peace.

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