Getting him to like treats? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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Getting him to like treats?

I've grown up around fully trained horses-- every one that I got on had been to a trainer and when you gave them a treat, be it apples sugar cubes or peppermint, they ate it.

That being said, I have a little pony colt who is my pride and joy. He's just getting to where he'll eat all of his grain, and he gets a quart and a half of sweet feed twice a day, and actually eats it all. At first I would only give him a handful and he'd only eat a couple bites before going to the hay. I use grain as a treat for training, so he was familiar with it, just not in the bowl I guess. But how do I get him to like other things, like peppermint or apples? If I give an apple to my mare she knows to bite into it, but he just sniffs like I'm crazy. I even put peppermint in his mouth and all he did was spit it out (though in his defense, the mare doesn't like peppermint either).

Is it just a baby phase? Will he grow out of not liking treats like he grew out of not eating grain?
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post #2 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:30 AM
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Treats are not an essential part of life, my gelding would rather have a neck rub than a treat, so I save myself the money and give him something he prefers.
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post #3 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:32 AM
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Alot of young horses won't develop any 'like' of treats for a while; I've had youngsters not like treats until they were well into their 3 yr. old year. Honestly, I don't hand feed babies anyway until they have had all their ground work done and I know they will respect my space without a shadow of a doubt...those young years are crucial in making sure you develop the RIGHT habits and behaviors that you expect out of him. Just put a few tidbits in his food every night, and if he eats, it fine, if he don't that's fine too; eventually he will start trying it more and more and eventually you will figure out what he likes and doesn't. But don't rush it, especially because he is so little. They tend to get nippy when they are young, because they teeth alot, so I just don't encourage nipping, by not hand feeding until they are a little older and getting closer to being done teething.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #4 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:47 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, when we first started with the treats while doing early trick training, he would try to get the grain out with his teeth, and he learned that he didn't get the treat unless he learned how to use his lips, which he did. He's a smart little guy, and picks up on things very quickly. I know he doesn't need treats, and I'd never go out and buy special horse treats when I could just give them grain or an apple on hand, but I think it's helpful with training. I'm a firm believer in rewarding the good over punishing the bad (though he does get punished if he does something ridiculous).
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post #5 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:50 AM
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We recently got an 18 year old TB who had no idea what carrots were. I started putting a few small pieces in her feed and now she takes them from my hand.

Now peppermints or anything else, she is convinced I am trying to feed her something poison.
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post #6 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:55 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Remi View Post
We recently got an 18 year old TB who had no idea what carrots were. I started putting a few small pieces in her feed and now she takes them from my hand.

Now peppermints or anything else, she is convinced I am trying to feed her something poison.
I honestly grew up with the impression that horses naturally liked carrots and apples and sugar cubes. I had no idea, seriously, until about four or five years ago when my mom started her pony riding business. Half the ponies will eat just about anything you have in your hand (one ate a hamburger, and another one will drink Dr. Pepper out of a cup), and the rest won't even look twice at a carrot. Nuts!

Now that I think on it, though, I'm teaching Duncan to take a crocheted carrot out of my pocket for a cute little skit, and he knows that if he mouths that he gets a treat. Maybe I could trick him and replace the fake carrot with a real one... haha.
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post #7 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexS View Post
Treats are not an essential part of life, my gelding would rather have a neck rub than a treat, so I save myself the money and give him something he prefers.
I agree.


I also agree that the trick to getting them to eat things is to just continuing to expose the horse to them.
Add small carrot slices and apple slices to your pony's grain. For several days you will be tossing them out when you check his bucket before putting the next meal in. Then they will start to disappear.


I like it that my horses eat almost anything out of my hand. It makes giving them something like bute very easy. Treat, treat, treat, treat & bute, treat.
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post #8 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 10:11 AM
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My horses don't like peppermints at all...

When I got my mares (who didn't even know what grain is much less treats ) I tried everything, and they didn't seem to be interested till I tried carrot stick treat (I think it was this one: Start to Finish Carrot Horse Snacks 5 lbs - 5078309 | Tractor Supply Company ). After that they switched to carrots and apples.
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post #9 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2pride View Post
Alot of young horses won't develop any 'like' of treats for a while; I've had youngsters not like treats until they were well into their 3 yr. old year. Honestly, I don't hand feed babies anyway until they have had all their ground work done and I know they will respect my space without a shadow of a doubt...those young years are crucial in making sure you develop the RIGHT habits and behaviors that you expect out of him. Just put a few tidbits in his food every night, and if he eats, it fine, if he don't that's fine too; eventually he will start trying it more and more and eventually you will figure out what he likes and doesn't. But don't rush it, especially because he is so little. They tend to get nippy when they are young, because they teeth alot, so I just don't encourage nipping, by not hand feeding until they are a little older and getting closer to being done teething.
I so totally agree with mom2pride. It is an almost guaranteed consequence to hand feeding a young foal, especially colts/males that they will become nippy and then the biting begins. With colts/males it is especially a hazzard to hand feed them as a male horse even as an adult can and will bite, as that is part of the make-up of the male horse when they are introduced to a mare in heat. The altered stallion/gelded will usually not be a problem biter, but it can happen with any horse.

When I got my horse she was 8 years old and didn't know what apples, carrots were. What I did was cut a carrot into about 1 inch pieces then rolled them in sugar, later did the same with an apple. When she got that first taste of sugar she chomped happily on each piece of carrot and apple. After that she'd accept anything I offered her that was safe to feed a horse.
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post #10 of 13 Old 01-18-2011, 01:08 PM
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The lesson horse I ride prefers an apple flavoured treat to an apple. Although he will eat the apple if you offer it to him, he is just kind of ho-hum about it, as well as carrots. However if he hears me opening the apple treat bag, he perks right up, strains in the crossties and starts to wiggle his lips in anticipation.

Some horses just prefer other things. We have a few that love bananas and oranges. One prefers to eat the banana right out of the peel, as you pull it down for him.

There are also a few owners at the barn who do not give treats at all.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. --Epictetus
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