Treats? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 10-01-2010, 11:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Southeastern PA
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I am far from an expert, but I find that people tell me to treat my horse all the time. And it does not sit right with me. I am honestly asking for opinions, as maybe I am wicked, in which case I want to hear it, and I will start giving him treats.

But for me, I create a bond first with a horse, where they trust me and know me - and then and only after the bond I ask for things (unless it is a safety issue). My reward is a pat, or a rub or nice words in a nice voice.

My horse seems happy with this, he canters to me when I call him from a field, most of the time. Other times it takes quite a bit of calling, and then I get a trot :)

I do give him a carrot, but it is rare, and not in response to anything in particular, more that I want to give him a carrot or an apple. I stress that this is rare, like one carrot or apple a month.

It just does not sit right with me, that we would give a human child candy for doing what they are supposed to do, instead of saying 'good job' or 'I appreciate that'. And this is what other horse owners expect me to do with my horse.

Am I alone and a horrible horse owner, or do others agree?
AlexS is offline  
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post #2 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 12:25 AM
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I don't think you're evil; there is no wrong answer to the treat question unless you end up with a pushy, mouthy, disrespectful horse. (Which I'm inclined to think is a chicken or egg question... as to whether the treats caused the behavior or it was already there.) I know some people who never give their horse any kind of treat...but that seems too extreme to me.

I give my horses treats EXCEPT that my youngest one is like yours, works for praise alone just fine, and has a tendency to get mouthy and pushy for food. His treats go into a bucket, hardly ever is he fed out of hand, as he is intended to be my 'someday' grandkid horse and I don't want the bad habits to hurt little fingers down the road. On the other hand, for food he will do ANYTHING, no matter how scary; to be honest, he will do pretty much anything for praise, too, it just might take longer for him to figure it out. All my horses have to back up before I treat them, so that they remember who's boss and don't crowd into my space trying to grab a treat.

And, my last contribution is that there was research reported very recently that horses were tested for learning and retention with food and non-food physical reinforcement during the training. The horses with food rewards learned better, retained longer, and had stronger bonds with the humans. It is on The Horse | Training: Food Rewards Are More Effective Than Physical Contact.

I'll be interested to hear what others have to say!
Ladytrails is offline  
post #3 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 12:28 AM
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I am not an expert either, but I believe that treating a horse with food to illicit a certain behavior is not the right approach. I think horses learn to "love" their humans, if the human earns their respect through being a leader.

Treating a horse occasionally because you feel like it, is not a bad thing, but if abused, you can quickly get a horse that thinks you're a candy dispenser, which can lead to problems like mouthiness and pushiness. It's a fine line between treating, and spoiling.

That being said, I have to really control myself, because I love to give them treats! Far from perfect, I am.
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post #4 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 12:30 AM
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I agree with Ladytrails, I really don't think it's wrong not to. I however, do sometimes give my horses treats. I do give them a cookie for meeting me at the gate, just to show them how very much I appreciate it. I also give love and affection for meeting me at the gate. It just seems like they earned it.

I do agree though, that there has to be boundaries as far as behavior before receiving a treat and pushyness isn't acceptable. I think it's fine to give them treats on occasion but I don't go out of my way to do it all the time.
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post #5 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 01:59 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for your thoughts. And it seems that the 3 of you are on the same page as me, that the occasional treat is ok, but it should not be done for expected behavior. And that we all love our horses and appreciate them for doing the right thing, with or without treat.

I will look at your link Ladytrails just as soon as I respond to this. Thanks!

I have heard that I should give him a treat after every ride, but I reward him for doing good and give him a pat in the moment. And so in my mind, I am ok, which is why I am asking the question, as I realize I am not always right.

I feel like I am right, but of course we all feel that way, so I thought I would just ask.
AlexS is offline  
post #6 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 12:36 PM
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Location: Oklahoma
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I don't give my horses treats. I don't feed them out of my hands. My horse knows she had done a good job and is confident in what she does becuase of the rewards of 'pressure and release' and my voice praising her, and I use Join-Up by Monty Roberts.

Now, after she has worked hard and we did a good lesson, of course I grain her.

But to me, treating is just a bribe. The horse I'm training is confident in what she does becuase she learns that if she follows me easily with a halter, it will be comfortable and won't put any pressure on her, and I praise her. She knows she can do it properly, or else, there would be pressure applied at her poll. I talk to her all the time so she knows the sound of my voice. She knows the phrases 'Good for you', her name, and good girl, etc. She also knows when she has done the wrong thing when I say 'ah!' or somthing similar.

She doesn't come up to me everyday expecting a treat. She is expecting love and attention. I can have confidence that her muzzle can run all over my arms and legs and she won't nip. I've never gave her a reason too.

I guess for some people it does work, I am just not big on it. The basis of my training is trust and love, not food. Lol.

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back. -- Unkown
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post #7 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 12:45 PM
Green Broke
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I smother my horse in treats, haha.
i dont think there is a right or wrong about giving treats AS LONG AS THE HROSE IS NOT PUSHY.
as long as the horse doesnt need treats to do something for you then theres no problem.
I love to smother my hrose in treats just, well, just because i like to, lol. She is bonded to me, she never demands treats, she takes them more lady-like then any horse i know (mostly because she just eats al her food that way... lol)
I dont get how it would be wrong not to feed your horse treats, and i dont understand how its wrong to love to feed your horse treats.

If there are no horses in heaven... im not going.
ridergirl23 is offline  
post #8 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 05:02 PM
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I treat my horse quite often, at least by your standards. She gets a cookie after she comes up to the gate and I halter her. She gets a cookie while she stands nicely for grooming and she gets a cookie after I ride her.

I could do all those things without treats and she would be just fine. However, I don't see the harm in give some treats if the horse is not pushy and bossy. It's not required, but I like to do it anyway, and don't see why not.
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post #9 of 22 Old 10-02-2010, 06:12 PM
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omg. my gelding used to get a treat every time someone interacted with him before i got him. They also taught him to "kiss" sorry i dont want a 1200 pound horses mouth in my face. Back out of MY space and i will praise you. My horse didnt get a treat i bet for 6 months when i first got him out of my hand. Now, he knows..he gallops to greet me, and loves attention, but he will not crowd or push into my space. He now gets treats maybe once a week. Attention, scratching, patting and praise he gets several times a day.
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post #10 of 22 Old 10-03-2010, 02:09 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the opinions everyone. My horse likes praise and pats better than treats, but that is in part because he doesn't know what they are, he is a young OTTB. He is mouthy and likes to hold his lead rope, or hold the manure fork, so I am not too keen on giving him treats for this reason.
When I give him a mint, he takes it and then spits it out, when I give him an apple he has no clue what to do with it, until I bite it up and put it in his feed.

I dunno I am torn as it is nice for him to get a treat, I like one now and again, but he doesn't need to expect them, and I would prefer he is happier with some affection.
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