How frequently do you give treats to your horse? Do you give them before, during, or after riding/training?
I reward my nine year old gelding with a peppermint or two after working and riding if he has done well. Some times, I bring a peppermint out to the pasture even if I'm just visiting for a few minuets or am going to muck. But should I reward more frequently during riding and groundwork to REALLY encourage good behavior?
During riding, I use a softer, quieter voice to signal that he is doing well; and a harder, louder voice to signal mistakes (these are in addition to leg and rein cues)
I use the same soft/hard cues while working him on the ground.
But should I also reward with a treat when he, for example, overcomes an obstacle that before was refused no matter what?
The last time I worked with him, he had to step over a set barrels. After much coaxing and encouraging, he finally stepped over and was given much praise and love. I had him repeat the exercise several times before moving on. Should things such as thing be rewarded with a tasty treat?
I give cookies if I come by for a quick visit, or after a really good day I put a couple in his grain bucket.
For our mares, a good rub/pat on the neck and kind words works well as a reward during a workout/riding. Any edible treats, apples, etc. are reserved for after we're done. That works for our girls and perhaps keeps them focused on finishing well, but I know plenty of folks that give treats during workouts, also.
I dont give treats, If the ride went well she gets a good brushing and some extra petting. I would advise to never give treats during a workout/riding session... it can make for a really pushy horse. I will throw a apple in her feed bucket sometimes. I just dont want her to be looking for food when Im around working with her.
I would never associate treats with work. If you do that, soon enough you'll have a horse who always tries to rob your pockets looking for treats and you won't have the attention needed to get the job done.
Horses do not need treats!
A good scratch goes a lot farther to establishing a relationship based on mutual respect.
heck I always give treats. My horse is extremely food motivated and has the "Why should I" attitude...the treat is a back up to my pets to let him know that he did good.
If it's something easy that he knows like picking up his feet for me to clean on one side (yep I'm lazy, I'll clean all his feet from one side) I'll give him a nice long rub on his face...no treat there, but for things he isn't sure about or new things I always re-enforce with a treat.
But I do also agree with GottaRide, horse's don't need treats in order to learn things or know that they did good...heck Sonny knows that a rub on his forehead means good job.
Sonny is good about not getting pushy with I have treats, so I don't have to worry about how many I give him (the goat on the other hand is horrible lol), but some horses can get agressive and extremely pushy when not given a treat if they know you have one. So I think how much you should give treats to your horse depends on your horse
Vega I rarely give treats to for 2 reasons. 1. since she is hypp positive, i would rather hold on on giving treats then set off an attack 2. once she gets a treat, she'll keep pestering you for more, and won't quit.
Gem, he gets treats if I can only be at the barn for a few minutes to say hi.
He also gets treats when I'm done cleaning his feet as he has some issues with it. Since he has issues with his feet, anytime the farrier comes to do work on them, he gets either apple or peppermint treats or some hay. And he does very well with that.
Montana i just gives treats to, but it's not all the time. When I'm doing something new with him, he'll get a couple. He always gets a treat before and after a ride as well.
Mine that are in the big pasture get a treat when I catch them to enforce the good behavior of coming to me in the pasture and then they get another treat after the work out when they are turned loose again. I don't treat while I am working them because that tends to distract mine from what they are doing. Most of the time during a workout, if they do something they have previously refused, then I will give them a good scratch on the neck or forehead. This lets them know they have done well. I see no problem with not treating at all and so long as they don't get pushy, there is no reason to not treat while you are working them.
As for horses learning to mug you for treats(or rub on you, if you reinforce with a face rub for eg), being pushy or mouthy, that's about what you're reinforcing, not what you use to reinforce. I find treat training a great way to 'retrain' bad manners and aggressive behaviour too. My horses definitely associate me with Good Stuff - often food treats - but I've also taught them to mind their manners & they know the quickest way to turn a Good Thing to Bad is to be rude.
To OP, regarding reinforcing specific behaviours, horses live in the present & need *instant* reinforcement *when* they perform a desired behaviour. Giving a treat at the end of a session is just that - a treat. If you wish to use it to reinforce a behaviour, you need to do it in the same manner you would use negative reinforcement(removal of pressure) or punishment - at the time of the behaviour you're wanting to affect.
You can learn more about the principles of training/learning by looking up 'clicker training'. It's basic behavioural psychology, of which the tools - clicker, treats, whatever - are optional. It's the principles that are important to understand.
I usually never give treats while training or while I'm working, I also do not allow him to eat grass while we are riding. He gets a couple treats and a good brushing when I first get to the barn and some when I leave. I'm a big fan of making a big deal over him (good boy's, rubbing, petting, scratching) when he does something really well or for the first time. He sticks his nose in the air and makes a funny face when I scratch the right spot. :)
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