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It’s No “Treat” to Write This

January 25th, 2016 by admin

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Do you give treats to your horse from your hand?  Today’s tip is going to offend some of you but I hope you will read on with an open mind; willing to learn some facts on why I rarely feed them to my own horses.

Horses learn from repetition, you do something 3 times in a row the exact same way and they will begin to respond.  This is great when training a horse a new skill but not so great for the horse whose owner always brings a treat to call their horse to the gate.  Does it work, yes indeed but that horse isn’t coming because you called for him.  Horses are food motivated and that’s a fact!  If you always have a treat for your horse then that is what he remembers, not you.  Ouch, that last sentence was hurtful.  You can argue this with me but as a boarding stable owner I can tell immediately which horses are fed treats just by me or one of my staff entering the pasture.  Treat horses come running, full speed, ears pinned at any other horse near them and they don’t slow down until they are right up in your face with an outstretched nose.  You reach to back them up a step because they totally disregarded your space and that is when the trouble begins.

Next thing you know they are right back up in your face, rooting around your pockets because they are certain you brought them something…an apple, carrot, or maybe even a mint.  Heaven help the other horses in that same pasture who are minding their manners and staying a good distant back, these poor souls get the snot kicked out of them because Mr. Bossy Treat Hog is in the house.  Oh, and let’s not forget the humans who could get caught in the middle of such a kick fest.  “Oh no,” you say, “My precious boo boo would never do that.”  Maybe not to you, you have the goods he wants and as long as that plastic baggy is supplying his sugar fix he is your biggest fan. 

Okay, so before you think I am the biggest kill joy in the world let me give you some safe tips on when and how to give treats:

             If you horse has a veterinarian phobia and fears getting a shot, give that horse a couple treats right before the needle goes into his neck.  A little pleasure before the pain can go a long way.  I always let the vet give the treat herself so my horse will associate her with the pleasure.  This has actually thwarted the need for a twitch in some horses at our stable.

            Christmas is a great time to indulge your horse but bring your goodies and put them in his feed pan.  Let him think that Santa brought them and not you.  It is better to give (anomalously).

            A little piece of fruit roll up wrapped around the bit is a pleasant treat for any horse, especially those who are reluctant to lower their head and open their mouth.

          Once in a blue moon, literally, is about how often I actually give a treat from the palm of my hand.  It’s totally unexpected by my horse and I only give one and then go about my business. 

 I hope I haven’t annoyed any of my readers too much.  I’m sure you all could argue your points for giving treats just as well as I can for not giving them.  Bottom line:  It’s a personal choice that all horse owners have to make.  I stand firm in my belief that it is in the best interest of both horse and human not to make treats a habit.  Just remember, treats are addictive and often create a rude, pushy, toe stepping monster.  Now go grab yourself an apple and enjoy eating it all by yourself, they are good for you!