Training using food

Mary Poppins

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I have recently got into horse agility with Ben but came up against some problems where he would flatly refuse to walk over plastic sheets and would plant himself on some obstacles. I do think that he had a genuine fear of them, but was not terrified.

I attempted the pressure/release method of the dually which worked to some extent, I attempted rewarding him with kind words and pats and rubs which I know he enjoys. Yesterday I thought that I would give food rewards a try. He soon got the idea that if he did as I asked, he got a polo. The result was a fabulous walk right by my side. He walked right over 3 plastic sheets, let me put 2 umbrellas over his head, went through a skinny tunnel and generally improved his attitude 100%.

I know that there is a general feeling that rewarding with treats is wrong. Do any of you use food rewards and if so, do you have any problems with them?
 
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Trewsers

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Oct 13, 2004
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It isn't wrong if it works for you. A few years ago when we first came here, I wanted to ride Storm but J was on tiny paddock rest - and at the time they were inseperable. We had only had them home a few weeks and I was slowly losing my mojo because she would nap and not want to leave his side (he was in a tiny pen just outside their boxes because of his ligament). Anyway someone on here suggested I get OH to walk with me and tempt her with pieces of carrot as a reward. Wasn't sure if they were joking or not! As previously my RI told me to be firm with her and kick on if things like that happened. Well, it worked and before I knew it, she was happily cantering to the other end of the two acre field, walking, trotting and generally being a star. It was just the first few steps we needed to over come and work on. So no, I don't think food rewarding is wrong.
 

Jessey

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I don't think food rewarding is wrong, it can be more motivating for some that praise alone and sometimes just acts as a distraction while they figure out something isn't really scary. I've heard celery is just as good a calorie free treat for horses as it is for humans, I haven't tried it yet to see if jess likes it more than I do ;)
 
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KP nut

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Whatever works, works. I used food treats (clicker training) with a young shetland who was too young to be backed but too old to be doing nothing with a very busy brain. She loved it and was a joy to train.

On the other hand, I tried using food treats with a bargy 3 year old gelding and although it worked initially (in that I got rapid compliance) I felt that over time it was inhibiting our relationship because he was constantly wondering where his treat was and getting quite aggravated with me when it was not forthcoming. He became like a spoilt toddler: "Gosh thanks mum" the first few times then "WHERE ARE MY SWEETIES!!!!" later on. It's important to never give a treat when being mugged for one, which I didn't. (First lesson in clicker is recommended to be an anti-mugging one). But even so, I though his mind was on food and not on me.

So I now give treats randomly because I like to, but I don't link treats to performance so my horses never learn to anticipate them.
 

horseandgoatmom

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I always use food (carrots). I know a lot of people who don't but I have to feel there is "something in it for them":D:D

Sonny was not thrilled with the balls but when I'd give him a bit of carrot if he pushed it. LOL he would see the ball and
say LETS GO!!! and bop it all over!!:rolleyes::rolleyes:

It is also great for horses that might be hard to mount- mine are not but giving a pc of carrot after you mount insures they
will stand nicely to get that carrot/:D

I have a little pouch on the back of my saddle with carrots.
When we see kids in the neighborhood the kids like to see Sonny "dance":D:D ( he sidepasses both ways and backs up) but there has to be
that treat in it for him after!!;);)
 
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Mary Poppins

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I never give Ben random treats because he does turn into a monster and starts grabbing pockets etc. My hope is that he will associate the treats with the ground work and therefore not expect them at other times. I did keep asking for more in return for the treat so hopefully he will learn that he needs to work for one.

I am just so surprised in the change in him when he is motivated. He really can walk by my side and will trot on demand if he knows that he is going to get something out of it. I really want to do well in the showring this year, so perhaps a polo in my hand when we do our trot for the jump might make the difference.

I will try celery instead of polos. Ben will eat pretty much anything so if I can get him to work for healthy treats that will be better for his waistline.
 

horseandgoatmom

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So I now give treats randomly because I like to, but I don't link treats to performance so my horses never learn to anticipate them.

I can understand how that could happen. I am lucky with my 2.
I'd be more likely to get mugged by Kinley and Danni!! Especially Kinley
That little cutie (ok not so little they are both almost 175 lbs)
thinks All THE CARROTS should be HIS!
If he gets pushy sorry no more!.
 

horseandgoatmom

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I am not sure what a polo is. I try to stay away from packaged horse treats. They have too much sugar /grain etc.
I use mostly carrots they are readily available -and easy to carry.
Max had cushings so sadly he could not have carrots it was hard to give him treats and I always felt so bad trying to hide
that the others could have carrots.
I bet celery could have been a good option. he used to get just one or 2 timothy pellets .
 

Jane&Ziggy

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I use treats with Ziggy and they are very effective. I clicker trained him for a bit when he was recovering from colic, and he is very good indeed about not mugging. He would stand on his head for a treat. I use Dodson & Horrel's High Fibre Cubes, which are a hay replacer - they work just as well as carrots. I don't like to give him sugar.

The only problems with using food that I have found are that he makes associations I didn't intend. So these days if I say "GOOD boy," in an emphatic tone, he expects a treat and will stop whatever he is doing (including cantering) to turn his head over his shoulder and whicker. I have learned to avoid saying it or only when I want air brakes!
 

horseandgoatmom

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Sonny lol makes some associations too.
If kids are petting him or I am talking to a neighbor. He seems to have his own little Parking meter clock.
He turns and looks at me-- Please insert another carrot for more "time":rolleyes:;)
It is kind of cute!:D
 

domane

Gracie's mum
Jul 31, 2005
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I've used clicker training successfully for ours but I chop a carrot into very small pieces.... I can usually get about 40 treats out of an average-sized carrot so they work hard for it..... I wear a bum bag swivelled behind my back so they can't mug me anyway.
 
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jodiana

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I have a mare that I reward with herbal treats during training she isn't the type to be fussed over, I also have a Welsh sec a who I never reward with treats because 1 he is a pony and around children I do not want him to get bitey and 2 he very much loves a good scratch so he is rewarded that way think it's down to personal opinion, however be aware of what your rewarding as with out realising it I have trained my mare to turn in her stall, if she ever had butt to the door I would call her round with a treat now when she sees me coming she turns on purpose because she knows she gets a treat if her butts at the door doh!
 

OwnedbyChanter

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Apr 16, 2009
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I don't think there is anything wrong with it. The boys get one when i turn them out in the morning and another when i go to fetch them in. Then one when i say goodnight.

Nothing more
 

juliecwuk

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I genuinely don't see a problem with using treats. I use them with Moet all the time when rewarding her for doing something good, it's been really helpful way of teaching her when she has done something that I am asking for.
 

Mary Poppins

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We didn't do any ground work last night, but I rode him as normal. I was very pleased that he didn't attempt to mug me or ask for treats - even though I had them in my pocket. I am hoping that if I make sure that I only give him treats as a reward for doing something good then he will associate them with good behaviour.
 
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