Riding With +R

Our treat delivery is a very important and often over looked part of our training.

We make a contract with our horses that when we click they get a treat. It is the foundation rule of positive reinforcement. Breaking that rule can break the trust and ruin our training.

Even if we give a treat every time we can still earn their mistrust if we don’t practice good treat delivery. As soon as we click, not before but immediately after, our hand should be in our treat bag preparing to deliver.

If we have to take the time to unfasten the carrier, if we fumble about dropping treats, if we get distracted, all these things can cause stress for our horses and make them less eager to work with us. We need to work on and practice a smooth clean delivery.

That same premise applies to riding with positive reinforcement.

The positioning is different than it is on the ground. I like to use different treats when riding because of this. My usual hay pellets are hard for me to feed, a bigger single cookie is easier for me to feed without dropping.

Horses can get over excited reaching for their treats if we don’t work on good positioning from the saddle like we do on the ground. Throwing their heads in the air and stumbling backwards looking for a treat is no fun when we are sitting on their backs.

It is important for us to keep hands low and reach well forward to make it easier for them to reach. Bracing an elbow on your knee can help keep everything stead and in a good position too. If you can reach that way. Switching sides that you feed on keeps your horse stretched evenly on both sides. A light tap with your fingers or a scratch on the neck can serve as a signal to your horse to know which side to expect the treat from.

Poor feeding position and over excitement in the horse can easily lead to fingers getting nipped.

In this video it was one of Harvey’s first times having me sit on his back. I wasn’t practicing good positioning and he was VERY excited about getting his cookie! The second part is a slightly later ride. I was doing a better job with my offering which helped him to calm down and placed his head an a more comfortable position.

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