Treat Manners

Everyone knows that hand feeding horses teaches them to bite!

This is one of my favorite subjects. How is it possible that something that can teach manners and establish healthy boundaries between person and horse could develop such a bad reputation?

The way we go about it is what makes the difference between a finger hungry treat monster and a horse who waits quietly for you to place a treat in his mouth.

Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated. If your horse is shoving at you with his nose, searching your pockets for treats, walking on top of you in excitement, and you give him a treat, that is what he is going to think earned him the reward. He will repeat it at every opportunity.

If instead you wait until your horse is standing quietly beside you not looking for a treat, them offer him one, he will learn that not asking got him the reward. You will be well on your way to developing a horse who is well mannered and respectful in the manner with which he accepts treats.

Rusty used to bite. He used to swing that head around and try to rip my fingers off with the cookie when we first started. I may not have focused enough on treat manners from the saddle to start with 😉

Now I swear he moves his head away from me when I try to feed him. Maybe we went too far with our treat manners 🙂

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